Luke Errington, an associate consultant at Bain & Company, has spent this year mountain climbing in South America. At the end of March, he is back to work, but continent-hopping to the Sydney office for six months. Then Bain has offered to fund two years at business school, insurance and living expenses, before welcoming him back. Sabbaticals of up to a year, opportunities in the 26 offices abroad and generous investment in training are par for the course at Bain. One of the world’s leading consultancies, it offers strategic business advice to make clients more profitable, and recognises that its primary capital lies in its intelligent, creative-thinking workforce.
Founded in 1973 in Boston, Massachusetts, Bain set up a subsidiary in London six years later. The UK firm is based in the Strand, central London, and has 282 employees, 15% of whom are on leave at any one time — doing anything from running a charity or a marathon, to seeing more of their family.
Two-thirds of the consultants are involved in charitable activities, with at least a day allocated for this a month, and some staff spend 30 minutes a week reading to local schoolchildren. The company has won awards for community work and for its contribution to tackling homelessness.
Business is booming, and staff numbers have increased by a third in the past two years. The results for 1999 and 2000 were so good that the partners decided to take their entire office of “Bainees” on a skiing holiday. The firm encourages a good work-life balance but it is clear that long hours are the norm: 99% of staff said people gave extra to get the job done.
However, the firm monitors staff working hours, with a target of 55 a week. Anything more than 65 hours is frowned upon and triggers a “red light” that can affect managers’ pay evaluation.
Professional training is excellent, with 94% of staff saying they were given the chance to develop professionally, and there is an award-winning Bain Virtual University offering online courses.
Two days a month are given to training in the first year, and 1.5 hours a week are allowed for non work-related courses such as language training. Meanwhile, the firm supports staff who are trying to set up their own businesses by providing time off and even office space.
Fun is taken seriously. Bain was a rarity in that 94-97% of respondents described the firm as friendly, welcoming and fun — and said it celebrated special events, too.
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