Today’s digital work environment has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for working outside the traditional model of 9-to-5, Monday through Friday, chained to your desk. While some jobs will always require employees to be in a certain place at a certain time, communications technology now makes flexibility possible for most knowledge workers in terms of where, when, and how they get their work done, at least some of the time. Flexible work is attractive to many employees, but it’s more than just a perk: Many organizations are discovering that it can help drive important business goals such as engagement, retention, productivity, and inclusion. To that last point, flexibility is now seen as a valuable tool for helping working parents and caregivers manage their home obligations without sacrificing professional growth and career progress.
One company that has had a positive experience with flexibility is PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which over the past ten years has evolved a culture of “everyday flexibility” that makes flexible work available to all employees, regardless of their role or circumstances. Anne Donovan, U.S. People Experience Leader at PwC, recently outlined what the company learned in this process at the Harvard Business Review. One key lesson, she writes, is to “be ‘flexible’ when creating a flexibility culture,” rather than implementing a rigid, formal policy:
Flexibility for a caregiver might mean being able to leave work early to take an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment. For a parent, it might mean taking a midday run, so evenings can be spent with their children. And for others, it could simply be taking an hour in the afternoon to go to a yoga class and recharge. When we look at flexibility this way, it’s easy to see why formal rules actually hinder adoption and progress. It’s impossible to have a one-size-fits-all approach for flexibility. We let our teams figure out what works best for them, as long as they deliver excellent work, on time. The rest is all fair game.
Building cutting-edge technological capabilities within their existing workforce is among the most pressing business challenges organizations face today. The accountancy firm PwC is taking a notably aggressive approach to this upskilling project, giving employees as much as 18-24 months to devote to immersive learning of new skills, with half their time spent training in these skills and the other half working with clients to put them to use. Ron Miller recently profiled the PwC’s Digital Accelerator program at TechCrunch:
[Sarah McEneaney, digital talent leader at PwC] estimates if a majority of the company’s employees eventually opt in to this retraining regimen, it could cost some serious cash, around $100 million. That’s not an insignificant sum, even for a large company like PwC, but McEneaney believes it should pay for itself fairly quickly. As she put it, customers will respect the fact that the company is modernizing and looking at more efficient ways to do the work they are doing today. …
Members of the program are given a 3-day orientation. After that they follow a self-directed course work. They are encouraged to work together with other people in the program, and this is especially important since people will bring a range of skills to the subject matter from absolute beginners to those with more advanced understanding. People can meet in an office if they are in the same area or a coffee shop or in an online meeting as they prefer. Each member of the program participates in a Udacity nano-degree program, learning a new set of skills related to whatever technology speciality they have chosen.
The program focuses on a critical set of digital skills that are increasingly in-demand and where expertise is in short supply: data and analytics, automation and robotics, and AI and machine learning. McEneany and PwC’s Chief People Officer Mike Fenlon expanded on their philosophy in a recent piece at the Harvard Business Review, detailing the process through which the program was designed and touting its success at fostering innovation and a growth mindset throughout the organization:
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The accounting firm PwC has adopted a new rule in the UK whereby shortlists of candidates for senior roles must include at least one woman, the Daily Mail reported on Sunday:
Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said: ‘Diversity in our recruitment processes is something we’ve been focused on for some time and as part of this we are ensuring we have no all-male shortlists and more diverse interviewing panels.’
PwC, which specialises in tax and advisory services, recently set a target to recruit 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men in all of their recruitment drives. The firm also has a sizeable 35.9 per cent pay gap for its Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employees. The move comes as it emerged that the three other companies which make up the Big Four – Deloitte, KPMG and EY – had all called for greater diversity on their candidate lists.
PwC and its competitors all released their UK gender pay gap data in March in line with a law requiring most organizations in that country to do so. These firms’ partnership structures starkly illustrated the degree to which the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles compounds the gender pay gap.: PwC reported a mean gender pay gap of 43.8 percent and a median gap of 18.7 percent when partners were included, whereas the mean gap for employees of PwC Services Ltd., the legal entity that employs most of the company’s UK workforce, was just 12 percent.
Overall, the 61.4 of the roles in the top quartile of the firm are occupied by men, the report showed. Absent the underrepresentation of women in senior roles, PwC said its overall UK pay gap would be as low as 2.9 percent—a difference that “can largely be explained by time in role and skill set factors.”
Last month, PwC rolled out a $45 million investment in its employee wellness program, including a suite of new benefits for working parents, Glassdoor’s Amy Elisa Jackson reported at the time:
- $1000 bonus to all staff to spend on wellness-related activities;
- Four weeks of “Paid Family Care Leave” for all partners and staff to care for certain family member with serious health conditions;
- Eight weeks of paid parental leave for staff of any gender with a new child (currently six);
- New “Phased Return to Work” transition, with the option of new parents working 60% of hours, at full-time pay, for an additional four weeks following a block of paid parental leave;
- $25K reimbursement, per child, for adoption (currently $5K);
- $25K reimbursement, per child, for surrogacy (traditional and gestational) expenses;
- Pro bono membership to sittercity.com (childcare, housekeeping, pet care services);
- Six hours of free Eldercare consultation (home assessments, implementation of care, etc.)
These expanded benefits, which according to Amanda Eisenberg at Employee Benefit News will go into effect on July 1, mirror what many other large US employers are doing to make their family benefits more generous and more inclusive. The point of interest here is PwC’s Phased Return to Work program, which the professional services firm says is the first of its kind. Offering this benefit up-front and actively marketing it to employees avoids the trap wherein new parents are afraid to ask for the flexibility they need out of fear of being seen as uncommitted. Closing that loophole was the motivation for Adobe’s returning employee flexibility program, which allows employees returning from at least three months of leave to work a non-traditional schedule for at least four months and requires all returnees to meet with their manager and HR to discuss this option.
Paying employees a full-time salary to work only part-time may sound absurd on its face, but we’ve seen a few other organizations experiment with shorter workdays in recent years. PwC’s policy will be worth watching, as it will provide another data point in how a limited workweek affects employee productivity, particularly among the highly stressed cohort of new parents.
Previous surveys have predicted that most US employees will receive a small increase in their base pay this year, averaging about 3 percent, though high performers can expect a bit more as organizations shift their compensation strategies toward greater differentiation. That 3 percent raise appears to have become standard in recent years for the average employee, as a 4 or 5 percent annual raise once was.
A new survey of CEOs and CFOs from PwC, however, suggests that raises might be a bit higher than expected this year: The consultancy’s Q4 2017 Trendsetter Barometer report, based on interviews with 300 CEOs and CFOs during the last quarter of 2017, found that these leaders expect to raise wages by an average of 4.27 percent in the coming year, compared to the 3.39 percent figure PwC found in Q3 and just 2 percent a year ago. The last time panelists projected average wages would rise above 4 percent was during the second quarter of 2007, the report notes.
Plans for growth are also on the upswing, with 56 percent of the leaders surveyed saying they intended to hire new employees in the coming year, compared to 49 percent who said so in Q3. PwC attributes these bullish plans for 2018 to higher levels of business confidence and optimism about the future of the US economy, with 79 percent of leaders expressing optimism, a notable increase from 59 percent at the end of 2016.