Employee turnover will skyrocket if firms monitor office attendance, says former EY leader 

The so-called Big Four consultancy firms risk increasing their employee turnover and drastically lowering their retention if they continue monitoring office attendanceThe so-called Big Four consultancy firms risk increasing their employee turnover and drastically lowering their retention if they continue monitoring office attendance, says former EY leader and CEO of AM Bank, Dr. Nahla Khaddage Bou-Diab. The intervention follows news that professional services giant Ernst & Young is monitoring UK staff office attendance.

Dr. Nahla Khaddage Bou-Diab believes the methods EY has adopted to encourage people back to the office are symptomatic of a wider cultural issue in global business.  She said: “Right now, through their attendance monitoring, EY is showcasing exactly why people don’t want to return to the office. At the end of the day, monitoring turnstile data doesn’t create an environment employees would gravitate towards – and, because of it, these large firms, like EY, risk losing staff for good.

“The ‘Work from Home’ policy has spiralled out of control. And, given the knock-on effects of empty offices, namely decreased cross-department collaboration, productivity, innovation, and execution of deliverables, the C-suite needs to now take hold of the situation.

“While HR managers are responsible for the overarching employee life cycle, the reputation of the organisation – both within and outside its doors – is dictated by the C-suite. Their influence over the operations of the business means it’s in their job description to create an organisation their employees want to be a part of. But, atmospheres dominated by control don’t quite fit that – they push staff into survival mode. C-suite leaders need to rethink their approach. They need complete organisational transformation.”

Due to waning demand and the challenging macroeconomic climate, in 2023, Big Four firms were forced to commit to mass layoffs; for example, EY cut approximately 300 UK staff, and Deloitte announced a round of 800 redundancies, including 150 graduate positions, as reported in the FT.

With job security a legitimate concern, Nahla believes applicants are less likely to submit their resumes – and the cultural knock-on effects of attendance monitoring are only going to turn more people off. Of course, this includes staff already at these firms, risking concerns over employee retention.

Bou-Diab concluded: “Although the Big Four’s mass layoffs were – in a way – a result of the economic climate, they nonetheless affected how staff and potential applicants viewed the companies.

“The Big Four offer their employees tremendous value – they can work with and learn from the best minds in each industry, gain invaluable exposure to big-name clients, and understand methodologies that drive success in business. But, for all their virtues, it’s a shame they haven’t sought to optimise their cultures.

“EY’s attendance monitoring scheme is no way to convince people back to the office – it pushes people into survival mode. The only way to usher staff back through the turnstiles is by creating a supportive, innovative culture that makes people want to rush back to the office. It is now imperative that the leadership teams at these firms re-evaluate what makes them appealing – and figure out how to improve the functionality, efficiency, and humanity of their organisational environments.

“Culture is not about beanbags and pot plants. It’s about making people feel recognised and noticed. Sadly, the Big Four suffer from a cultural epidemic – EY’s attendance monitoring, worsened by the sector’s recent layoffs, is case in point. If they don’t work hard to create organisations their employees want to be a part of, they risk increasing their employee turnover.”