Natalie Wharton, Wharton Business Consulting

Background
As a leader in culture change at a ‘big 4’ consultancy, Natalie Wharton could see that consultancies were failing to get the most out of a core pool of talent; that of working parents. The environment did not allow flexibility, client expectations were based on charging models of time and materials (leading to high expectations of facetime rather than value) and there was a long-hours culture screening out talent unable to meet this demand.

Being a single mother herself Natalie had also fallen victim to these competing demands and she spotted an opportunity: the need for a challenger consultancy focused on attracting and retaining talent through a culture of flexible working and agility and focusing on what truly delivers client impact.

"An inspiring leader who is a shaper of culture and making a difference to her team's careers and lives"

Approach
And so Wharton Business Consulting was born, with a structure based on three disruptive changes. Firstly, creating a culture of flexibility through contract type, hours, location and pay; communication focused on frequent contact, including virtual competitions to encourage idea sharing, collaborative tools to encourage remote working; and reverse mentoring to encourage diversity of thought.

Secondly, reframing client expectations by charging for deliverables and continuously engaging clients in flexible working and inclusivity practices. And thirdly, creating the right internal practice structure with clearly delineated internal and client-facing roles and a supporting capability framework.

Outcome
The result is an inclusive, loyal team of permanent staff and associates who are able to satisfy family, caring and voluntary commitments whilst remaining engaged in paid work they are passionate about and excelling in their careers. Some 74% are female (industry average is 27%), 57% work part-time and 46% are working parents. Meanwhile clients comment on how consultants feel like an extension of their team. Moreover, Natalie shares her experience regularly through conferences. As an inspiring leader who is a shaper of culture and making a difference to her team’s careers and lives, she is a worthy winner of the Business Culture Leadership award.