Deloitte’s Predictability & Flexibility Initiative Pays Dividends in Work/Life Balance

Topics: Corporate Legal, Diversity, Efficiency, Law Firms, Leadership, Talent Development, Women’s Leadership Interviews & White Papers

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Efforts at greater inclusiveness and diversity at law firms, corporate legal departments and other institutions seem to have a stronger impact when part of the program offers workers flexibility and predictability in their career path.

Consulting and advisory giant Deloitte has embraced one such initiative to help alleviate that pressure, offering their workers the chance to address their work/life balance issues on their own terms. Indeed, one of the common reasons often given for women leaving law firms is because they constantly are having to cancel personal engagements in the evenings because they are on call all the time for client matters. Women associates want to be able to practice law and maintain regular personal commitments outside of work.

Deloitte’s predictability and flexibility initiative — and its success — is being spotlighted by the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) online forum to offer an initiative that could be customized for implementation at law firms to address this recurring structural barrier. Doug Welch, Strategy and Operations Principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, recently spoke with Thomson Reuters’ Managing Director Charlotte Rushton as part of TWLL’s Spotlight series. The pair discussed how Deloitte’s program works and what it’s meant to employees, clients and management.

Charlotte Rushton: Can you describe how Deloitte Consulting’s predictability and flexibility program works and a little bit of the background on how it came about?

Doug Welch: The genesis of it is clearly the fact that talent is the substance of our business. It’s what we are. The challenge to our business is that there are certain demands that are inherent in the work we do; and making those challenges reasonable for people to manage is a key objective for us. Particularly with the changing views and priorities of the workforce, we see that as a key priority.

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Deloitte conducts a millennial survey periodically and in 2016 we found that work-life balance itself is the number one driver of employer choice — so clearly that is an element. Retaining talent of all generations is important to us, and we’d like those who stay to have a well-balanced lives. In fact, Deloitte created Empowered Well-being as a holistic approach that gives our people the support and flexibility to make daily choices and personalize their experiences in the ways that matter most to them.


The challenge to our business is that there are certain demands that are inherent in the work we do; and making those challenges reasonable for people to manage is a key objective for us.


Charlotte Rushton: If I’m a Deloitte employee, how does it work for me if I want to take advantage of this initiative?

Doug Welch: I think there are a number of different layers of it. I think the first piece is a clear direction from the leadership group, making it clear that employees have not just the permission but the expectation to be focusing on flexibility and predictability.

The second piece is that we have a wonderfully talented team, and they have constructed many different ideas and approaches that work for different people at a variety of different times. Having that at your disposal allows our professionals to say “What will work for me?”

The third piece is kind of a process and structure where predictability and flexibility are part of the dialog. In fact, as we track opportunities and projects, part of the question that we ask is “What type of flexibility and predictability will there be on this particular engagement?”

Charlotte Rushton: What has been the reception from Deloitte’s professionals on this?

Doug Welch: The reception has been great. Some of the metrics are easier to measure. We have seen some reductions in voluntary attrition. But, it’s not really just about attrition; it’s also about enriching the lives of those who stay with us. While this might be a little tougher to measure, we are frequently checking the pulse of our team both through different touchpoints and through regular discussions; and I would say that the non-quantitative feedback is also very positive.

Charlotte Rushton: You mentioned the tools. What do the tools allow you to do to achieve this flexibility?

Deloitte Consulting's Doug Welch

Deloitte Consulting’s Doug Welch

Doug Welch: There are a number of things around reduced travel schedules, coverage schedules, virtual teaming, and how we’ve been experimenting with some new technologies. For example, we have projects where we can have kind of a liaison model where a certain subset of the project team is at the client site and the other team members are not. We have other scenarios where the work can be done completely off-site, or where some people may fly out on a Tuesday rather than a Monday and stagger coverage there.

Another example is to plan in advance and work out the schedule. For example, I am on the board of a local charity in my hometown. The board meets on the first Thursday of every month. On that day, I have to leave at 1 pm, so I can get back home to make that meeting. And I know that I am going to make it, so I plan for it and communicate it to my team, so the predictability of it is key.

That element of having that mutually agreed-upon schedule around the project team and planning it out are just examples of some of the tools that people have leveraged.

Charlotte Rushton: How do you gauge the clients’ reaction to this? Has there been an impact on client coverage?

Doug Welch: We typically say to clients “Look, we would like to try this; it’s something we would like to implement. This is important to our team, and helps us bring the best team to the table for you.” In turn, the team can demonstrate their commitment and dedication about being responsive while the client is first witnessing it.


But in the end, I think clients see that this is a model and an approach that allows them to have this great talent and energized team, which is key to serving those clients even more effectively.


So even if we have an e-mail moratorium after a certain hour, the team will pick it up in the morning and get it turned around quickly. Ultimately, that commitment to responsiveness is the key — it is not about whether the team is physically at a specific location, on a particular day. It’s whether the team is really driving to get done what the client wants and needs.

Does it vary from client to client? Absolutely. Some clients are global or geographically dispersed and they are very comfortable with people being in multiple locations or having more flexible schedules. But others just haven’t utilized that model and don’t understand the power and possibilities of it; or they have had some bad experiences maybe with other firms or their own employees.

But in the end, I think clients see that this is a model and an approach that allows them to have this great talent and energized team, which is key to serving those clients even more effectively.