In essence, putting people first as a leader unlocks a plethora of benefits for both the employees and the organization as a whole. By placing a priority on the well-being of their team members, leaders can establish strong bonds with them, fostering trust, loyalty, and commitment. Such a work environment leads to a more engaged and productive workforce, ultimately resulting in mutual benefits.
Meet Benoit Laclau, the UK&I Managing Partner for Consulting at EY, who leads a team of over 3000 exceptional consultants from all over the world. Benoit’s career has been consistently guided by the principle of prioritizing people, believing that motivated and talented employees will always deliver excellent results for their clients. He considers it crucial as a leader to motivate and inspire his team and create diverse and inclusive teams that can perform to the best of their ability.
Benoit also holds key positions in the UK&I Executive team, as well as the EMEIA and Global Consulting leadership teams and council. Benoit has been in business for 30 years and enjoys his work as a consultant and business leader. He arrived in the UK from France at 21, with limited English, and had to adapt quickly to the vastly different environment of London. Starting in finance and accounting, he discovered a passion for technology and consulting after working on a large SAP implementation project. After years of consulting, Benoit became a CIO at one of his large international energy clients in 2004, where he learned about leadership, operations, and value creation. After eight years, he returned to consulting and joined EY.
For the past 11 years, Benoit has held various global and operational leadership roles, including Global Energy Leader, and currently leads the UK and Ireland Consulting business, the second-largest consulting market after the US. He primarily works with clients on some of the world’s most significant technology-enabled business transformations, which he finds both exciting and diverse.
Building a Better Working World
EY is dedicated to providing quality services and insights that foster trust and confidence in the global capital markets and economies. In the face of technological disruptions to EY’s business and those of its clients, the company’s purpose, “Building a better working world,” serves as a guiding principle, enabling EY to adapt to changes and offer top-notch services to clients and employees alike.
As one of the Big Four accounting firms, EY is among the world’s largest professional services networks, with over 700 offices in 150 countries, ensuring that local knowledge is combined with global experience.
EY’s four integrated service lines, Assurance, Consulting, Strategy and Transactions, and Tax, and its extensive industry knowledge enable its clients to seize new opportunities, manage risks, and achieve sustainable, responsible growth. The company’s multidisciplinary and high-performing teams possess the right mindset and skills to meet the needs of stakeholders and generate long-term value, leading to sustainable, inclusive growth.
Creating Value through Transformation
The approach to transformation has drastically changed over the years. Previously, organizations utilized technology to automate and standardize processes, essentially recreating existing ways of working. However, current technology has evolved to allow leaders to completely reimagine their business models.
To achieve genuine success, business leaders must first determine how value will be created, whether through a new idea, business model, or transforming an existing model. Benoit believes that his most significant contribution to the technology industry is his unwavering focus on value creation. He employs three essential principles to help clients achieve the most significant possible value from their transformation.
The first principle is defining a clear vision for success by answering two crucial questions – why is this being done? and what are we trying to accomplish? Ensuring that all key stakeholders are aligned and committed to these definitions helps maintain focus and momentum. It also enables the codification of benefits and costs into a business case, enabling teams to manage scope and quality for the delivery of benefits. Traditionally, technology-enabled transformation projects have been measured on their success in meeting timescales and budget, creating a gap between business and technology leaders in terms of benefit realization or value creation.
Secondly, Benoit believes that placing the right people at the center of the design, build, and adoption phases is essential. However, it is often overlooked or de-scoped as the focus on timescales and cost takes precedence. A recent study by EY and Oxford Saïd Business School discovered that placing humans at the center of six key transformation drivers can improve the odds of success by 2.6 times. Therefore, involving the best leaders and people early and throughout any transformation should be the primary goal of the sponsors seeking to maximize value.
Thirdly, any leader embarking on a transformation must consider how the entire ecosystem will transform into a cooperating unit. Replacing the legacy technology landscape with a new one is no longer sufficient as technology estates require more data, systems, and touchpoints with end-users than ever before. Technology vendors, system integrators, consultants, and business partners must integrate and complement each other’s real-time efforts. Genuine ecosystem partners must now become comfortable with greater teaming, co-creating and caring for each other to deliver real value.
Fostering Compassion and Trust in the Workplace
Benoit is dedicated to establishing work environments that prioritize compassion and trust, empowering individuals to perform at their best. By fostering a sense of belonging, respect, and teamwork, employees are more likely to embrace the organization’s mission and purpose, leading to greater personal growth and higher levels of performance.
In the professional services industry, where people are the most significant assets, prioritizing employee well-being over short-term profit is critical for achieving long-term goals. When executed effectively, creating a work environment that motivates and inspires employees results in tremendous value for clients, leading to increased demand for the same teams and individuals.
In today’s world, where work and personal life often intersect, having fun and finding fulfillment in the workplace is crucial for maintaining enthusiasm and drive. Benoit believes that enjoying our careers is a fundamental aspect of doing business, and we should strive for greater fulfillment each day. After all, what’s the point of accelerating our careers if we can’t enjoy the journey?
Commitment to Sustainable Growth and Collaborative Responsibility
EY prioritizes its purpose of building a better working world, which serves as a compass for the company and its more than 365,000 employees in an unpredictable world. This purpose centers on achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth, which guides the company’s continuous efforts to improve the quality of its services, invest in its personnel and innovate. EY takes pride in collaborating with various stakeholders, including clients, to create lasting value and foster positive changes for society.
The company’s commitment to enhancing the world is exemplified by EY Ripples, a corporate responsibility initiative that mobilizes over 1 million people across EY member firms to support impact entrepreneurs and address global challenges like climate change. EY promotes diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunities, which foster better decision-making, encourage innovation, and enhance organizational agility and resilience. The company’s employees are renowned for their curiosity, which enables them to approach the world creatively, explore possibilities, and adapt to changing market trends.
Embracing the Advancements in Technology
Benoit acknowledges that technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate, with data volumes growing at a CAGR of 25%, doubling every few years. Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and generative AI like ChatGPT are reshaping all industries, including consulting. Business leaders must adapt by developing new capabilities to leverage these technologies as a competitive advantage, rather than fearing that machines will replace humans.
To help business leaders respond to and plan for an accelerating technology landscape, EY has launched EY.AI, an exciting new platform that brings together human capabilities and artificial intelligence to help clients transform their businesses through confident and responsible adoption of AI.
EY.ai leverages leading-edge EY technology platforms and AI capabilities, with deep experience in strategy, transactions, transformation, risk, assurance and tax, all augmented by a robust AI ecosystem.
Thanks to leaders like Benoit, the EY.AI platform seamlessly marries human-centered, pragmatic, and ethical approach to the adoption of AI with cutting edge insight, ecosystem support and intelligent automation at EY.
The Retirement Goals and Vision for EY’s Future
In a possible future, Benoit envisions himself spending his retirement years in a vineyard in the South of France. However, in the meantime, he remains dedicated to making EY the best place for employees to work and build a fulfilling career. This focus will ensure that EY continues to attract and retain the best talent, enabling the company to deliver more value to its clients and build a better, more sustainable working world.
In addition, Benoit encourages empowering the younger generation, particularly Gen Z, to explore new ways of leveraging technologies and finding innovative people-centric applications. As Benoit reflects on his career, he hopes to be remembered for his unwavering emphasis on the importance of people, their skills, and their talents. He believes that this contribution will leave a lasting impact on the future working world.
Advice for Aspiring Business Leaders
Benoit’s fundamental advice for aspiring business leaders is to prioritize people above all else. He hopes that the next generation of leaders will follow this advice and dedicate their careers to uplifting those around them.
In terms of practical tips, Benoit offers three key pieces of advice. Firstly, prioritize life over work and make time to care for the people who matter to you. Secondly, never stop learning and take every opportunity to observe and absorb knowledge and skills from those around you. Finally, take care of your people, and they will, in turn, take care of you.