PwC Philippines consulting undergoes cultural revamp guided by global survey

07 January 2019 4 min. read
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The Philippines consulting branch of PwC has turned the organisational spotlight on itself, undertaking a cultural refresh according to findings from the firm’s Global Cultural Survey.

Writing in the Manila Times, PwC Philippines consulting leader Benjamin Azada has outlined how the firm’s local consulting division has revitalised its workplace culture; a necessary step following an amalgamation with its Southeast Asia counterparts in 2013 and the increasingly regionalised management processes since. For the project, PwC Philippines took inspiration from the global firm’s own recent cultural survey.

Conducted by the Katzenbach Centre of PwC’s strategy consulting wing Strategy&, the Global Culture Survey quizzed some 2,000 respondents from 50 countries worldwide on the organisations they worked for – finding a serious disconnect between the perceptions of staff and executive leaders on the quality of workplace culture and a growing view that organisations will need to address their cultures in order to grow.

Most strikingly, eight out of ten respondents agreed that their company would need to substantially alter its culture in the next three to five years if it is to succeed, grow and retain the best professionals – a figure up from only 51 percent just five years ago, with the report authors, including Strategy&’s People and Organisation leader for AZEANZ Varya Davidson, noting the massive upswing in ‘company culture’ Google searches since 2013. 

Workplace culture must change

Meanwhile, over that same time frame, the ratio of upper-executives who view culture as an important topic has risen from 64 percent to 71 percent, with 65 percent believing that culture was more important to company performance than an its strategy or operating model. Yet, while 63 percent of C-suite executives and board members feel their organisation’s culture to be strong, just 41 percent of their employees agree.

Here, the firm offers some advice. Firstly, listen to trusted employees at the coalface, or what the firm terms as ‘informal leaders’ – those without a title but who have a ground-level view of the organisation’s cultural reality. Next, identify and focus on the critical few behaviors that can shift the culture, tangible actions than can aid efforts to become for example more innovative, agile, collaborative, and customer-centric.

This was the advice taken on board when the PwC Philippines consulting division set about its own project of cultural evolution, with the firm feeling the need to better develop the abovementioned traits due to a greater emphasis on regional collaboration. Adding to the need for a cultural update; a local consulting team which has grown fourfold over just the past five years to now consist of 100.

Leaders think they’re culture is strong but employees disagree

The first simple step: synchronise the watches and set up alerts. “We identified the ‘critical few’ behaviors that really mattered and got to work on them,” Azada writes. “First (and this may sound very basic), we worked to reduce ‘Filipino time’ by using our calendars more consistently and getting meetings to start on time. We agreed on action items at each meeting and held people accountable for them.”

The firm then turned to the results of its People Survey to identify workplace culture and engagement issues that required addressing, finding foremost issues surrounding coaching and communication. Focus group discussions with staff at all levels followed, with a project management office set up to drive and monitor efforts and being embedded in the firm’s performance management processes.

Azada continues; “To make people feel they were part of a larger regional organisation, we established cross-territory communities of practice, increased the number of regional training opportunities, and even organised a region-wide talent show! (No, we didn’t fly our singers and dancers to a different country. This was all done through good old video technology.) This helped our people build connections with their colleagues outside the Philippines, and sparked greater trust and collaboration.”

According to the PwC veteran, who joined the firm in 1998 still fresh from a degree in Industrial Engineering and rose to consulting Director during a twelve-year stretch with PwC’s branch in Hong Kong, the efforts to address culture at the Filipino office have already brought the firm a long way. Yet, Azada concludes, there’s still work to be done in evolving its culture – with a suite of digital tools currently being implemented to help with learning and development, people and performance management, and collaborative working.