The following story from Financial Times pertains to EY UK however it confirms what many have suspected is happening here in the US: at least one Big 4 firm is watching badge swipes to make sure their little grunts are in the office like they’re supposed to be. Spoiler: they aren’t.
EY has started monitoring UK employees’ office attendance, with swipe card entry data being circulated at senior levels of the firm as some of its staff flout its hybrid working guidelines.
Some partners at the Big Four firm have been shown anonymised “turnstile access” data in recent weeks showing how frequently staff are attending its offices, people at the firm told the Financial Times.
One person said the statistics would be used in parts of the business as a “carrot rather than a stick” to influence teams to comply with EY’s hybrid working guidelines. They added that at least 50 per cent of some teams were failing to meet its policy of being in the office at least two days a week.
Once again I would like to extend a huge thanks to blabbermouths who snitch on their firm to the media. You guys are great and we love you.
Let’s add this bit:
Some partners at EY, which employs around 21,000 people in the UK, were also shown analysis correlating office attendance and mid-year performance ratings, one person said.
RIP carrot, we hardly knew ye.
We wrote about this “carrot vs. stick” issue back in April of 2023, just a month or so before Big 4 firms started reversing their position on return-to-office. This is from “While Other Industries Have Turned to the Stick, Accounting Firms Continue to Use the Carrot to Encourage RTO” published April 6, 2023:
In a recent Employee Benefits News piece, Frank Giampietro, chief well-being officer at EY, says that his firm continues to embrace the carrot. Though as the red hot job market cools off, we are beginning to see hints of firms contemplating the stick.
At EY, they realized that employee obligations at home were preventing some people from coming into the office. “We have a multigenerational workforce, and when we went out and talked to our folks, we discovered there was a wide variety of things getting in the way, some of which were financial. We had to remove the barriers and create opportunity,” he said. So the firm added $800 to the existing $1000 well-being fund that reimburses things like childcare, pet care, and commuting. This is the point in the article where the parents laugh heartily at the thought of $800 making even the tiniest difference in the daycare bill.
The message behind this is that great things happen when people are together in person, and the company is invested in making that a reality for employees, says Giampietro. And it’s paid off: The company saw a 150% increase in employees returning to the office in just over a year.
Mind you when we wrote the above, the Great Resignation was just starting to cool off and firms were still a bit freaked out about the whole lack of talent thing. Despite the huge number of accountant shortage articles you’ve read (or skipped over) since then, firms started complaining about low turnover last year which meant overcapacity which meant layoffs. Almost 8,000 layoffs at Big 4 and mid-tier firms in 2023 actually, and that’s only the ones that were officially announced.
A week after the carrot/stick article went up, rumors started buzzing about PwC — a firm that bragged loudly about embracing remote and hybrid work forever in 2021 — pushing a soft (and generous, TBF) return-to-office. That rumor turned out to be somewhat true. Deloitte then jumped on the RTO bandwagon too. So far no one is expecting every team in the office every day but who knows what the next year could bring.
In October, EY Americas Chief Some Bullshit Officer Frank Giampietro told HR Brew EY expects most staff to spend 40% and 60% of their time working “together in person,” be that in the office or at the client site. So yeah, the guy talking about the carrot in April was suggesting they might have to bust out the stick by October.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, “I’ll quit if you make me come into the office” is no longer a threat. They want you to quit. In some cases, they’re asking you to quit so they don’t have to fire you.
Of course, they can’t fire everybody. Hold the line, pajama gang.