Best Multinational Consultancy to Work For: Porter Novelli

One of the things that stands out about Porter Novelli is that while there is clearly a shared culture from office to office—one that is warm, friendly, and collaborative—there is also a high degree of local control when it comes to specific policies and practices.

So while professional development is centralized, with a new PN University (introduced in 2009) for mid-level executives and above supplementing the offerings of parent company Omnicom, many work-life benefits are decided locally, although in general the firm tends to be flexible in terms of working arrangements and generous with perks.

“It's a great place to work with brilliant people,” says one respondent. “We may be a global agency but each office has its own culture and feels like a boutique office in terms of solid relationships.” Adds another: “Being a graduate trainee can be daunting, however no question is too stupid to ask and everyone treats you with respect! I am given responsibility and encouraged to progress and learn more.”

There’s clearly a feeling that the firm is on the rise: “I am really encouraged by the progress we have made in the past year,” says one respondent. “It feels like we have a much stronger grip on our business and we are at the start of an upturn in our fortunes.” And another insists: “I think we are underrated in the market place. We have some great talent, innovative thinking, great people and fantastic creativity but we are too modest to shout about it!”

Other Best Multinational Consultancies: Grayling, Edelman, Burson-Marsteller, Weber Shandwick

Best UK Consultancy to Work For: Blue Rubicon

Blue Rubicon has the rigorous approach to human resources and particularly professional development of a much larger firm, combined with the close-knit culture of a boutique.

The rigorous approach starts with the way the firm recruits—a three-stage process that both chemistry and capabilities are a good fit—and continues with a significant investment (£20,000 per person every year) on training and knowledge sharing, with a total of 74 internal training sessions last year, supplemented by new leadership coaching for senior consultants and associate directors and a reverse mentoring program focused on digital skills.

But the firm also believes that “flexibility is critical to ensure time to refresh, have fun and gain new experiences.” Work hours are flexible, approximately 13 percent of staff work part-time, employees are given their choice of Blackberry and iPhone (“there is no expectation of connectivity outside working hours, but many people find that technology allows them greater control over their working patterns”) and there is a generous sabbatical policy. A program called Flex-ercise encourages everyone in the office to take time out of their daily work routine to gain new knowledge and insights and to have the time to look after themselves.

“I knew the minute I walked through these doors that Blue Rubicon was where I wanted to be,” says one employee. “There is something very special about this place, from the ground-breaking ways in which we create campaigns to our incredibly special and collegiate culture where everyone supports one another.” Says another: “I have always felt that Blue Rubicon is genuinely interested in me, my skills and experience and how they can be applied across the business. I’ve never felt that I am expected to fill a pre-made mold, it’s all about developing my career by tapping into my strengths and interests.”

Other Best UK Consultancies: Mischief, Shine, Pegasus, Cow PR

Best Continental Consultancy to Work For: Hering Schuppener

The high-end public relations consulting firms, particularly those focused on the corporate and financial realm, tend to score high marks for the challenging nature of the work and the freedom they give employees to make their own decisions, but do less well when employees are asked about collegiality and work-life balance. Germany’s Hering Schuppener, winning our Best Continental Consultancy to Work For honor for the third time, is an exception.

It seems that management at Hering Schuppener is uniquely skilled at managing apparent contradiction. The firm attracts ambitious, hard-working consultants but is remarkably free of politics and ego. It focuses on hard work and client service but provides a good work-life balance.

Above all, there is a tremendous sense of pride in working for one of the best respected firms in Europe: “In Germany, Hering Schuppener stands for unrivaled leadership in corporate and financial communications,” says one respondent. “Employees are proud to be part of the firm, clients trust us in any respect, high potentials and seasoned professionals dream of joining us.” Says another: “There is incredibly good overlap between external presentation and perception and internal reality.”

Other Best Continental Consultancies: Farner, Image PR, Coebergh Communicatie, Grupo Albion

Best Specialist Multinational Consultancy to Work For: AxiCom

Technology public relations specialist AxiCom picked up our award for the best specialist multinational a couple of times prior to its 2008 acquisition by Cohn & Wolfe, and appears to have done an exceptional job of maintaining its special culture, with strong collaboration between offices and a commitment to empowering staff at all levels to take initiative and get the job done for clients.

Particularly impressive is the way the firm encourages interoffice cooperation. In addition to bringing together employees from seven offices once a year to help with team-building, there’s impressive knowledge sharing, and a culture that encourages to pick up the phone and seek (or provide) assistance wherever in the network it is needed.

“It's a very friendly company that has some great people to work with,” says one respondent. “You'd be hard pressed to find another agency with such a serious attitude to work but yet so relaxed and comfortable.” Another adds: “Freedom is the best quality, everyone at every level is empowered to make decisions and those decisions are respected.”

Other Best Specialist Multinational Consultancies: APCO, Johnson King, Hotwire, Text 100