Sridharan Nair, managing partner of PwC Malaysia recently won the Life at Work award as the “CEO Champion”.
“PwC Malaysia recognises that retaining qualified women professionals is a critical business imperative and there is a need to provide flexibility for women to balance work and family commitments,” said Sri.
More than a decade ago, PwC Malaysia first considered implementing flexible work arrangements (FWA) to retain a key female talent who announced her decision to leave due to family commitments.
Given the option to work a few days in a week, she chose to stay for seven more years.
In recognition of FWA being a good retention strategy, PwC started with a FWA in the early 2000s for working mothers with good performance ratings, paving the way for more women to take up FWA.
As interest increased due to changing demands of the workforce as well as the advent of enabling technology, an enhanced FWA policy was launched in 2009, which is open to both women and men.
The Work Life Plus Programme (WLPP) enables employees to spend their time participating in engaging activities that facilitate personal and professional growth as well as quality time with family.
“PwC has introduced mentoring, sponsoring and development programmes for high potential women talent who are partnered with leaders of the firm with the view of developing a larger pool of women who can take on these leadership roles.
In the past the challenge was convincing fellow partners that FWA are workable, but today most have bought into it.
At the same time, we must convince employees that the FWA are workable propositions,” says Sri.
As Head of PwC Malaysia’s Talent Development Council, SRI ensures female talents are well represented, which is currently 47% of the firm’s key talent pool and ensures women are represented in PwC Executive Board.
The Work-life Plus Programme (WLPP)
New initiatives include ‘Flex space’, where managers may choose to work remotely in an environment they feel comfortable in.
The ‘Back2work programme’, which allows experienced managers to rejoin the workforce after having taken time off for a career break.
The WLPP was developed to create a flexible work environment that enables PwC Malaysia to respond in the most agile way to the demands of their clients, as well as attract the best talent.
In PwC Malaysia, the WLPP has played a pivotal role in the increase of engagement scores by 7% in the last two years.
The WLPP also offers:
Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA)
Employees from all levels may opt to apply for a 2.5-day, three-day or four-day work week.
The Time Out programme
Allows employees to plan in advance for additional time off beyond the annual leave entitlement.
Gives employees the flexibility to apply for one continuous month or up to three months in a year for personal and professional development.
Florence Tan, corporate responsibility manager
“PwC provides me work-life balance by allowing me to take on a FWA where I work four out of five days in a week. This way, I can still do what I’m passionate about, which is CR, and spend time with my two children. It also means that I don’t have to put my career on hold.
“Sri has been a great champion. He started implementing these initiatives seven to eight years ago – before most companies. He has made FWA available for all, not just working moms at PwC.
“Sri looks out for the people in the firm – he challenges you to do something you may not believe you can,” Tan says.
Leading the way
Chin Suit Fang, markets and diversity leader
On the role of PwC Malaysia in initiating FWA, Chin Suit Fang says the firm has been supportive in giving colleagues the trust and flexibility they need to bring out the best in them, taking into account the different circumstances at each stage of their lives.
“The FWA has worked well for my colleagues, demonstrating that focused outcomes and deliverables are better measures of performance, compared to face time. The FWA has been one of the key reasons some have stayed on after starting a family,” says Chin.
“Sri’s leadership reflects his values on diversity and inclusion. When he was head of PwC’s financial services sector (before becoming managing partner), he supported his manager, who was the first from client service to take up FWA as a new mother. Today she has three children and continues to benefit from FWA.”
For Malaysian companies interested in introducing FWA, Chin advises, “FWA isn’t a human resources (HR) practice that caters exclusively for women, but cuts across the board and is increasingly gender neutral. The CEO needs to lead the conversation on FWA programmes, instead of delegating this responsibility to HR which is often the case.”
Echoing what Sri himself, Chin suggests, “Start with small steps – get the staff/ leaders used to it – and learn from it. Encourage team leaders to regularly engage with their teams to get their pulse on how they adapt to a team member on FWA. There is no cookie cutter approach. You need to tailor FWA to fit your business and workforce.”