Effective May 20, 2016, PwC implemented their new flexible dress code. Tim Ryan, PwC’s new US Chairman, announced the move on a recent PwC webcast. Per our sources, Tim Ryan wore jeans on this webcast and also did the DAB.
The main change to their previous dress code is that people can now begin wearing jeans at work.
PwC calls for their employees to use “common sense” when following this new flexible dress code. The problem with this is that common sense is different to each person.
For men, this means that you can maximize your casual look with a polo, jeans and a pair of “appropriate sandals.”
For women it seems like the maximum casual outfit would be either a “casual dress” or a blouse, jeans and “appropriate sandals.”
Why is PwC doing this?
PwC continues to change many existing policies to market to millennial recruits. They aren’t too concerned with marketing to baby boomers who might lean towards a more conservative approach to clothing in the workplace. PwC has also implemented a plan to help new recruits pay back student loans.
PwC is doing this to compete with silicon valley companies and other startups that don’t believe the way you dress influences your work. Accounting is becoming less sexy and less attractive to millennials as a career. PwC is trying to change this.
The problem with this approach is that most startups practice what they preach and have flat hierarchies. This means that everyone’s viewpoint has equal weighting. Therefore adopting a casual dress code allows everyone to feel that they are on the same level.
I think PwC thinks that they are moving towards the same approach, but I would disagree with that. The very business model of the big 4 accounting firms is built around a rigid hierarchy. All decisions begin and end with partners as they are the owners of the firm.
The primary reason that the big 4 accounting firms love young people in the firm is because the differential between what young associates make versus their billing hour is passed to the partners. Young people are ok with this because they come in with no skills and are happy to have a job.
The money made by the largest demographic of the firm is passed on to the smallest amount of people within the firms. In other words, the partners profit greatly off of the sweat equity of associates and senior associates.
If you want to become a partner someday, it is important that you navigate the flexible dress code appropriately. To do this, you should read on to the next section.
Should you participate?
If you don’t plan to have a long career at PwC or are capped out at managing director, then yes by all means participate.
If you do plan to be a partner one day though, I would suggest you do not participate. You will not be able to show up at client sites with jeans unless they also wear jeans. Even if they do wear jeans though, it is still not the best idea to show up in jeans.
PwC’s hourly rate is very high compared to other accounting firms. You don’t want to show up to a client that is paying a lot of money for your services dressed like you work at a mom and pop accounting shop.
Additionally, dressing professionally will set you apart from your peers. Partners will trust you more with the future of the firm if you consistently dress the part of a partner.
Business will not change overnight, so you don’t have to be the trail blazer on the flexible dress frontier. The only people you will impress on that frontier is your peers, but they do not determine your rating at ARC nor your compensation.
Until everyone including the partners is wearing jeans, you should hold off or keep it to Fridays.
1. Employees will be sent home because their “common sense” approach to their wardrobe will more closely resemble pajamas
2. Clients will complain that PwC’s employees showed up to their offices looking unprofessional
3. PwC’s share of new recruits will likely increase because they will be seen as a progressive workplace
4. Many partners will complain behind closed doors
5. Many people’s jeans will have “stylish hole” in their jeans despite PwC’s warning not to have them
6. Office gossip will increase 1,000 fold
7. Many people that don’t participate will be viewed as stuck-up
Will you participate in the flexible dress code? Let us know in the comments section.
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