Our 75/25 Approach to Employee Time
In most technology consultancies, your entire day is based around what you can bill. The standard is aiming to bill all your work time — 100% — to clients. If you work 40 hours, you’re expected to be able to bill 40 hours, or more if you can. Your bonuses are often tied to how much and how often you’re able to bill over your allotted work time.
The upshot of that is that there’s no time to develop, either individually as a professional or together as a team.
But Pliancy has a unique alternative to this industry billing convention. It’s pretty simple: consultants are only expected to bill 75% of their time, while the other 25% is ours to fill. We call it the 75/25 Rule. It was a major selling point to me, back when I was a candidate coming from another Managed Service Provider. And it’s been incredibly fulfilling in practice, both personally and professionally.
So for instance, when I started out as a consultant for Pliancy, I’d be onsite with my clients 32 hours a week, working through issues for them. I knew that eight hours of my work week would still belong to me. I could choose to develop my skills, read a career-developing book, help a teammate with something, or even just spend time with my team. Anything that betters me or Pliancy as a whole is fair game. The strength and character of our culture is huge at Pliancy, so chatting with teammates is encouraged.
These mental breaks from billable time have completely changed the way I’m able to focus and approach problems as an employee. It's really strenuous making sure you're billing 40 hours a week.
But with the 75/25 Rule, you know that once you hit that 30-hour mark of billable time, the rest is yours. Besides the fact that we only hire curious, driven people, this is the next biggest contributor to why we have an employee base that’s constantly improving upon itself.
It’s a sense of freedom. I have a blank slate to engage with my co-workers and help them take on projects, or to develop my interests. It also helps you build relationships with your clients because you have free time to work on other items for them comfortably.
So if we’re not encouraged to over-bill, on what basis does leadership determine and reward merit? First of all, we’re paid really well comparatively, so we probably wouldn’t feel the same need to bill more even if we were expected to. But more importantly, we’re a close team. That’s in large part because we have free time on the clock to connect with each other, including leadership. My leaders actually know and understand me: my strengths, my goals, my passion for what I do and the extra efforts I put into the company. Because of that, I know that any merit-based acknowledgment or promotion is based on true professional growth. It’s far more rewarding and empowering.
In my case, having that time helped me discover I wanted to develop my management skills. I managed a Verizon Wireless store when I was 18 years old, and I never thought I would want to get into management again because I didn't really care for it then. I was happy as a consultant here at Pliancy, but as time went on, I grew into a new Managing Consultant role. Then I became Regional Director for the East Coast. Now, I'm Director of Consulting for Pliancy.
I had all this time for career development and personal reflection. And as I worked more with Marcus, getting to know him and developing a relationship with him, he helped me figure out my career goals. I realized I do actually like managing a team. I don't think I would have ever known that before joining Pliancy, because I was so busy focusing on billable work.
It’s also really satisfying seeing others in the office develop. You get to help them grow and take on new roles, and help them move into a position they maybe didn't know they wanted before.
So what do we do with our free time?
In Pliancy’s Boston office, we’ll often spend that time together. Sometimes people will run to the store with someone else to pick up some IT equipment. It's a great organic way to team-build and talk shop.
It also gives us a chance to collaborate on projects. All of a sudden, we might get drawn into a massive skill development powwow. We have some people, for instance, who are really strong in networking, some people who are strong in cloud infrastructure, and some who are awesome with computer deployments. Someone will casually mention that they’re working on this or that, but they’re having an issue. So someone else will respond with an idea or approach.
It definitely helps build our culture and our team, but we all just really like and respect each other too. And I feel like that’s because we get to spend time together, so we surpass basic coworker status easily. We're coworkers and we're friends.