· News

From the C-suite

Consultancies run on morale, not money. We have know-how, relationships and enthusiasm.

Thank goodness our CEO has not challenged the concept of socialvolunteering. If he did, how would I respond?

I work for Booz & Company, a strategy company that advises globalcorporations. In spare time, staff give money and support good causes.We struck up a relationship with London inner-city secondary school,Highbury Grove. With the help of one charity, Chance to Shine, wereintroduced competitive cricket. With the support of another,Blastbeat, we guided students to set up their own music companies.

All worthwhile, but have we added to our top line? Not a penny. But wepersist: Booz partners promote, develop and celebrate socialvolunteering.

For four days of the week, our teams scatter across the globe. Meanwhileour support staff - researchers, secretaries, report producers,financial controllers - work regular hours in a single location.

No wonder that Booz accommodates diversity. On Friday, however, wegather in our home offices and new groups form. An expert in changemanagement and the head of HR help students with their interviewingtechniques. Or half a dozen people assemble to mentor the mostchallenging students in Year 8. For one day a week, we're not just co-located, we learn to co-operate.

Consultancies love hierarchy. We can't do without our titles.Documentation defines the competencies required at each level. However,our teams are paid to solve problems. More often than not, the solutionsoccur to those closest to the data - the junior analysts. How can weensure that these people know how and when to speak?

Social volunteering turns hierarchies upside down. When the Boozfootball team clashes with the first XI, our captain is a first yearconsultant. The more senior members struggle to be selected - they knowtheir place.

Consultancies learn fast. They have to, otherwise they lose their rightto advise. The business case we create as part of a social volunteeringprogramme differs little from one required by a private equity house.The execution, however, diverges greatly.

With Blastbeat, the consultant stays with the company from start-up toprofitability. Consultants also teach. This places an even greaterpremium on impactful communication. Thus, skills learned on a Fridayafternoon help us survive on a Monday morning.

Consultancies run on morale, not money. We have no assets, justknow-how, relationships and enthusiasm. We understand how to nurture thefirst two, but what about the third? The average age of a consultantfalls shy of 30. Many arrive with a youthful idealism and a number leaveto work for NGOs. Social volunteering makes us feel good. I'm preparinga young chemistry student for his uni interview. In three sessions, theunshaven boy who couldn't look me in the face has learned to engage.Last time, he entered my room smiling and asked me to comment on his newtie - bought that morning for my benefit.

Perhaps social volunteering does strengthen a business after all - notdirectly or immediately, but indirectly over a period of time. TonyBlair praised the "big top" and David Cameron wants a "big society".Maybe in a "big society", the generations unite and the public andprivate sectors connect. And, arguably, it is social volunteering thatbrings together the pieces of our society into a complete jigsaw.

- Richard Verity is vice president at Booz & Company. HR is running acompetition with Blastbeat.

For more information, go to: www.hrmagazine.co.uk/blastbeat


Founder Edwin Booz established the first management consulting firm in1914. There are 3,300 employees. It has 61 offices worldwide. It wasranked number one consulting firm for best thought leadership in 2010 bythe White Space report. It got the Business in the Community of the YearAward for its support of 'Chance to shine' in 2007.