McKinsey’s A.I. Chief Discusses ChatGPT’s Impact on Consulting Jobs

McKinsey's A.I. chief Alex Singla: 'Problem-solving, creativity and change management' aren't replaced by technology.

A McKinsey & Company logo inside an office building.
Large consulting firms like McKinsey & Company are embracing generative A.I. Davide Bonaldo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Artificial intelligence is taking human jobs. Just last month, A.I. eliminated about 4,000 jobs in the U.S., according to a June 1 report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. As the generative A.I. phenomenon spreads, it is only a matter of time before the technology replaces management consultants, the archetypal white-collar job of data analysis, information summarizing and PowerPoint-making. The things that A.I. tools like ChatGPT can do.

Large consulting firms are embracing the technology and adjusting their expectations for talent in the post-ChatGPT era. At McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s largest management consulting firms, about half of its 30,000 employees now use ChatGPT or similar tools in their work, said Ben Ellencweig, a senior partner at McKinsey, at a company event yesterday (June 6) in New York.

Generative A.I. is drastically changing the day-to-day activities of management consultants, especially at the entry-level. At McKinsey, a junior consultant’s first day typically entails what the firm calls “know,” or reading pages and pages of non-confidential information to learn about a certain industry or sector the firm serves.

“When I started at the firm, I’d spend an entire weekend just getting swamped reading document after document. Now A.I. models can synthesize the 10 key things you need to know within minutes. That’s a major, major shift,” Alex Singla, a senior partner at McKinsey and the global leader of QuantumBlack, the firm’s A.I. consulting branch, told Observer in an interview at yesterday’s event. Singla has been with the firm since 2000. He currently oversees more than 1,300 analytics experts across McKinsey under the QuantumBlack umbrella.

Singla is vaguely worried skipping the time-consuming part of actually reading and digesting raw information may eventually hinder one’s ability to synthesize complex data, which he said is “a skill people need to learn and a key strength of management consultants.” But there are many aspects of the job—at least at the senior level—that technology can’t yet replace.

“When I think about how I spend my day, the vast majority of it is helping senior executives think strategically about what they want to accomplish and how to make it happen,” Singla said. “It involves a lot of bringing people along and thinking about customers. It’s all these things around problem-solving, creativity and change management that you won’t get out of technology alone.”

“For any business, technology is usually not the real challenge, it’s the people component that slows things down,” he said. “That’s where I think management consulting still has a major role to play.”

Katy George, McKinsey’s chief people officer, expects generative A.I. to change how consulting firms recruit talent in the future.

“It’s become increasingly important for us to hire entry-level consultants who have digital acumen and comfort with analytics,” George told Observer in an interview yesterday, adding, “not just old-school problem-solving analytics but working with large data sets and data scientists.” She said McKinsey hasn’t added any A.I.-specific requirements to its hiring programs yet but the changes could come soon.

McKinsey’s A.I. Chief Discusses ChatGPT’s Impact on Consulting Jobs