He comes from a company such as Accenture, Cap Gemini or the Boston Consulting Group. He's between 30 and 35 years old. And one day he will be a manager at Merck, whether as a department head or the head of a foreign subsidiary. But sometimes HE is a SHE. This kind of mix is typical of the workforce at the Merck-owned company Inhouse Consulting (IC). Today, Inhouse Consulting is an integral part of the company's daily operations.
The unit is involved in many important projects of the company, and requests for its services are constantly increasing. Word has gotten around at Merck that the 30 Inhouse consultants are doing good work. “We complete about 70 large projects every year, and we now have to turn down some requests because of insufficient capacity,” says Hans-Jürgen Müller, who built up Inhouse Consulting in 2001. He proudly points out that his people generate benefits for their client faster than external consultants, who first have to familiarize themselves with the company. That saves time and money. A further benefit is the fact that Müller always sends teams that are a mix of new and experienced colleagues, rather than just junior experts with little practical experience, as some external consulting companies do.
A springboard for greater challenges
Internal corporate consulting helps not only in the planning stage but also — unlike most external consulting — with the implementation of the measures that have been decided on. In approximately 80 percent of the cases, the unit deals with strategic planning; in the remaining cases it works on improving processes. Obviously Müller's unit cannot provide all the consulting services that Merck needs. For one thing, the unit’s personnel capacity is limited; for another, high-level specialization is required for some areas, such as IT projects. In some cases, internal and external consultants work hand in hand.
Job profiles at Merck’s Inhouse Consulting are different from those at many external competitors, which is why they offer interesting work prospects. For example, Merck consultants basically work on several projects simultaneously. That’s much more varied and interesting than working for months on one project at a time. In addition, IC functions as a springboard inside Merck. “We want our consultants to stay with us for two to four years and then take on more advanced tasks in the Merck Group,” says Müller. “About 90 percent of our employees switch at some point to other functions within the company.”
The constant exodus of employees into specialized units at Merck, which is encouraged by the unit’s management, leads to high fluctuation at Inhouse Consulting. “On average, between five and ten of our 30 people leave us every year,” says Hans-Jürgen Müller. This means that he is always on the lookout for new employees. The constant fluctuation has its advantages. “Nobody here is blinkered by routine, and new knowledge from outside keeps flowing into our company. That's very enriching,” he adds. The composition of the team ensures that knowledge is accumulated over the long term.