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Don't tolerate mediocrity - just because life is looking better

'The Times' reported yesterday that EY are planning to hire a further 3,700 staff by June next year.  Their current headcount is 11,000.  Even allowing for some natural wastage along the way, that is a staggering increase of over 30%.

One can react to such numbers in a variety of ways.  Great that so many new jobs are being created, but also slightly bewildering, perhaps, for the existing staff who had their eye on the next promotion or even just a degree of stability.  And I suspect that one or two partners might have got their calculators out as they tried to work out the short-term costs of recruiting (and paying) so many initially unproductive staff.

These are all valid concerns, and it will be fascinating to revisit EY at the end of 2014 and see whether the experience has been a good one.  But for me at least, more of a concern is the apparent continuation of this 'boom and bust' mentality.

At the beginning of the recession, after the initial despair and despondency, many firms took some tough, hard decisions and redundancies were commonplace in the professions.  Ironically, but perhaps not surprisingly, partner profits soon improved dramatically because, despite the continuing recession, so much dead wood had been cut out.  Firms knew that it should have been done earlier, but with firms during the good times being busy and generating reasonable profits, it was all too easy to overlook - and even tolerate - mediocrity.

As the markets pick up, the really successful firms of tomorrow will recognise the crucial importance of not making the same mistakes again.  There is a real balance to be achieved in being adequately resourced, without bringing on board 'only adequate' people.  When a large organisation like EY is seeking to increase its headcount in the UK by 30% in 9 months, that is quite a challenge.  I wish them luck.