Public relations consultancy employees across Europe give firms high marks for their commitment to client service and their ethics, and say they like the people they work most closely with. But they are far less satisfied with the financial compensation they receive and with the professional development opportunities their employers provide.
The second annual Best Consultancies to Work For study, conducted by The Holmes Report this summer, tallied responses from more than 1,900 employees at more than 50 consultancies across Europe—although the majority of respondents (58 percent) came from the U.K.
The survey also found significant differences between regions. Employees from Eastern Europe expressed the highest degree of satisfaction with their jobs, followed by those from the U.K. and the Nordic region. Employees in France expressed the lowest degree of satisfaction, with those from Italy and Spain also giving their firms relatively low marks.
Women accounted for slightly more than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents, and were slightly less satisfied with their jobs than their male counterparts—although the difference is largely explained by the fact that female employees were typically less senior than male respondents. There was a high degree of correlation between seniority and satisfaction.
What Consultancies Do Well (and Not So Well)
Consultancies earned their highest marks from employees on questions related to client service.
Employees were asked to indicate their agreement with several statements on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 indicating complete agreement and 1 indicating complete disagreement. They expressed the highest level of agreement on statements related to client service: client satisfaction is a top priority at our firm (8.96); we listen well to clients (8.71); we resolve client problems quickly (8.70); and we do a good job of keeping our clients informed (8.58).
Firms also scored high marks for ethics, with strong employee agreement with statements like “my firm provides equal opportunities to all, regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference” (8.95); “my firm deals ethically with clients” (8.56); and “my firm deals ethically with employees” (8.16). There was also a strong feeling that firms would turn down business it considered to be unethical (8.12).
Employees also agreed strongly that they liked those colleagues with whom they worked most closely (8.75).
It was no great surprise that consultancies received their lowest marks on questions related to financial compensation: in financial terms I find my job rewarding (6.81); I believe I am fairly compensated for my contribution to the firm (7.08); I am satisfied with my healthcare benefits (7.11); those who make the biggest contribution to our success are the most highly rewarded (7.22); and I believe my compensation is at least as good as compensation at other agencies (7.25).
Similarly, the fact that employees do not feel that they can balance work and family demands effectively (7.03), did not come as a surprise.
But employees also expressed concern about the level of professional development activity at their firms. Firms scored poorly when employees were asked whether their firms did a good job of explaining all the career opportunities open to them (7.01) and whether they were satisfied with the level of training at their firm (7.36).
As far as people and culture issues were concerned, employees had concerns. They felt their firms were far better at attracting high-calibre employees (7.96) than retaining them (7.54), and gave employers low marks for eliminating office politics (7.47).
Finally, firms scored mixed marks when it came to communications. There was significant agreement that management at public relations consultancies was accessible to employees (8.46) and that management listens to what employees have to say (8.05), but employees were less convinced that management makes every effort to keep employees informed (7.71).
Employees in Eastern Europe gave their firms highest marks—an average of 8.22 across all 43 questions—although with a relatively small sample size (just 1 percent of all respondents).
Employees in the U.K. were the next most satisfied (8.21), followed by those in the Nordic region (8.10) and in the Netherlands (7.78). Employees in France were the least satisfied (7.03), followed by those in Italy (7.05) and Spain (7.14).
When asked whether they found their jobs rewarding overall, employees in the Nordic region were most likely to agree (8.23). They were also most likely to find their jobs rewarding in financial terms (7.36). Spanish respondents were least likely to agree that their jobs were rewarding overall (6.85), while those in Italy were least likely to agree that their jobs were financially rewarding (5.40).
Employees in Belgium were most likely to agree that client satisfaction was a top priority (9.21), while employees in Spain (8.45) were least likely to agree.
Respondents in Eastern Europe were most likely to find their work intellectually stimulating (8.29), with those in Spain least likely to agree (7.29). Similarly, respondents from Spain were least likely to agree that they could effectively balance work and family demands (6.27), while those in the U.K. (7.29) and the Netherlands (7.27) had the most success in achieving work-life balance.
Swiss consultancy employees were most likely to give their employers high marks for keeping employees informed (8.36), with those in Italy (6.51) and Spain (6.52) least likely to agree.
Satisfaction with professional development options was highest in the U.K. (7.94, far ahead of second-placed Eastern Europe—7.13). Satisfaction was lowest in Spain (6.20).
Interestingly, employees in Eastern Europe gave their firms the highest marks for ethics. They were most likely to say they trusted management at their firm to do the right thing (8.59), with those in the U.K. (8.38) and the Nordic region (8.35) also giving management high marks. Employees in France (6.91) were least likely to agree that they trusted management to do the right thing. Eastern European employees were also most likely to say that their firm would turn down a client it considered less than ethical (8.94), with those in Italy (7.01) least likely to agree.
European employees were generally less satisfied in their jobs than their counterparts in the U.S., more than 3,000 of whom participated in a similar Holmes Report study conducted in December of 2004 and January of 2005. U.S. employees agreed much more strongly that they found the job rewarding (8.01) than European employees (7.68), and in fact agreed more strongly with every positive statement about their employers.
The biggest differences between employees in the U.S. and Europe were on questions related to satisfaction with healthcare benefits (8.08 in the U.S., compared to 7.11 in Europe); the likelihood of the firm turning down a piece of business for ethical reasons (8.96 to 8.12); and the ability to balance work and family demands (7.60 to 7.03).
The results were closest when we asked whether firms had done a good job of eliminating office politics (7.54 in the U.S. compared to 7.47 in Europe); whether management was accessible to employees (8.60 compared to 8.46); and whether employees felt free to express their views, even if they knew others might disagree (8.43 to 8.29).
Age and Gender Differences
There was a strong correlation between age and satisfaction. For example, respondents aged 52 and over were most likely to agree that overall, they found their job rewarding (8.47), followed by those aged 42-46 (8.37). Similarly, the very youngest employees, aged under 21, were least likely to find their jobs rewarding overall (7.41), followed by those aged 27 to 31 (7.50).
Similarly, those aged 52 and over were most likely to agree that their jobs were financially rewarding (7.88) while those aged 22 to 26 were least likely to find their financial rewards satisfactory (6.48).
Conversely, younger employees were more likely to agree that their employer provided a fun place to work. The youngest employees agreed most strongly (8.41) while the oldest employees were least likely to agree (7.92).
In general, men were significantly more likely than women to say they were satisfied with their jobs overall (8.00 for men, 7.56 for women); to feel free to express their views regardless of whether others might disagree (8.65 for men, 8.17 for women); to find the work they do intellectually stimulating (8.03 for men, 7.65 for women); and to find their jobs financially rewarding (7.05 for men, 6.72 for women).
But women were slightly more likely than men to agree that their firms did a good job of keeping clients informed (8.64 for women, 8.48 for men); that client satisfaction was a top priority (8.99 for women, 8.92 for men); and that their firms listened well to clients (8.75 for women, 8.65 for men)—all criteria related to client service.
Trends over Time
In general, employees gave their firms lower marks in the 2005 survey than they did in our first Best Consultancies to Work For study, conducted in the summer of 2004, although the first European study was far more heavily weighted toward the U.K., with almost 80 percent of respondents working for U.K. firms. A year-on-year comparison of results for the U.K. only shows that almost all of the difference is eliminated.
Employees gave their firms significantly lower marks on several questions in 2005. Among them: “I believe I am fairly compensated for my contribution to the firm” (7.47 in 2004, compared to 7.08 in 2005); “I understand my firm’s vision and strategy for achieving it” (down from 8.25 to 7.92); “My agency does a good job of retaining high calibre employees” (7.80 to 7.54); “I feel I can balance work and family demands effectively” (7.27 to 7.03); and “My agency takes a long-term view” (8.25 to 7.98).
Employee scores improved on just two of 43 questions: “My firm provides equal opportunities to all regardless of race, gender or sexual preference” (8.25 in 2004, 8.95 in 2005); and “Clients treat members of the account team at all levels with respect” (7.81 in 2004, 7.82 in 2005).
What Consultancies Do Best
1. Client satisfaction is a top priority at our firm 8.96
2. My firm provides equally opportunities to all 8.95
3. I like the people I work most closely with 8.75
4. We listen well to clients 8.71
5. We resolve client problems quickly 8.70
6. My agency is respected within the industry 8.58
7. We do a good job of keeping clients informed 8.58
8. My firm deals ethically with clients 8.56
9. Management at my firm is accessible to employees 8.46
10. People here treat each other with respect 8.45
What Consultancies Do Worst
1. In financial terms, I find my job rewarding 6.81
2. My firm does a good job of explaining all my career opportunities 7.01
3. I feel I can balance work and family demands effectively 7.03
4. I believe I am fairly compensated for my contribution to the firm 7.08
5. I am satisfied with my healthcare benefits 7.11
6. My agency has eliminated unnecessary bureaucracy 7.18
7. Those who make the biggest contribution are the best rewarded 7.22
8. I believe my compensation is at least as good as at other agencies 7.25
9. I am satisfied with the level of training at our firm 7.36
10. My agency has done a good job of eliminating office politics 7.47
1. Eastern Europe 8.22
2. United Kingdom 8.21
3. Nordic region 8.10
4. The Netherlands 7.78
5. Switzerland 7.68
6. Germany 7.67
7. Belgium 7.60
8. Spain 7.14
9. Italy 7.05
10. France 7.03
Overall, I find my job rewarding
52 or over 8.47
Under 21 7.41