Challenge Model Practice
Small Things, Big Difference (STBD)

Deloitte LLP

Principle II: Work-Life balance and 
career development

2013 Challenge Submission

With revenues of $32.4 billion in 2013, Deloitte LLP is one of the largest professional services network in the world and has nearly 200,000 employees in more than 150 countries who provide audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, and tax services.

“The program allowed me to spend one weekday evening at home with my six-month old daughter, when otherwise I would have gone all week without seeing her awake.”
Leader, Deloitte

Deloitte LLP launched the Small Things, Big Difference program in an effort to offer a more flexible, supportive work environment, improve morale, retention, and inclusiveness and to provide enhanced services to its clients. The STBD program is based on an approach developed by Leslie Perlow, Harvard Business School Professor and author of Sleeping with Your Smartphone, which entails a comprehensive planning and goal-setting process that teams can use to meet both client and employee’s needs. Responsibility for meeting client and the team members’ needs is shared by the team. The process allows better management of work and life responsibilities by leveraging creative scheduling, work options, and virtual work practices. STBD also allows teams to create and control work options and enhances communication within the team around work life fit needs.


How does this model practice work?

Deloitte piloted the project in October 2011, first with a small team from Deloitte Consulting LLP, and then with Deloitte Tax LLP. Deloitte is currently extending the model into other program areas. The STBD approach works through a mix of goal setting, communication, and teamwork and its basic premise and processes can be used with almost any team.

Program goals include:

  • Shared goal-setting by team members; team members to determine both how they want the program to run within the team, and what they want to do to support their personal lives
  • Gains in morale and success in achieving employee goals

Increased efficiency in service delivery; reduced “face time” and misperceptions that needlessly hurt morale and effectiveness

To succeed within a team, the program depends on open communication. In order to identify issues before they become a major problem for the engagement team or leadership, STBD provides:

  • New strategies for initiating honest communication and feedback
  • Structured tools for discussing what is and is not working well, and for identifying ways that the team can be smoother, better, or more efficient

Another fundamental element to the success of the program is teamwork. Staff members, particularly on diverse and remote teams, are encouraged to get to know each other as people in ways that they often would not and work together in helping achieve each other’s goals. The STBD program is designed to improve coworker dynamics so that team members work better together than otherwise.

As part of Deloitte’s efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of STBD, the company conducted a baseline survey and followed-up with a pulse survey to measure impact. The survey results have been overwhelmingly positive. Almost half of STBD participants reported that the STBD program improved their work-life fit, morale, and productivity, and 66% reported at least minor improvements in their work-life fit. Current work-life fit satisfaction for participating STBD teams have improved by 10 – 24% percentage points since the baseline survey. The importance of work-life balance at Deloitte is further reflected in the fact that, on the annual Talent Survey Deloitte conducts of its people, one of the dimensions is Work-Life Fit. The ultimate goal is to ensure that work-life fit is not only an option for Deloitte employees, but a part of the culture and values of the firm. 

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

The key ingredients to STBD are a combination of common goals, regular transparent dialogue among team members, and demonstrated leader support. Teams experiment with “One Simple Thing” which refers to small and doable tasks developed with individual input but designed for collective impact. Regular team dialogue occurs when teams participate in weekly or bi-weekly meetings that require attendance by everyone, including leadership. These meetings focus on work processes, taking a pulse of individual workloads, and reviewing the integrated work and personal calendars for the team.

Leaders support this initial experiment by creating a team environment to support individual and collective goals, participate in team goal-setting, having their own individual goals and sharing these, as well as attending the weekly team meetings.

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