• Firms

    How’s Grant Thornton’s Unlimited Vacation Policy Been Working Out?

    By | November 21, 2016

    Last year, the only second-tier accounting firm not cool enough to go by its inititals, Grant Thornton, announced a new paid-time off policy that would allow its employees to take unlimited vacation. Although GT employees seemed happy with the idea, the move was met by skepticism here and elsewhere.

    So, how's it going? Crain's Claire Bushey reports that the policy seems to have had the effect the firm was looking for:

    Under Grant Thornton's previous policy, from Nov. 1, 2014, to Nov. 1 2015, accountants and consultants took a median of 17.4 days off. Under the new policy, they took a median of 19.1 days off.

    That's “a pretty significant increase,” given that employees at some companies that tried the policy actually took fewer days off, said Jennifer Fraone, associate director of Boston College Center for Work & Family.

    Lower-level employees at Grant Thornton are the primary winners. Accountants and consultants from the midlevel through partner ranks generally took about 20 days, said Lou Ann Hutchison, managing director for human resources in the firm's Charlotte, N.C., office. Junior professionals and administrative staff typically used 15 to 17 days.

    That's nice. No, really! More people need to take vacation and consistently use all the PTO that is available to them.

    But I remain skeptical that it will last. Every feel-good HR policy has a honeymoon phase and this was it for GT. Plus, I've got a hunch that the Cubs great season ending with a miraculous World Series run caused a deluge of time off in the late summer and into October, juicing the numbers a bit.

    Anyone want to testify on their experience? Do so below.


    • The Horniest Partner

      Seems like Chipman69 is taking advantage of the unlimited PTO. Where is he?

      • keepin_it_real

        Penetrating his chosen markets with his whole self.

        • sludgemonkey

          More deeply penetrating……rolling over for one more if you will….. with this generous policy I am sure.

      • Chipman69

        Thanksgiving break is a time for all DYNAMIC GT employees to return to their hometowns and penetrate various former classmates as their CHOSEN MARKET with their WHOLE SELVES using their INSTINCT FOR GROWTH in the bathroom or parking lot of their hometown bar!!!!!

        • Rtruth12

          I haven’t been on this site for months and this is the first thing I see. Good ole Chipman and his penetration haha!

    • KM

      I’m going to question the comparability of the data used in the analysis:

      In December 2014/January 2015, GT gave employees 4 “Employee Appreciation Days” during the holidays, which were charged to the “Holidays” time code.

      In December 2015/January 2016, GT gave employees 6 “Appreciation Days,” however GT required employees to charge those to the “FTO” code.

      Those 6 additional days charged to the FTO code are inflating the median days off since the new policy was put in place and therefore PTO and FTO days are not equal. I would even argue the data, when combined with this information, may indicate that the number of days off employees took has decreased.

      • Missing Donut

        That is not surprising, and from what I’ve seen places with an “unlimited” vacation policy have people take less vacation than under a structured vacation policy.

    • PurpleChipPower

      Year 1 did result in increased PTO. I can speak to that personally and through my observations within my office. A lot of people got good time off. The problem is that some people (namely the underperforming tools who no one wants on their job and thus sit unassigned in summer) took too much time off pre busy season and then continued their greed streak into the summer (peak unassigned time), jeopardizing their chargeable hour goals. Now our “market territory” is extremely concerned with everyone hitting their chargeable hour goals and scheduling PTO has become worse than trying to order deli meat in the grocery store. I think our schedulers are as competent as deli employees BTW.

      On a side rant, I never knew public accounting was so much like socialism. Raises across the board with marginal differences between rating level (5-6% difference between a 3 and a 5 is a joke. The 3s should be thankful they have a job and content with a COLA increase) coupled with the strong performers being rewarded with more work in non peak time. The strong support the weak. Thought we’d have more Bernie supporters here with this model.

      • Sammy K

        And that’s why you work at a Tier 2 firm

        • PurpleChipPower

          I forgot how much you learn vouching AR and bank confirmations – like you do in Big 4 for 2 years until you finally put your big boy pants on and test those pesky revenue transactions! Don’t even get me started on all your “great” ICFR experience. Bet your parents are proud.

          • Adam Hill

            Quit calling a spade, a spade! I learned more in the first two weeks at Moss than I did in a year at KPMG.

            I know, KPMG………. the weird thing is, KPMG is simply a cheaper version of the other 3. Same turds, just shinier.

            • sludgemonkey

              How do you shine, or polish, a turd?

            • Adam Hill

              Up front, through the proper assortment of high end red meat and cheeses.

          • peakfreak

            How much more money did you bring to the firm compared to the 3 rated associates?

            The fact is that most engagements in audit are fixed-fee, so it doesn’t matter if you “rock” the audit. The firm makes the same money off 3s as it does off 5s. The firms, like all businesses, give raises based on revenue contribution – staff don’t make much difference to the bottom line.

            • PurpleChipPower

              I don’t debate the merit of that point. You are right on that front. But think about your career and the experiences you’ve had working for the 3 versus the 5. Generally speaking, the 5 knows the right audit procedure, trains the staff, serves the client, and eases the burden on a manager or partner. Yes, the firm makes same amount of money on an audit, but the G&A cost in the future is exacerbated (placement fees, new hires, inefficiencies from hiring replacement level players), through increased recruiting and training costs,by keeping 3s and 5s relatively level. It’s like a circle of death in public accounting that usually leads to everyone’s demise.

            • peakfreak

              Again, I agree that it’s a “circle of death” except that that’s the business model of public accounting. Everyone goes into public because of the ‘career opportunities’. Those opportunities only exist because of the churn of staff. Regular promotions are a luxury outside of public accounting. Unless 3s, 4s, and 5s quit in droves, none of that upward mobility exists.

              Everyone suffers except the partners. This model ensures that the only staff left are the ones who are willing to put up with shitty pay, shitty hours, and unfair treatment. Therefore, the partners can throw any unreasonable expectation at their managers and seniors and it’ll get done.

    • austriak

      I don’t think they did it because they thought there would be a significant increase or decrease. I think they did this because now they don’t have to pay out PTO when you leave, which was probably a lot since there is high turnover in public.

    • Chipman69

      This DYNAMIC policy gives GT partners an INSTINCT FOR GROWTH in their wallets when then don’t have to pay out accrued PTO to outgoing associates that penetrate another CHOSEN MARKET with their WHOLE SELVES!!!!

    • Scharfinator

      I have a buddy who just left there… apparently GT was getting wise to its employees actually taking advantage of this.

      I don’t have the details, but essentially it was reflected in performance reviews. You’d miss out on billable hours, thus miss chargeability goals, and thus suffer in your ratings.

    • Great if you’ve been on vacation and been partying hard. Obviously as Brits are slackers as contractual holiday days start at 20 and Public Holidays.