by Andy Klose, Associate Partner and Advisory Team Lead
In the dynamic consulting industry, performance metrics and compensation packages for C-Suite executives are invariably a central topic of discussion. Recent debate has raised concerns about the potential short-term focus of these metrics, which may hinder the long-term development of consulting firms.
This article provides an overview of current practices surrounding C-Suite Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and compensation in the consulting industry, while also exploring the evolving notion of stakeholder engagement and the need for a balanced approach. The insights presented here are based on an anonymous survey conducted by Vencon Research International among leading consulting firms.
Aligning Goals for Long-Term Success
Consulting firms adopt diverse approaches to structuring their C-Suite positions. In our survey, fewer than expected firms reported a fully dedicated C-Suite, while many firms implemented structures where their C-Suite members are at least partially involved in project related or client-facing work. Most firms offer between 4 and 5 C-Suite positions, often following a functional breakdown that includes CEO, CFO, COO, CHRO, CTO, and CLO. This breakdown aligns with the traditional focus on key stakeholders such as clients, firms, owners/partners, and employees.
Balancing Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
A key concern highlighted by the survey is the potential short-term orientation of C-Suite performance metrics. While most firms maintain a focus on traditional stakeholder groups, only a few have formally incorporated broader societal and environmental goals. It is essential for consulting companies to strike a balance between short-term quantitative goals and long-term qualitative objectives. By doing so, they can achieve sustainable growth and promote the well-being of their stakeholders.
Setting Long-Term Goals
The majority of consulting firms have embraced longer-term goals for their C-Suite, typically spanning a 3-5 years horizon with annual milestones. These goals primarily revolve around achieving growth and improving profit margins. The use of compounding multi-year averages has been suggested as a means to encourage consistent performance and mitigate the impact of short-term fluctuations.
Tailoring Goals for Success
While aligning goals across the C-Suite is common practice at most firms, some firms intentionally differentiate goals for individual members. This approach fosters lively discussions and progress, allowing each function to be managed using the most appropriate and impactful metrics. However, effective cross-management by the CEO is vital in implementing this strategy.
Linking Performance to Compensation
In the consulting industry, the link between goal achievement and C-Suite compensation is strong, with a majority of firms implementing models that correlate the two. Also, most firms apply minimum thresholds that impact compensation, ensuring that executives meet certain performance criteria. However, the quite regular use of caps on variable pay has been debated, with alternative methods suggested to manage performance peaks.
While most firms reported being well or fully aligned with their company's strategic goals, more than half acknowledged challenges in defining a long-term orientation and evaluating progress. To address these issues, Vencon recommends setting clear, measurable, and comparable goals that consider both past performance and future aspirations. Transparency and control in the evaluation process are critical in ensuring fair compensation and encouraging continued growth.
The consulting industry recognizes the importance of balancing short-term performance with long-term development. By implementing effective performance metrics and aligning goals with strategic plans, consulting firms can drive sustainable growth while promoting the well-being of their stakeholders. The deliberate differentiation of goals for C-Suite members and the use of compounding multi-year averages contribute to enhanced performance and discussions. As the industry evolves, a comprehensive and balanced approach to setting KPIs and compensating C-Suite executives will be crucial for long-term success.
We would be happy to assist your company in defining the compensation components for your company’s C-suite, as well as the dimensions and correlations that determine pay-out of compensation (e.g., bonus) based on target achievement. Please contact our Advisory Team for more information.