December 13, 2018

Forced Ranking

Noted Forced Ranking Enthusiast Deloitte Declares Forced Ranking Dead

The timing of this discussion is pretty good considering we have not one but two hot conversations happening in Open Items as we speak; one person was “forced to resign” from the Big 4 after just 6 months, while another person asks if anyone has been or knows anyone who has been coached out. You will see momentarily what this has to do with forced rankings but for now, let’s pull an old article out of the archive from Francine McKenna:

Layoffs Watch ’13: Rothstein Kass

It's that time of year when public accounting firms start showing the underperformers the door and we have our first confirmed across the board cut at it has happened at Rothstein Kass. The first we heard of the layoffs was in mid-April when we were informed by an anonymous tip that the firm would be […]

Will Ernst & Young FSO Start Forced Rankings Next?

We're getting word things are becoming a little claustrophobic over at Uncle Ernie's house. From the mailbag: In NY – FSO (EY) apparently there are so many high performers at staff 2 that discussions regarding ratings are still ongoing to help normalize the rankings. "Normalize" is never a good word. Animal shelters "normalize" their populations in the […]

Forced Rankings Appear to Be in Full Effect at Ernst & Young

Confirming some discussion in the comments from last Friday’s Ernst & Young compensation post, a source got in touch with us with more details on some rankings getting chopped:

I’ll confirm what your sources are saying about reviews being available in fso. Not only that, but forced rankings are in full effect. While [there] was less pushback during roundtables earlier (which was accurrate at the time), the ratings for at least 5 people were lowered by a notch from what was agreed to by the full committee at the end of may. (5 to 4, 4 to 3) While they do say after all people are discussed they’ll assess the levels to ensure the same criteria is being used, I firmly belive its being used as a way to lower ratings (and raises). Why have the formal review committees (roundtables) if the partners are going to have the ability to act unilateraly to ‘right size’ the ratings?

We’ll still have to wait a couple more weeks before we find out if the forced rankings actually translate into disappointing raises, as the official communication won’t come until August but this news surely doesn’t bode well. If you got knocked down a peg, discuss below and as always, keep us updated.

Compensation and Promotion Watch ’10: Discussions at McGladrey Starting Soon; Forced Ranking in Effect?

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It sounds like the capital market servants at the firms formerly known as RSM McGladrey/McGladrey & Pullen will finding out their good/bad/tremendously underwhelming news about comp and promotions in the coming week(s).

That and it sounds as though Mickey G’s is warming up to the forced ranking system that has been plaguing the Big 4:

Just wanted to pass a bit of info across to you about McGladrey comp discussions. They communicated to us in an email last week that all ratings and promotion decisions are now final and will be communicated to us no later than July 23rd.

Also, I’m based out of the the southeast and they told us that about 25% of people were initially rated 5s (our highest rating) and that they had to downgrade peoples ratings to in line with the 10% to 15% bell curve range. I have this from a direct source of a director inside the “roundtable” meetings or whatever they’re calling them now. Not sure if this is a nationwide occurrence.

We don’t know if the downgrades are standard operating procedure at the firm but one would think that the layoffs at McGladrey that we reported on last month are over. The problem is that if this is following standard forced ranking procedure, it could be setting up experienced professionals for competitive year ahead.

Keep us updated as you learn merit and promotion news and discuss your thoughts on this year’s prospects and the possibility of downgrades.

Layoff Watch ’10: McGladrey Makes Nationwide Cuts

Over the past month, we have heard lots about layoffs at RSM McGladrey/McGladrey & Pullen but we didn’t have much for details.

Frankly, we still don’t know a lot but we’ll go with what we’ve got. So far we know about reductions in the New York, Chicago, Quad Cities, Florida and Seattle offices and everything we’ve been told indicates that they are occurring elsewhere.


First the Emerald City:

I was ample. There is a new geographic restructuring going on. Instead of multiple “economic units” there will be only three regions. Many HRs and CFOs from different offices are losing their jobs. Consulting people talk about 100 positions that will be eliminated across the country. 10 people were let go from Seattle Economic Unit which includes Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia offices. We were informed about the reorganization somewhere around 04/12 and laid off at the end of the month. I think everybody received severance.

We’re not that familiar with past cuts in the RSM/M&P world but the big cuts in consulting seem to trail the Big 4’s by a year or two, although if some of these smaller clients are giving into the Big 4 lowballing then perhaps this is the natural progression.

Meanwhile:

Their Florida Private Club operations group closed the Club IT Consulting Group and layed off the staff. Some of the staff have been part of the firm for more than 20 years and were profitable.

Chicago just layed off the Operations Consulting Staff yesterday, [approximately] 10 people. This group was left to dangle in the wind, sink or swim on their own without marketing or sales assistance or access to the firm’s client-base Naturally it failed.

This firm’s actual layoff numbers are always reported low because they chase people out prior to layoffs in an attempt to camouflage the numbers. Their tactics to accomplish this include poor performance evaluations for staff, unreasonable margin requirements, constant peer pressure meetings regarding performance and head to head comparisons. This creates a dysfunctional relationship between groups and actually motivates groups within their own company to compete with one and other. Only so much people can take and then they leave. Just what the firm wanted.

Considering the economy in Florida, the demise of RSM’s private club operations in that corner of the over-leveraged world wouldn’t come as much of surprise. That being said, you might expect that veterans of the firm would be accommodated somehow with other internal opportunities.

As far as the “chasing” this is Jack Welch’s magical forced ranking method that the Big 4 has accepted like its own creation.

We reached out to both RSM’s corporate spokeswoman and their general counsel, both of whom have not responded to our request for comment. We also contacted an H&R Block spokesman to see if they could elaborate on these layoffs from the parent company level but again, our requests have gone unanswered. H&RB had their own layoffs last month however, there is no indication at this point whether cuts at H&RB would have anything to do with those at RSM/M&P.

We’re still accumulating details on these cuts, so get in touch with us about details on your office or discuss below. And don’t be shy, we know you McGladrey types been hesitant to call on us in the past.

AIG Adopts Big 4 “Forced Ranking” Method

Good news servants of the capital markets! Remember how we talked last summer about forced ranking and how it’s rampant within the Big 4 performance ranking system? No? Put it right out of your minds? Had occurred to you because you’re delirious from the lack of sleep, poor diet, et al.?

Well as soon as busy season
is over, we’re sure it’ll come back to you; in the meantime, you’ll be happy to know that everyone’s favorite ward of the state, AIG is now joining you in implementing what might be the worst possible method of rewarding its employees.

American International Group Inc. is rolling out a plan to revamp how it doles out annual incentive pay to its employees, as the government-controlled insurance giant moves away from retention bonuses that have proved controversial over the past year.

The new initiative, called a “forced distribution” system, is being pushed by Chief Executive Robert Benmosche. Under the plan, thousands of AIG employees will be ranked on a scale of 1 to 4 based on their performance relative to their peers, and their annual variable compensation, which may include bonuses, will be determined by their rank. Individuals ranked in the top 10% will get far more relative to their peers.

Yes! The 1 to 4 ranking scale. That’s not quite as shrewd as PwC’s 1 to 3 scale and it’s at least simpler than KPMG’s 9 box but AIG employees have every right to be concerned about this arbitrary ranking system.

Warden Robert Benmosche doesn’t care though, there were too many rock stars, “Mr. Benmosche said performance-appraisal systems previously in place at AIG weren’t discriminating enough. In one case, he said, there was a ranking system with four categories, but about half of the people got the highest rating, and half got the second rank. ‘You can’t have 50% in the top,’ he said.” Bobby B also said that AIG is “unlikely to impose a requirement that underperformers leave.” Write that one down.

Our contributor Francine McKenna who has written both here and on her blog about forced ranking told us, “Investors will get contrived ‘performance’ enforced by cutthroat atmosphere that further encourages excessive risk taking.”

In addition, Ravin Jesuthasan a “talent-management” consultant (not involved with AIG’s change) who was quoted in the Journal (our emphasis), ” [Mr. Jesuthasan said] the approach can work in turnaround situations by helping to foster more accountability, but could be risky if not communicated well or “if links to consequences like compensation and employment are not properly thought through.”

Any of that sound familiar?

AIG Plans Revamp on Pay [WSJ]

Layoff Watch: PwC

Editor’s note: Francine McKenna is a regular contributor for Going Concern

We’ve gotten reports of recent layoffs of over 100 professionals in the Advisory practice and 40 in U.S. IT. The IT professionals were out of the Tampa office, including some that were Lotus Notes developers. Right. We didn’t know anyone still used Lotus Notes either.
Sources indicate that this was more “forced ranking” layoffs as many were high performers that were dismissed because of suddenly ‘less than expected’ ratings. We’ve covered PwC’s less than clear approach in the past.

PwC has not immediately responded to our requests for comment.

We reached out to Francine McKenna, of Re: The Auditors and she provided this comment:

“PwC is the biggest abuser of the “forced ranking” approach, artificially downgrading folks to make them feel lousy, alone, and uncomfortable discussing or otherwise reacting to getting let go. They refuse to admit they are overstaffed because they would view it as a direct indication of their inability to manage effectively (notice I said manage, not lead).”

If you have more details on these layoffs, send us an email to our tips address and discuss in the comments.