BDO’s Chief People Officer Describes High Performance Flexibility in Action

I can define high performance flexibility a hundred times, “It’s a flexible, dynamic way of operating across place, space, and time that achieves high level of performance and well-being by answering the question: what do we need to do, and how, when and where do we do it best?”

But nothing beats hearing it described in action from a business leader who lives it daily in their organization. Since 2014, Cathy Moy has been the Chief People Officer at BDO USA, one of the country’s largest professional services firms.  Before that, she was a senior leader in the firm’s audit practice.  We have worked with BDO and Cathy for more than 12 years helping the firm design, execute and evolve its BDO Flex strategy.

Moy was a recent guest on The Talent Economy podcast, which is focused on bringing together and highlighting thought leaders who are navigating the changing nature of work. In the episode, “The Need for Universal Flexibility”, she shared how the firm is taking BDO Flex to the next level by continuing to reimagine how, when, and where people “achieve great outcomes.”

When you listen to Moy discuss BDO Flex you’ll notice a steadfast attitude that conveys, “This is how we operate. This is who we are.”  Moy reinforces the commitment to flexibility as a core BDO business strategy while holding space for ongoing experimentation and innovation as employees’ and clients’ needs change and emerge.

Here are some highlights from Moy’s interview:

Evolution
“It’s called BDO Flex and most recently called BDO Flex What’s Next, an amped-up version.  I see it moving more from an individual, mindset ‘what do I need in my life,’ and adding on ‘how do we function best as a team?’ How do we create great client service outcomes, fulfilling careers and wellness for our team members, and how to count on each other?”

First
“It’s not a ‘wake up and decide what you want to do today’ plan. That’s not our definition of Flex.  But creating great outcomes together.  Start with ‘what do I need to achieve,’ ‘what do we together need to achieve,’ and ‘how do we depend on each other.’ It’s not an individual sport.”

Loving Guardrails
“I say loving guardrails because there needs to be some architecture, some shared philosophy. But what there DOES NOT NEED TO BE is a rule book of how it’s going to work for everybody.”

Experiment
“Let’s try some things. It’s not going to all work. Let’s experiment together.  We had that (flexibility) muscle built on an innovative mindset in our organization so ‘let’s fail fast and fail forward.’ Let’s throw away what didn’t work but stay the course and keep the faith. I told everybody if I (as the Chief People Officer) tried to write the rulebook I will fail miserably and for sure you wouldn’t like it.  It just wouldn’t fit your reality.”

It’s Not About the Place
“What I have said whether to a BDO or a curious leader outside of BDO who asks, ‘How do you get people back to the office?’ is you don’t start with that question. It’s not about the place.  You’ve got to listen to what people need and we know what people need because we’ve asked them. we do hear, ‘I want to maintain flexibility.’ 90% of people said they worked effectively and efficiently at home (during COVID). More than 70% want to maintain some type of hybrid but also want to see people, want to connect and have meaningful connections.”

Possibility
“Thank goodness we have the core value ‘embrace change.’ Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is unscripted. Turn our minds to think about the possibilities not to recreate the past for the small minority who want to ‘go back’ but navigate forward. Positive possibilities.  Help people thrive. The unknown can be frightening, or it can be an amazing unscripted possibility.”

It’s Not Balance
“For many years we have not used the word work-life ‘balance’. Our vernacular has always been work+life fit because if you are waiting for the ‘balance’ that’s like spring in New England, somewhere between too cold and too hot. We don’t want people to feel they failed because they don’t feel ‘balanced.’ It’s just got to ‘fit’.” (Appreciate Cathy’s shout-out to the work+life fit term we codified!)

The Spark
Cathy’s comments demonstrate the “spark” I get so excited about when an organization flexibly and dynamically reimagines the way it works and operates.  Is it perfect? Of course not.  As Moy explained, “it’s work and it’s messy sometimes, but worth it.