Ernst & Young

Ottawa Business Journal - HR Update - - Awards 2009-10 -

If you had to boil Ernst & Young’s Ottawa of­fice cul­ture down to just two words – no sim­ple task for a global pro­fes­sional ser­vices firm spe­cial­iz­ing in deep-dive busi­ness facets such as taxes, as­sur­ance, and strate­gic growth – you might land on “di­ver­sity” and “flex­i­bil­ity.”

“Di­ver­sity and in­clu­sive­ness are a top pri­or­ity for the firm,” read one com­ment in the firm’s Em­ploy­ees’ Choice Awards sur­vey.

“Flex­i­bil­ity and work-life bal­ance op­por­tu­ni­ties are un­beat­able,” an­other noted.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s lo­cal man­agers, the afore­men­tioned two words are im­por­tant pil­lars in Ernst & Young’s busi­ness suc­cess.

“I think Ernst & Young has been a leader in rec­og­niz­ing the im­por­tance of hav­ing in­di­vid­u­als from all walks of life con­tribut­ing to ev­ery part of the busi­ness,” says Michael Hayward, se­nior man­ager of tax ser­vices. “Cer­tainly at the lo­cal level, we have ini­tia­tives such as a pro­fes­sional women’s net­work. We have a gay, les­bian and trans­sex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mit­tee to rec­og­nize is­sues in the work­place. It is in­ter­est­ing – it’s not some­thing driven by head­quar­ters or a par­tic­u­lar part­ner. It’s some­thing em­ploy­ees are en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate in.”

Di­ver­sity isn’t only a mat­ter of mak­ing em­ploy­ees feel they are val­ued mem­bers of a team – it’s also about mak­ing that team more ef­fec­tive, notes of­fice manag­ing part­ner Deanna Mon­aghan. “We get dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. From a busi­ness point of view, it just makes it much eas­ier for us to com­mu­ni­cate and un­der­stand (cus­tomers’) needs.”

And in the per­sis­tent chal­lenge to at­tract and re­tain the best em­ploy­ees, hav­ing a di­verse and in­clu­sive cul­ture is cru­cial. “Peo­ple feel that they be­long, and that they are con­tribut­ing,” Ms. Mon­aghan says. “When you have that level of per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion, it def­i­nitely helps with the re­ten­tion and the re­cruit­ment of in­di­vid­u­als.”

Flex­i­ble work hours play an im­por­tant role as well. Peo­ple have lives out­side of work, Ms. Mon­aghan notes. “We’re able to achieve what we need to do from a busi­ness per­spec­tive while not sac­ri­fic­ing per­sonal needs as well. We have a lot of work­ing par­ents.

“One of the things I’ve al­ways said is there’s no need to miss your chil­dren’s events.”

Even at a glance, the ca­reers sec­tion of Ernst & Young’s web­site re­veals a num­ber of HR ini­tia- tives de­signed to ex­tract the best out of em­ploy­ees and help them im­prove even more. Train­ing is a mat­ter of each em­ployee’s goals and in­ter­ests, but no one is left com­pletely alone.

“It would be one thing to say, ‘Go out and try to use your own ideas to move things for­ward,’ but I think there’s a re­ally strong bal­ance be­tween self-mo­ti­va­tion and be­ing able to rely on our leaders,” Mr. Hayward says. “They give you the guid­ance you need so you’re not floun­der­ing around try­ing to fig­ure out how to make it.”

This is Ernst & Young’s first time par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Em­ploy­ees’ Choice Awards sur­vey, but it isn’t the com­pany’s only em­ployee feed­back mech­a­nism. The firm also par­tic­i­pates in na­tional and global sur­veys across the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion that help fun­nel work­ers’ ideas back into the busi­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to Ms. Mon­aghan, that com­mu­ni­ca­tion pipe­line is sig­nif­i­cant. “It’s re­ally about get­ting that 360-de­gree view,” she says.

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