Bain & Company has dominated the Glassdoor rankings, netting top four finishes for 10-years straight. How have they managed to score such high marks from employees for so long? We sat down with Worldwide Chief Talent Officer Russ Hagey to find out.
Andrew Littlefield: Bain’s been consistently one of the top places to work on Glassdoor. If you were going boil that down to three keys to success, what would they be?
Russ Hagey: We feel very fortunate to have been recognized by Glassdoor in the top slots for the last decade, so we have top slots for a number of years. As I think about our success pattern, there are three things that I would highlight.
Number one is engagement, the way that we work and engage with our teams around the world. We have a number of ways in which we engage our staff and have them feel part of the mission, with chances to provide active feedback and learning loops, and for people to feel engaged in our business in a deep and consistent way.
I think second would be helping our team members build personal result stories and having a sense of real impact for clients. We focus on making an impact for our clients, but we’re also trying to create learning opportunities, so our teams feel that they’re growing, learning, developing, and advancing every day.
And then the third thing is our focus on teamwork. We do everything in teams. That kind of mirrors how we work with clients, but it creates the fun and the energy that I think comes with being a part of Bain & Company. It creates the professional and personal relationships that make Bain a community.
AL: Those personal results stories are interesting idea—what does that look like for someone in their first year at Bain versus someone who’s maybe been there for 5 to 10 years?
RH: For new employees, we make sure that on each of their particular client projects, they have a sense of ownership around a particular piece of the problem or piece of the work. I think the second way that translates in year one is they have a mentor—we’re very focused on mentorship, and the mentor’s role is to make sure that you’re learning, getting different sets of experiences, and providing feedback loops so that there’s a sense of rapid learning.
For the 10-year person, at some level all those elements stay the same. You’re still responsible for something, although that responsibility is larger. You’re now responsible for leading, motivating, and inspiring others. You’ve got a broader set of responsibilities of creating real change with the client organization, so that’s now part of your personal results story. It’s not just answering the question or solving the problem. It’s creating the change in an organization and being able to see that change stick with a client leadership team.
AL: I imagine you face a lot of competition for attention from candidates, not necessarily just from other firms, but also just in that it’s a very noisy world out there for people. How do you keep candidates engaged and warm in that kind of noisy environment as you’re recruiting them?
RH: Yes, it’s a competitive environment for talent. There’s a lot of noise, to use your word, but there’s a lot of opportunities for people too. I think the way we do that is, even in this day and age of all things digital, we apply personal touch. Our recruiting processes today still rely a great deal on us meeting candidates and making sure that candidates have a chance to meet us. Personal touch is big for us. It’s why we have an extensive presence on campuses—we provide people an opportunity to spend time getting to know us even before the interview process.
We’re trying to understand the individual that we’re recruiting. We’re not trying to hire off of a piece of paper. We want to really know that person, and we want a whole variety of backgrounds. We’re looking for how people think, how they engage with people and teams, how they could effect change in organizations. That’s not learned from a piece of paper or from a resume. And we also want people to make good choices about joining Bain & Company. And the right way to do that is we want them to get to know us as individuals and kind of build the ties and build personal bonds.
AL: What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to talent sourcing?
RH: I think our biggest challenge from a sourcing standpoint is that we’re continuing to move to new schools or new talent pools.
Given our growth and success as a firm, the number of people that we need to hire around the world is challenging. We need to continue to reach into new schools and programs in different countries, and even here in the United States.
But we still want to maintain a personal touch. We’ve got to spread our recruiting resources. We’ve got to be thoughtful about where we go to new programs and new schools. We have to build Bain’s brand in those new locations because we want to be able to access the top people at whatever school or program we’re at.
AL: When you have a frustrating day at work, what’s usually the cause of that?
RH: The most frustrating thing, I think for me, is when people haven’t picked up the phone and tried to engage somebody live.
I think we can fall into a trap of trying to do things by email. You run the risk of misinterpretation. You run the risk of not understanding the full context. When things get frustrating for me in my role because of misunderstandings, often those could have been solved by picking up the phone and engaging one of our colleagues in another office or on the other side of the world and not leaving it to chance or not leaving it to an email.
We invest heavily in global training programs. We’re probably the one firm in our industry that still does that routinely, where our staff goes to global training programs every 18 months. We invest that way to really build global connectivity with all of our people, so people are comfortable. They know people from around the world. We try to keep that commonality, so people will reach out.
AL: Do you think that’s a generational thing?
RH: I think so, yeah. I think there’s an element of generation there where people are used to doing everything on their devices, whatever that device may be. And I think, also, just in a busy world, even for those of us that are more tenured, we like the efficiency of doing things electronically. But personal touch will go a long way to describe context to understand the point of view with somebody else.
AL: What’s the emotional payoff for you in your job?
RH: You may be surprised at my answer here, Andrew.
AL: Oh, good!
RH: It’s when I get a departure message from somebody who’s leaving Bain & Company. Normally, somebody in my role doesn’t talk about departure messages, and we’re really proud of our employee retention—I think we’ve got the best retention in our industry, by far.
But the reason I highlight these departure message is that when people leave Bain, they send a message to their office or their colleagues. And the way people describe Bain & Company in those messages just brings a smile to my face and an energy and excitement.
They talk about Bain & Company and their colleagues and what they’ve learned here, how they built a set of friendships that are going to stand the test of time. They talk about client examples where they worked with the team to do something remarkable with a client. They don’t just talk about their consulting colleagues, but they talk about the office team that sort of supports them. It’s our IT team or our marketing team that really helped them.
There’s this sense of teamwork, camaraderie, professional respect, learning, the way they described the fun, and how Bain & Company helped set them up for their next roles. Each of those kind of microcosm emails which are in a departure email make me feel great about how we’ve helped somebody learn, the experience and relationships we’ve given them, the way they describe their colleagues, and how they are going to think about Bain & Company as an alum. I think we’re doing something right in our business.