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70: Work Anywhere Policies Shaking Up the Tax Profession & Attracting New Talent
Episode 709th November 2021 • Taxgirl Podcast • Kelly Phillips Erb
00:00:00 00:32:25

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Big Four accounting firm PwC made waves earlier this year when it introduced a “work anywhere” policy for its 55,000 US employees, allowing them to choose an all-virtual work option. The policy is intended to help PwC attract new talent and retain top talent in a competitive market. 

The tax profession isn’t always leading the charge when it comes to workforce changes, but some big firms, like PwC, are adopting new flexible “work anywhere” policies to attract and retain top talent.

On today’s episode of the Taxgirl podcast, Kelly welcomes back Kathryn Kaminsky to discuss more about expectations of today’s competitive workforce, and what the implications of a “work anywhere” policy can mean for businesses. Kathryn is Vice Chair and Trust Solutions Co-Leader at PwC. In this role, she leads the combined Tax and Assurance business. Kathryn is responsible for the quality of service, excellence in the work performed by partners and staff, developing diverse teams, and driving innovation. Her biggest passion is serving clients.

Listen to Kelly and Kathryn talk about work anywhere policies:

  • Many industries are grappling with work anywhere policies in various ways. What does Kathryn believe led to PwC’s policy, and what does she think about it overall? Kathryn says it’s important for businesses to remain agile and adaptive in a changing business environment, and doing so affects both a company’s staff and clients. 
  • Kathryn unpacks the hot issue of the “talent war,” also referenced as “the great resignation” sweeping across the country in the aftermath of the pandemic. She says companies have to prioritize open-mindedness in such a time in order to keep their top talent and attract new talent. Adaptation and innovation will drive a company’s hiring right now. 
  • On the client side, has there been a lot of pushback against working with a largely remote firm? Kathryn says it varies with each client, but that each client knows they’re at the center of it all, and they know that just because some staff is remote doesn’t mean they have less access to their services. 
  • What options did PwC lay out for its staff, and what procedures are in place to audit the effectiveness of the new policy? Kathryn says almost 60% of their staff chose a hybrid option to work remote as well as in the office, and that every six months or so they will be checking in to see how smoothly the policy has been going for everyone. 
  • For a lot of employees, working from home in the fall of 2021 is very different from working from home in the fall of 2020. Kids are back in school, going to soccer practice, in general there weren’t as many distractions in 2020 that have now largely returned in 2021. How is PwC looking at flexibility differently now versus during the height of the pandemic? 
  • Did PwC change the layout of their physical offices to accommodate their new work model? Kathryn says they’ve always had a lot of open space and conference rooms, and now those are some of the most utilized spaces since some employees will be in person and some will be virtual thanks to technology and video chat. 
  • What is the level of enthusiasm overall across the PwC workforce? Kathryn says it's been a great response, and they like having the option to work anywhere. Now, it's PwC’s responsibility to make sure their staff has the tools to succeed in this new flexible environment. 
  • Some of PwC’s competitors have insinuated that they would resist such a dramatic shift to widespread work flexibility. What does Kathryn think about this difference in philosophy, and how might it affect the talent pool between the large firms? 
  • Is PwC seeing an increase in employees’ travel, and how does travel affect their flexibility model? The policies have stayed very consistent, Kathryn says. 
  • Is PwC following up on where their people are working? From a business perspective, there’s certainly an advantage to knowing where your employees are. From an employee’s perspective, there are sometimes some privacy concerns. Kathryn says they simply ask their employees to self-report where they are. 
  • When people interview with PwC, is it a question upfront as to what their flexibility interest is? Kathryn says they specifically advertise their openings as remote positions, and they can make the more detailed choices later down the line.
  • How might work anywhere policies run differently in small and medium firms? Does Kathryn feel like they’re fielding a lot of questions about their choice to employ their work anywhere policy? She says they believe this new policy is one of their best tools to combat the “Great Resignation” and attract and retain their talent. 
  • Kelly admits that, historically, the tax and legal professions are not often on the cutting edge of change when it comes to their company policies. But in the wake of the pandemic, even that may be shifting. For the last 19 months, countless people have been working remotely, and it’s been effective.
  • Recent grads and first year employees often report feeling lost or isolated, even before widespread remote work. How are firms being proactive to make sure their newer and younger employees feel supported and welcomed? 
  • Do partners and team leaders hold office hours to signal to younger staff some good times to check in or ask questions? What systems are in place to encourage collaboration and mentorship? 

More about Kelly:

Kelly is the creator and host of the Taxgirl podcast series. Kelly is a practicing tax attorney with considerable experience and knowledge. She works with taxpayers like you every day. One of the things that she does is help folks out of tax jams, and hopefully, keep others from getting into them.

You can find out more about Kelly here and you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin.

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Kelly’s Website – Taxgirl

Kathryn S Kaminsky -- LinkedIn