The beginning of summer is always an interesting time in the consulting world in Luxembourg.
The financial year is closed, everyone has received their feedback and the partners are slowly but surely embarking on their summer holidays. Where? Doesn’t matter, hopefully somewhere without Wi-Fi and with a bad phone reception.
This is an all too well familiar scenario, which is repeated annually. In the last years however, there was a shift, or at least there appeared to be on. More and more, the crème de la crème of the BIG4 have promoted an increased work-life balance in their work environment in Luxembourg.
Having the shiny big clients comparable to their megapolis counterparts, but within the boutique capital of the Grand Duchy. Not only that, but they were turning into an attractive long term career option for well-educated and eloquently spoken young professionals. A place where you get a broad range of experience, learn continuously and have the opportunity for personal and professional development under a good, secure contract.
You can easily point out those partners to look up to, that seem to have it all and have a quirky, interesting hobby for which the find time too. But what about that one guy on the partner track that constantly talks about his long hours? In fact, he has been here long enough to know that this in not the only way anymore. He has been here through the big turnover moments, team changes management shifts… Why does he keep this old-school lifestyle up, when it was clearly communicated that disconnecting on time is encouraged?
Well, old habits die hard I guess. The annual reviews are done now and while he did not make partner this year – it was a though one for the sector after all – he will make partner next year. Right?
Don’t get discouraged now! The management is moving towards a good work-life balance strategy. It has been widely acknowledged that the high employee turnover leads to higher recruitment and training costs, low employee morale and loss of knowledge. Let’s circle back to the employee morale for a moment. These companies are staff magnets, so how could we begin to argue about their employees morale? At the end of the day, will this even have an impact? Should we (the BIG4, the industry, the management) care? Yes and no.
No, because people will not stop applying to the BIG4 in Luxembourg. It looks great on the CV, it is a livable paycheck in the beginning.
Yes, because it leads to brain drain, bad reputation of the working conditions in Luxembourg and high turnover of the workforce, which has the same impact on the industry in Luxembourg in general as the impact on a single company as discussed earlier.
But wait a minute, why this negativity? The management is changing. Dinosaurs are retiring to spend more time on those quirky hobbies, there are younger partners nominated and gender balance is improving.
Here is the catch you have been so patiently reading towards. Remember the guy who had to wait just one more year to become partner? Let’s call him Cedric. Cedric did make partner finally. He is ready to work hand in hand with his peers now, and indeed show them what he is made of. What Cedric needs, now at least, are some good old school consultants. Yes, yes, there is the bunch of new consultants who want to have it all so early on. But that’s not the game. There are currently business urgencies that need taking care of now.
Surely he will find a couple of youngsters who get it. Of course he does. They really went the extra mile for him. Stayed longer hours, kept their heads down. The rest were indeed not bad either, the new wave consultants. However, looking at the numbers, their enthusiasms, team spirit and cheerfulness just didn’t really make… an impact.
Well, it is annual review time again. Time for Cedric to make decisions. The couple old school consultants will be promoted. In fact, realistically the bonus he will give them, divided by their long hours, doesn’t even come close to minimum wage. They don’t expect much. It has been clearly communicated that it was a though years for the sector. They will however stand out among their peers. The new wave consultants will decide if they want to leave (cost cutting, cha-ching!) or improve their performance to catch up to the game (finally!). What else could happen- they will turn green with envy? Either that or yellow, orange or blue.
So my friends, if you recognize yourself in any of these characters, it is time to ask yourself the question, is it time to start hating the players and not the game? That’s the last rhetorical question, I promise my friends. On the practical side if you are:
The new wave consultant: count your losses and achievements. If you are encouraged to look for another job, or to easy the admin burden and simply change your team, consider going against that first instinct and not acting out of spite. In the long run it is our choices that will show your true colors, not the color of the logo in your signature.
If you are the old school consultant, felicitations on your promotion! You have without a doubt deserved it! Just make sure to do the math on that salary increase that I mentioned earlier. You know, for next time.
If you are Cedric, you know that your decisions impact people’s lives, choices and ultimately their morale. Once in a while remember when you were part of the new wave consultants, what made you switch to the old schoolers, and what (or who) you promised yourself not to become. But hey, don’t worry about all that too much. You should pick out your own quirky hobby now. It’s much easier to talk to the youngsters about the quirky hobby at the afterwork apéro instead of how the construction on your second home is going, while they commute from Arlon, because rent is just unrealistic here.
And who am I, you might ask? Writing at you from this fine looking high horse. I am somewhere in between all our fictional characters. But I might stick around for a little while. I just received my car from the company pool! What’s one more year, right? ;)