I don’t blindly accept that the pipeline is the problem. We had to think differently. We had to behave differently. So what we’ve tried to show with our transparency is the deliberate steps you can take to get better.
What have the conversations been like with white men?
When we looked at the teams inside PwC that were servicing our top clients six years ago, they were done by white men. We made the decision that we were going to change that. So we invested more in our pipeline. We did more around sponsorship. We worked with our clients. And we’ve made massive progress there. But as we did that, many of our white men were like, “I get it intellectually. But God, I’ve been working for 20 years to be that guy in that job. And I feel cheated.” I’ve had 50 steak dinners in the last four years with incredibly talented white men who say to me, “Tim, I get it. I see what we’re doing. Our clients demand it. It’s the right thing to do. I’m all in. But what about me?”
So we’ve tried to redefine success. You may not be the lead partner, but how about helping that person get the role? What would you rather be remembered for? What do you want to be inspired by? And the reason why growth is so important is that it’s not a zero-sum game. When you’re growing, you’re creating more opportunities. It becomes less about these 20 clients. Now we’ve grown, and there’s 30 clients to share the wealth.
Are there people who just feel like they got cheated? Yes, there are. And what I say to those people is, “I’m asking you to respect what we are trying to do. I’m asking you to respect our colleagues. I’m asking you to have compassion. And if you don’t agree, that’s OK. You don’t have to agree with me. But I do need you to live our values.”
How did the pandemic unfold at PwC?
Our people are all over the world in different countries. When the pandemic hit, as borders shut down, as transportation shut down, the first thing it was all about was just getting people safe, getting them home.
Then, in the later part of March, think about the equity markets. Think about the uncertainty. People were worried about their health and worried about their financial security. My leadership team, my board and I, we talked about the fact that we’re not a health-care provider. We’re not a health-care company. So we talked about economic certainty for our people, and we said we would use layoffs only as a last resort. We did that having no idea where our business was going to go.
Our business took a dip and, and we sat down every week and looked at the numbers, asking ourselves along, “Can we do this? Have we made the right decision?” And we held on. Outside of performance-based layoffs, which is a traditional part of business, we got through it.