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Archive for the ‘Corporate Culture’ Category

Accenture to Spend $100 Million on Skills Training

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Is $100 million the new threshold for signaling you’re serious about making a difference? Recently, it was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledging that amount to the Newark school district. Now we learn that consulting giant Accenture will be spending 100 (very) big ones over the next three years on its Skills to Succeed program.

The goal of Accenture’s program seems pretty straightforward: the company wants to equip 250,000 people around the world with the “skills that enable them to participate in and contribute to the economy and society.” And to do it by 2015

A few examples of the type of work the Skills to Succeed program does—and will continue to do in order to meet its targets:

  • Building the skills of young entrepreneurs in Africa
  • Offering free skills training for the unemployed in Brazil
  • Training disadvantage young people in business process outsourcing and technology skills in India
  • Helping underprivileged students in the Philippines and Cambodia to develop IT skills
  • Training migrant groups in specialized technology skills in Spain
  • Helping disadvantaged young people to become entrepreneurs in the U.K.
  • Teaching business preparedness skills to students in community colleges and providing IT training for disadvantaged youth in the U.S.

In each of the endeavors, the company is working with partner organizations—some local and some international.

Now all we need are some jobs for that quarter-million people to fill!

The 50 Most Prestigious Accounting Firms

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For nearly a decade, Vault has been ranking accounting firms in terms of prestige. This year, in our annual Accounting Survey, conducted from April through June, over 2,200 accounting professionals were asked to assess their peer firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on prestige—they were unable to rate their own firm, and were asked to rate only firms with which they were familiar. And for the second straight year, industry insiders named PricewaterhouseCoopers the most prestigious accounting firm in North America. In fact, the top five spots were unchanged from last year’s rankings.

With a score of 8.408, PwC outdistanced fellow Big Four firms Ernst & Young (the No. 2 firm in prestige, with a score of 8.278), Deloitte (No. 3, 8.222) and KPMG (No. 4, 7.732). The highest ranking non-Big Four firm was again Grant Thornton, which took the No. 5 spot with a score of 6.817.

According to surveyed professionals outside PwC, the firm is the “best company of the Big Four in terms of benefits and employee morale.” It’s also “well respected,” has a “favorable public perception” and a “great culture,” and “offers many opportunities” for its staff.  Meanwhile, Ernst & Young, the No. 2 firm for the second year in a row, is said to be the “industry leader,” have “the best talent” and possess a “hardworking,” “intelligent,” “classy” staff.

The big mover this year among the top 10 was BDO Seidman (“a good mid-tier firm, growing in size and market share”), which leaped three spots from No. 9 to No. 6.  Further down the rankings, Clifton Gunderson (a “solid regional”) made a strong move, jumping seven places from No. 19 to No. 12; and Reznick Group (“the ‘fun accountants,’ as opposed to the stereotypical nerdy accountants”) climbed six places from No. 22 to No. 16.

Other significant climbs were made by Dixon Hughes (“big down South”), which rose four spots to No. 21; Novogradac (“a large competitor in the real estate auditing business”), which jumped four places to No. 25; and CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman (“a large, solid firm”), which moved up three spots to No. 23.

The biggest drop in the top 25 came from LarsonAllen (“good firm but lacks work/life balance”), which fell eight places to No. 22.  Other significant falls came from Amper Politziner & Mattia (“a strong competitor” with a “poor working environment”), which slid seven spots to No. 20; and Cherry Bekaert & Holland (“known in the Southeast, yet not considered a competitive firm”), which fell four places to No. 19.

Check out the complete 2011 Vault Accounting Prestige Rankings.

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In the Black

The New Vault Accounting 50

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Vault Accounting 50 logoFor nearly the past decade, Vault has released rankings of the top accounting firms in North America, helping students and experienced professionals make more informed career decisions.

When Vault initially began ranking accounting firms, we only ranked firms in terms of prestige—that is, in terms of a firm’s reputation as perceived by professionals at other accounting firms. Later, Vault increased its rankings offerings to include “quality of life categories,” such as firm culture, compensation, hours, management treatment, diversity, training and business outlook, among others. In these categories, firms were rated by their own professionals, as opposed to those at other companies.

In the past, Vault’s main accounting ranking—the ranking featured most prominently on Vault.com and in our annual Guide to the Top 50 Accounting Firms—was our prestige ranking. This year, though, that has changed.

After asking accounting professionals what matters most to them when choosing an employer, they told us, overwhelmingly, that firm culture, as opposed to prestige, is the most important determining factor. In fact, 36 percent of all accounting professionals we surveyed told us that firm culture was most important, while only 11 percent cited prestige as most important. The other top factors cited by survey respondents were: lifestyle/work-balance (14 percent), location (13 percent), compensation (5 percent) and training opportunities (also 5 percent).

As a result, Vault has taken this feedback and created a new Vault Accounting 50, showcasing the firms that are the Best to Work For—a ranking compiled using the following weighted formula that reflects the issues job seekers care about most:

40 percent prestige
20 percent firm culture
10 overall satisfaction
10 compensation
10 hours
10 business outlook

This new Best to Work For ranking will replace the prestige ranking as the featured ranking on Vault.com and in the Vault Guide to the Top 50 Accounting Firms.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we are doing away with the prestige ranking. We still believe prestige to be a very important measure of a firm’s attractiveness to employees, thus the reason prestige makes up 40 percent of our new Best to Work For ranking. In addition, the prestige rankings will still appear prominently on our web site as well as in our annual accounting Guide (and stay tuned: next week, we will unveil our accounting prestige rankings).

And so, without further ado, below are the results of the new Vault Accounting 50:

Our inaugural No. 1 Best to Work For accounting firm is New York-headquartered Deloitte. With a score of 7.538, Deloitte edged out fellow Big Four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which placed No. 2 with a score of 7.410. Rounding out the top five were Rothstein Kass (6.469) at No. 3, Marcum (6.410) at No. 4 and Dixon Hughes (6.267) at No. 5.

Why Deloitte was No. 1

The battle between Deloitte and PwC was a fierce one: Deloitte handily beat PwC in the areas of overall satisfaction, hours and compensation, but PwC edged out Deloitte in prestige, culture and business outlook. What ultimately made the difference between No. 1 and No. 2 was the margin by which Deloitte topped PricewaterhouseCoopers in the categories in which it bested its rival. Deloitte scored more than one-half point higher than PwC in satisfaction, hours and compensation; meanwhile, PwC scored less than two-tenths of a point higher than Deloitte in prestige, firm culture and business outlook.

Almost unanimously, professionals outside Deloitte say it’s a “very prestigious,” “top of the line” accounting firm filled with “good people” who have a “strong reputation for excellence.” Insiders at the firm are equally as complimentary, and many point to Deloitte’s commitment to training as its best asset. “I believe this is one of the greatest perks about Deloitte,” says one firm insider. “We have amazing training opportunities. We’re even building Deloitte University, which will be the only facility of its type among the big firms.”

Deloitte staff also like that they’re “constantly exposed to different things and learn something new every day,” and believe that manager/staff relations are extremely cordial. “Most managers and senior professionals treat junior staff and consultants very well,” notes one Deloitte insider. “I’ve never felt like I couldn’t have candid conversations with the partners, and I feel that I have a very strong relationship with my staff.”

There is one thing, though, that outsiders and insiders alike don’t rave about when speaking of Deloitte: the hours. That is, the firm is said to “overwork its employees,” and working there is thought to be a “grind.”  Insiders aren’t all that surprised that hours are long. “I know that the long hours come with the job,” says one Deloitte staff member, but “working long hours all the time gets old. Sometimes it’s hard to take time off.”

Overall, Deloitte insiders are rather pleased with their jobs. Speaking about her satisfaction, one staff member says, “I’ve transferred positions within the firm, which was, essentially, taking on a new job. I’ve enjoyed the transfer, and I’m definitely satisfied with the firm’s ability to grow with my career.”

No. 2 PwC

Regarding PwC’s firm culture, one insider says, “The firm adheres to a work-hard, play-hard mentality. My office is a close-knit group and enjoys spending time together during non-work hours. On the job we have an open-door policy where ideas and thoughts are freely shared. Our partner has made it clear that anyone can reach out to him regarding anything.”

No. 3 Rothstein Kass

Here’s one RK insider on his overall job satisfaction: “The people within the firm make it an easy place to come to on a daily basis. For the most part, everyone gets along very well, and most people enjoy spending time with other employees outside of the work environment. Although public accounting can be stressful at times, the people here make all the difference.”

No. 4 Marcum

An insider on comp: “Marcum pays at the higher end of the pay scale. Compensation is extremely competitive.”

No. 5 Dixon Hughes

One of the firm’s accountants on Dixon Hughes’ business outlook: “We’re in a unique position as a regional firm. We’re big enough and talented enough to compete with Big Four firms for clients, but are also small enough to compete with some of the regional firms for clients. Our business outlook is good, and we’re looking forward to the things to come.”

Check out the rest of the firms ranked in the Vault Accounting 50.

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In the Black

Rising Discrimination Against Muslim Workers

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A dispatch from the uglier side of the modern workplace: complaints about discrimination against Muslim workers have risen by 20 percent in the past year—and by 60 percent since 2005.

According to the New York Times, complaints from Muslim workers run the gamut “from co-workers calling them “terrorist” or “Osama” to employers barring them from wearing head scarves or taking prayer breaks.”

The likely reasons for the upsurge in complaints are all too predictable: the Times piece cites 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and “the erroneous belief, held by many Americans, that the first nonwhite president is Muslim” as problems. Additionally, the brouhaha over the proposed Islamic center in Lower Manhattan (aka “the Ground Zero Mosque”) was listed as a factor, but the report noted that “complaints were increasing even before frictions erupted” on the issue.

Most distressing of all, as complaints by Muslim employees are higher now than at any time in the past ten years—including right after the 9/11 attacks. And complaints from Muslim workers now make up a quarter of all religious discrimination claims, despite the fact that the group comprises just two percent of the US population.

There’s a question—also reflected in the report—of whether the incidences of discrimination have risen, or whether people are simply reporting the incidences more. Either way, the figures clearly show that there’s a problem. The only real question, then, is what can be done about it.

Have you witnessed or been a victim of this kind of discrimination? Do you have any thoughts on what causes it or what can be done about it? Post your comments below.

Written by Phil Stott

September 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Wall Street Hearts Gay Marriage

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Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but last night, while the eyes of the Wall Street media were still focused on Goldman Sachs’ sex-discrimination suit, the American Foundation for Equal Rights–the group that spearheaded the battle to fight California’s gay marriage ban–held a fundraising benefit in Midtown Manhattan, and executives from KKR, Blackstone, Carlyle Group, Goldman Sachs and others from the investment banking, hedge fund and private equity industries were in attendance to support the organization.

Such a public display of affection for the rights of gay and lesbians is a complete about-face by the upper echelons of the finance industry compared to how they dealt with this issue just a few years ago.

In Vault’s annual Banking Survey, administered each spring for more than a decade, we have asked professionals in the industry to comment on their firm’s diversity efforts with respect to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, as well as with respect to women and minorities. It wasn’t too long ago that a majority of those surveyed would respond to the GLBT question with, at best, “no comment,” while freely providing scores of information about diversity efforts with respect to women and ethnic minorities. In addition, even when we did receive a comment, and a positive comment at that, about a firm’s GLBT diversity, the commenter, more times than not, did not wish to go on record; to boot, PR heads of firms continually lobbied for the removal (from the survey write-up) of any mention of GLBT diversity–even if their firm was painted in a very positive light.

In the past couple of years, however, this has been changing. We now receive just as many (or almost as many) comments about GLBT hiring practices as we do about women and ethnic minority practices. And PR representatives are now more than happy to highlight their efforts to hire and accommodate GLBT individuals.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the finance industry (or America’s other corporations in other industries) have come close to embracing gay and lesbian rights in the workplace, but we have come a long way, paving the way for top-ranking executives, such as Ken Mehlman, a partner at KKR, perhaps the most well known private equity firm on the planet, to come out and speak their minds.

Last week, Mehlman (who, prior to joining KKR, ran George Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004), publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. In an interview, he told The Atlantic, “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”

Kudos, Mr. Mehlman, and here’s (glass raised) to hoping that your courage will inspire other current and future professionals, as well as encourage current and future corporations to take an increased pride in the individualities of their employees.

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In the Black

Written by Phil Stott

September 23, 2010 at 11:36 am

Did Goldman Break Its Diversity Policy?

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For the 11th straight year, industry insiders named Goldman Sachs the most prestigious bank in North America in Vault’s latest ranking. In hindsight then, all the public mudslinging of recent years has done little to upset the bank whether it’s in attracting the biggest deals or the best talent. And according to our survey, bankers continue to want Goldman on their resume.

Ironically, a day after the rankings debuted, the bank’s prestige is under attack by three former female employees who charge, according to The Wall Street Journal, that “The investment bank practices a system in which women are paid less, promoted less and ‘systematically circumvented and excluded.'”

Jobs, Careers and Reviews at Goldman SachsWhat’s astounding about the allegation is the repeated emphasis on intent, i.e., that the bank has a system that almost formulaically excludes women from getting promoted and compensated on par with their male counterparts. While the bank has called the suit without merit, stating that, “People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals,” it seems it is yet again in the red with the public.

Comments from our Banking 50 survey—culled from responses submitted by over 1,300 banking professionals earlier this year—provide further perspective:

“Supportive and respectful management”

“They could do a better job of promotion as well as placement into areas that are a good fit and utilize skill sets…”

“Having come up through the ranks, from a junior trader to now an experienced one in fixed income products, I must say that I’ve been very pleased with the level of training, support and guidance that I’ve received over the years from the firm…”

“I’m a firm believer in the culture at Goldman Sachs. The firm is team-focused, emphasizing integrity and personal development within the industry.”

“I think we do a good job at getting women and diversity candidates in the door, but for real success we need to work on better retention.”

And, finally a snippet of their Diversity Mission Statement from Vault’s Annual Diversity Survey:

“The firm’s commitment to diversity is evident at the most senior levels and is driven down through the firm by way of our seventh business principle: “We offer our people the opportunity to move ahead more rapidly than is possible at most other places. Advancement depends on merit and we have yet to find the limits to the responsibility our best people are able to assume. For us to be successful, our men and women must reflect the diversity of the communities and cultures in which we operate. That means we must attract, retain and motivate people from many backgrounds and perspectives. Being diverse is not optional; it is what we must be.”

So where does this leave the banking king: A chauvinistic boys club, truly diverse with a few unintentional victims, or the victim of a ploy to take advantage of its current poor reputation? Weigh in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or connecting on Twitter @VaultCSR.

More reading: The complete WSJ report.

What other banks made the Top 10 most prestigious banks in North America this year?

Here’s Why You Can’t Find a New Job

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A nice chart from the New York Times’ Economix blog provides an interesting insight into why you (or someone you know) can’t find work just now: business owners are concerned about poor sales. According to Economix’ Catherine Rampell, the chart “breaks down what percent of small businesses cited each of these problems as their biggest challenge, going back to 1986.”

You’ll notice, of course, that less than a third of business owners cite poor sales as their chief concern. But when you compare levels of concern over the period of the recession (say, from 2007 to now) to the entire rest of the chart, it’s clear that we’re seeing all-time levels of concern over sales of late. And unless you’ve been paying particularly poor attention over the last couple of years, you’ll likely also have noticed that unemployment is at record levels as well. Both, in fact, are between two and three times the levels seen in the decade prior to the recession. Coincidence?

Chart showing drop in sales affecting hiring
Source: The New York Times Economix blog

A couple of other interesting stats: first, despite the fact that taxes are one of the hottest political potatoes around at the moment, the proportion of business owners citing them as the main factor affecting hiring hasn’t varied that much in the almost-quarter century the chart covers.

There’s also been a marked surge in concern over government requirements—likely a response to health care reform and new regulation prompted by the recession. While that’s obviously a cause for concern—particularly for the government as it approaches the November elections—it also spells opportunity for one group of workers: consultants.

Also, check out the dark blue section of the chart, which tracks responses on “quality of labor” as a concern for hiring. While it’s interesting to see how much the concern has narrowed since the onset of the recession, the real story is in comparing the mid to late 90s to the years prior to the current recession (when skilled labor shortages were widely predicted). Significantly more respondents in the 90s were concerned about quality of labor than those in the middle of the previous decade—despite the fact that the latter group were actually facing the prospect of losing quality from the workforce with the (now-delayed) impending retirement of the Boomer generation. So what gives? Was it the Internet boom catching companies cold or something else?

–Phil Stott, Vault.com

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