Hiring, firing, and why the Big Four model shouldn’t apply to your firm

The Big Four seem to find talent and resource management easy… and we can apply some of their approach to make your people requirements easier, too.


Talent management in the Big Four firms is very different to that of other practices. But there are lessons that can be learnt from their approach.

Due to their scale (and reputation), they can hire en masse; which is particularly useful when steering their services towards the latest disruptive regulatory changes that drive multinational clients in their direction.

And, as we’ve seen with the news of 800 job cuts at Deloitte, when that wave of work is about to break, they take the opportunity to change tack and steer themselves ready for the next wave to come along.

You may think that smaller firms should, by definition, be more ‘agile’ than the Big Four. But, they don’t have the same pull (in a recruitment sense) as the biggest firms. They simply don’t have a mass of people that can be utilised on different tasks and projects. The room to manoeuvre isn’t the same.

From talent, to resource

But we can learn from their model. Because, behind the front-facing engagement partners and consultants, the biggest firms manage their margin (and resource) by utilising huge shared-service centres. And a version of this model is available to practices of practically all denominations – we should know because we work with them.

Working with an outsourcing and offshoring partner, you can create vital flexibility into your resource management. This, in turn, helps you better develop and utilise your own internal talent.

Talent management can mean a number of things – in the short- to medium-term it can relate to developing and offering a new service, or the best service possible. Without wishing to go too off-topic, it’s worth remembering that in the longer-term, it relates to practice sustainability and succession planning.

Outsourcing and offshoring sit more on the resources side of things. We’re not here to ‘replace talent’ or ‘take away jobs’. Instead, we enable practices to focus on their clients and their people. We like to think that we’re also very efficient and good value for both what we offer; and what we free your firm’s people to achieve.

The second lesson? Well, this may be a bit controversial. If the people leaving the biggest firms haven’t quite worked out there, then they might not be the answer to your talent issue either. Even great people can find it hard working in a smaller practice compared to a Big Four firm, particularly where they haven’t been client-facing (which is generally a requirement in smaller practice – I know from having trained in such an office).

But please don’t look at the Big four with envy. There are options available to your firm, and we’d be happy to discuss them with you.

Vipul Sheth is MD of AdvanceTrack Outsourcing

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