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Employee turnover not a bad thing?

October 4, 2009
OK, so we didnt get a mic

OK, so we didn't get a mic

I understand that public speaking is of the biggest fears of many people, and I can empathize — because I too get nervous. However, I love speaking in public. I guess LDS General Conference — even though I never could get through it all when I was a kid — inspired me when I was younger. So many great speakers to learn from twice every year…

So, taking Accounting Communications at my university has been excellent for me, since it’s given me a chance to stretch a bit (and get feedback for both speaking and writing). It has been a challenge, because the professor expects top performance from all of us, and I want to meet and exceed that expectation.

I gave my first speech in the class last week. The topic was broad — an introduction of something interesting about ourselves and then something that interested us about business (with transition in between). As soon as I heard this combination of speech topics, I knew what I had to talk about. I had to talk about my upbringing in the Mormon church (and its related culture,) and as for the business topic, I wanted to talk about Big 4 Accounting corporate culture.

How do those things even relate? My experiences with Mormonism have instilled in me the reality that culture “soaks” into one’s very being…so if one must disassociate from some aspect of that culture later on, he will gut through his core in the process. Reading blogs of struggling members, transitioning exmembers, and exmembers who have left the church has made me thoughtful and sympathetic to the struggles of this subsection of “fringe” people in the LDS church.

And what I’ve learned too is that Big 4 accounting firms aren’t just places to work. They have their own cultures as well…and quite regularly, people feel they must depart from those cultures as well (if they are not laid off — or excommunicated, so to speak — first). So the struggles are not so dissimilar.

One thing I was intrigued about through my research was that Big 4 accounting firms don’t seem too concerned about employee turnover. In contrast, the LDS church is concerned about “member turnover” so far as to establish stereotypes about ex-members. Obviously, if you leave the one true church, it’s because you, somehow, got off track. But the Big 4 firms even have comfortable turnover rates (over 10% yearly, in some quotations!), and during recruiting, plenty of people (including Big 4 employees) assured us that if we didn’t like working in the Big 4…no problem…we could leave after a few years’ experience for the resume.

This made me question: how can the Big 4 afford such a culture? And then I thought about the numerous awards for Big 4 firms, and in particular, the frequent high rankings for Best place to launch a career…What about the rest of the career?

Well, I read a retweet of @RelevantAccting on twitter, thought it was pretty cool so I decided to follow. And Janice had a post wondering if Employee Turnover might not be only a cost to the firms…Perhaps, ex-employees could bring back revenue by becoming new clients.

There are many reasons that former employees are so loyal to Big Four firms. One is the clubbish atmosphere that there are certain things only a Big Four firm can accomplish. Even large local and regional firms can successfully push this atmosphere. In real life, there are small firms everywhere that specialize in various industries and transactions that can also get the job done, but until you have seen that in person, it is easy to believe that if you want quality service you have to go to a Big Four firm…

…Another reason the big firms engender loyalty is the on-going offering of CPE to alumni, the alumni phone books and the general attitude that once you are family, you are always family. Whether or not they do it on purpose, these firms seem to plan that people will leave and work towards having them as walking marketing people even after they go. You can hate public accounting, but you don’t hate Deloitte. Ever.

Always livin the green dot life?

Always livin' the green dot life?

(Commenters from re: the auditors who were laid off might disagree about not hating Deloitte.) Janice notes that this doesn’t seem to hold for large firms in other industries. And I lament too that large churches (like, say, the LDS church) don’t seem to apply this.

As has been heard throughout the disaffected Mormon community, imagine if the LDS church did believe that “once you are family, you are always family”? The popular hope is that Mormons culturally and institutionally could become similar to Jews — you can be a secular Jew but you are still Jewish.

But still…why have so many people leave in the first place? Surely, the new client revenues secured from ex-employees down the road don’t net positively against the time and money spent recruiting and training…and I imagine that the LDS church similarly wouldn’t want to many apostate sheep chumming around unmonitored with the faithful flock.

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One Comment
  1. Perez Christina permalink

    I hate public speaking…

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