EY hearts millennials in latest press release

Bloomberg recently conducted an interview with EY’s CEO Mark Weinberger. The topic of the interview was how EY is adopting a new plan of trying to keep millennials happy.

This article was obviously released as a marketing tool for EY to get a larger share of the millennial recruiting class. The tactics that the EY CEO mentions in the interview are really no different than the other firms.

EY loves millennials

The EY CEO probably feels pressure because other firms like PwC have issued press releases about how they have implemented new dress codes to cater to millennials.

Ernst and Young’s CEO starts out the interview by saying that it is amazing how young their firm is and how the perception is that they are filled with old stodgy accountants. I’m not sure what he means here. The perception of the big 4 is that they are built on the backs of young people. This is evident in that the big 4 have recently faced age discrimination lawsuits because of this. They make press releases like this one catered to millennials and are perceived as not allowing older people to interview for the same entry-level positions that they let millennials interview for.

Mark Weinberger speaks about how purpose matters to millennials. He doesn’t speak about what EY does to provide purpose to millennials. He just states that our slogan of “EY, building a better working world” is our purpose. I’m not really sure a slogan is a purpose. What steps is EY taking to make a better working world?

He said the biggest thing that matters to millennials is flexibility. He gives a couple of examples of flexible work such as being able to see your kid’s soccer games no matter what.

Even though you can see your kids soccer games, Mark says that EY’s work schedule is flexible yet work needs to still be done if there is an M&A deal or a major tax transaction. He said people will be on call 24/7 in that scenario. That doesn’t seem to be too flexible to me. The big 4 accounting firms often state that they are flexible, but they never speak about utilization.

The way the big four accounting firms make revenue is by people booking their time against client codes. The ratio of your time booked against client codes versus your time booked overall is called utilization.

In order for partners to make the most money off of millennials, millennials need to maintain 85% utilization. The big 4 are not like other businesses where you are measured based on successful projects. You are measured by the amount of time booked, so no matter how much flexible time you take you have to make it up elsewhere. Lets say it takes you 1 hour to get a project done, and it takes someone else in your group 8 hours. That doesn’t mean that you are super productive to the big 4 firms and get to take 7 hours of flexible time. All that means is that you have to make up that 7 hours somewhere else. If that client doesn’t have 7 more hours worth of work, then you have to find other clients in your group that do. No matter how much “flexible” time the firms give — millennials will still need to work insane hours at the big 4.

He also becomes pretty candid about something that I believe is interesting. He acknowledges that EY is ok with employees leaving. He says he is ok with this because that is how millennials operate these days. He believes millennials are just the type of people that will have several jobs throughout their careers, and EY is ok with this because those people will turn into clients once they leave.

He makes it seem like Ernst & Young just came to this realization — which I believe is false. This has always been the paradigm in public accounting. The public accounting firms never cared if you left them because they knew you’d most likely become a client. They are just repackaging that paradigm as being due to the millennial generation instead of being due to the miserable working conditions at most big 4.

I think this article was a nice try at recruiting more millennials. We are seeing more and more of these fluff articles being released by the big 4. They make it seem like the CEOs of the Big 4 are taking time out of their day to have candid sit-down interviews with large news organizations when in reality they are staged marketing campaigns. At the end of the day, millennials will still need to book tons of overtime, and they will have poor leadership and management while doing so. You can’t improve a working environment just by adopting a slogan that says you are doing so. You have to provide goals and active mentorship. The accounting firms need to focus on results rather than time in a code if they want to motivate people and truly change the working world. If someone does work faster than others and that doesn’t translate into billable hours, they shouldn’t be punished with more work.