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The 4 Big Four-inspired HR practices to fully embrace the new work pattern

Published on 14 May 2024

With Covid-19, we have entered a New Work Pattern. Based on Research and an examination of the behaviour of the 4 largest international accounting and professional services firms, we have been able to identify 4 major HR practices that have enabled them to better negotiate this shift in the world of Work.

​The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) clearly pointed out in 1996 that knowledge has become a source of productivity progress and economic growth, and that knowledge-based economy is an important feature of developed economies. As an external manifestation of a country’s comprehensive strength, knowledge-intensive industries mainly include five categories, namely finance, information services, business services, education and health care. With the rapid development of science and technology and globalisation of capital, knowledge-intensive industries have gradually become an important engine of economic and societal development.

The Big Four Accounting Firms (named the Big Four thereafter), Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and KPMG, are renowned as providers of professional auditing, tax and consulting services in the global capital market. The Big Four have achieved relatively outstanding results in the face of systemic external issues, including the global economic shocks, the intensification of localised geopolitical conflicts, and the global public health crises.

Challenges faced by the Big Four Accounting Firms during and after the pandemic

Under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economic system has suffered greatly from the traditional work pattern and decentralised functional departmental structure, which caused high office costs, employee exposure risks, loss of interdepartmental communication, information distortion and other shortcomings. This has been unlimitedly magnified in the public health crisis, and the Big Four were no exception. In response, the Big Four took a series of measures to cope with the emergent challenges. These practices were effective in improving work efficiency and quality, as well as safeguarding the health and safety of their employees. As a result, we believe that, the core part of the new work pattern, accompanied with the organisational cultures and leadership change, could be preserved in the post-epidemic era as well. Therefore, we recommend the key human resource management (HRM) practices for post-pandemic workplaces in knowledge-intensive industries as follows:​

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