Work-life Balance Sleight of Hand at Deloitte
The world is changing. Read the news. It feels like a workplace revolution. I recruit in arguably the most over-worked professional sector in the United States, public accounting. Of all the public accounting firms, work-life balance continues to be the worst at the largest firms, known affectionately as the Big Four.
Deloitte is the largest or second largest accounting firm on earth, depending on who you ask. Imagine my surprise when one of the world’s largest work-life balance offenders, announced that they will offer 16 weeks paid family leave. Sounds great. My first instinct was to commend them, like everyone else, and then I thought about it. Forgive me if I don’t jump on the Deloitte bandwagon just yet. For now, I’ll meet this with the “healthy skepticism” of a good auditor. The question is, will this new policy change the work-life balance problem at Deloitte?
I believe that actions speak louder than words, so if you want to know what to expect from a company, don’t listen to their presses releases. Watch what they do.
25 Days Of Vacation!
One of the advantages of working for the Big Four is vacation time! Wow, "Five weeks", it just sounds good rolling off your tongue. As a fresh graduate, it’s hard to imagine what everyone is complaining about. After all, busy season is for a few months, then you get to relax right?
As my old boss used to say, “Vacation days don’t mean anything if you never get to use them.”
Back in 2011, the New York Times rolled out an article, Flex Time Flourishes in Accounting Industry about how flex time and reduced schedules were taking the accounting industry by storm. Indeed, flexible work arrangements have been used to retain and entice working moms and dads. Do they work?
The candidates I’ve worked with say that the flexible work arrangement was not anything like what they were promised. What they had not anticipated was the internal drama and politics that come from a work culture where some work harder and longer than others. Most of these candidates were naturally competitive people who struggled with the idea of losing ground to their peers. Complaints included pressure from managers and peers to work longer hours and the assumption that they were no longer interested in career advancement.
The mommy schedules are good PR and a good recruiting tool but don’t review well with mommies. Most of them that I know moved on to firms who really do value families.
We Care About You...I Mean Profit..I Mean You
The problem is internal competition. The Big Four firms want so badly to be respected and revered in the marketplace. They want to be a part of the social disruption conversation. They want to run with unicorns and be Influencers. They go to the best Ivy League schools and learn proper MBA-speak. These guys want to be accepted so badly that they aren’t being honest about their business, which is…
She who bills the most wins.
If I ran Deloitte's social media platform (they haven't asked me yet), I would create a meme on Instagram that said: “If you want to be successful, bill your ass off. I promise we’ll promote you.”
This is the number one reason that 16 weeks of family leave won’t change the work-life situation at Deloitte. Employees are scrutinized for billable hours, utilization rates and business development and they are pitted against each other in a competitive analysis. In other words, you aren’t evaluated on whether or not you are reaching your work-life objectives or chasing your dreams or self-actualizing. Deloitte is analyzing how you are performing as a profit center.
If it sounds like I have a problem with a business making a profit, I don't. I'm skeptical because global companies don't change attitudes and behaviors with a press release. If you are looking for work-life balance, please, don’t fall for the hype because the Big Four won't deliver.