Sarah Churchman on Values and Culture at PwC

The Filling

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Foong emailed me last week and asked if I’d be interested in writing a blog for this edition of Suit & Pie on Company Values.  Seemed like a great idea at the time (I’ve been way too comfortable taking a back seat and enjoying the read, always amazed at how she pulls it out of the bag every time!) but when I had cleared the dishes last night and watched Strictly I poured a glass of wine and opened my laptop … gulp, why on earth me and where to start?!?

So I gave myself a good “Woman’s Talking To” and realised I’m just as qualified to write about our Values at PricewaterhouseCoopers as 19,000+ other people! In fact possibly more so as I’m working on a global project right now seeking to re-articulate our Values in the light of our clear purpose – to build trust and solve important problems (in summary!).

For anyone who has worked as part of an ambitious and enthusiastic team you might have experienced the challenge of drafting by committee!  But what’s so evident with our project is that we all know intrinsically what the Values that underpin our culture are at PwC irrespective of whether they are written down or we agree the exact words.  I mean, I am specifically on this project because of my role as UK Diversity & Inclusion leader which kind of says it all.

At PwC our Diversity & Inclusion strategy and approach is founded on organisational development tools and techniques; delivering the kind of organisation we want and need to be by focusing on each and everyone’s behaviours. And of course, values drive behaviours, both individually and collectively. Core to our business is how we value difference by building an environment where everyone can be themselves.  That is why we have just again rolled out #OpenMind – Be Yourself. Be Different, our campaign and Learning & Development programme to engender in all our people the personal responsibility to understand and value difference by, first and foremost, understanding their own biases.

This is critical to build trust with each other, with our clients and our wider communities which takes us right back to our purpose. Trust is crucial to our values: previous generations laid the foundations of the trust placed in PwC. Trust is intrinsic to our brand.  It’s down to each of us to carry on that heritage by doing the right thing by the people we work with – never compromising on quality, professionalism, transparency or fairness.

I spend a lot of my time on matters of transparency and fairness, and I think it shows. Just take a look at the latest PwC annual report and you’ll find a significant amount of the People content tells our diversity story including, for the second year running, full transparency on our gender pay gap.

And one of my own personal values – brought into sharp focus a few years ago when I was on one of our excellent leadership development programmes – is fairness.  I don’t think it’s just because I have a son and a daughter, George and Charlotte (yes, my own little Prince and Princess, though not so little now at 21 and 19!) and I hope both are able to reach their full potential whatever they choose to do in life; more based on the pervasive and passive acceptance of the way things are that I see all around. I don’t doubt that in 20 to 30 years’ time we will look back and laugh at the idea of corporate leaders being selected from only 50% of the workforce. Just like we look back now and laugh at the idea of women having to ask to wear trousers for work in the City – that was only 25-30 years ago honestly!!  We will, I hope, laugh at the idea of motherhood being terminal to career progression and leadership aspirations.

I’m not advocating fairness through revolution – many small things combine to make a huge difference.  I know our Back to Business programme at PwC will succeed in bringing back into the workplace hugely talented women who have taken time out  and are now finding other employers less than sympathetic to a different kind of CV. And our Reverse Mentoring is opening the eyes of our leaders to a completely different PwC Experience for female and ethnic minority millennials. Breakthrough brings together our high potential female senior managers with their sponsors to better understand the systemic barriers to female progression and engender that personal responsibility to remove any unfair and unnecessary hurdles.

All these interventions are making a difference and, thank heavens, are no longer confused with acts of positive discrimination – our Open Mind programme is working and it will continue to help us deliver the Values and the Culture we not only desire but which are essential to business success in today’s turbulent and changing world.

Follow Sarah on twitter @sarahjchurchman and read more about PwC’s excellent diversity and inclusion programme on their website. You can also watch the #openmind video here