How a Winning Culture Builds a Winning Team – Grant Thornton’s Real Story

Strong cultural values sometimes prove to be the best "vaccine" for businesses to navigate against the unprecedented pandemic. And this absolutely holds true to Grant Thornton. Deep dive to uncover their all-rounded and employee-oriented approaches.
Grant Thornton CEO at the company leadership event
Credit: EnvZone
By | 11 min read

At all times, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, cementing employee commitment with solid people-centric pillars is the key to strengthening the corporate business. Grant Thorton – a Chicago-based accounting firm- has been honored in the top 100 accounting firms with its amazing culture and strategy in fostering working diversity and equity.

Learning from the Past, Investing in the Future 

Take a look back to 1924, here we have Alexander Richardson Grant who founded Alexander Grant & Co. in Chicago. He ran the company with the goal of approaching providing service to only mid-sized companies. Until nowadays, the firm’s next generations still keep holding on to this state of culture. During the 1960s, the firm’s leadership took a chance to bring the company from nationally to international. They started with the collaboration of the similar qualities firm in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Not until 1980, the company changed its name to the current name – Grant Thornton – after they got the Thorton Baker in the UK joined the allies. Thanks to a million of efforts of the leaderships, the firm is now one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax, and advisory firms. Now, as a United State member of the global Grant Thornton corporation, Grant Thornton LLP has been continuously serving private, public and nonprofit organizations of all kinds of industries and sizes.

Grant Thornton has been named one of Seramount’s (previously Working Mother Media) 2021 100 Best Companies for the 16th year in a row. The 100 Best Companies list, which represents nearly four million employees in the United States, recognizes companies for how they supported employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the inclusive benefits they provide families, such as paid gender-neutral parental leave and backup childcare.

“For years, the firm has worked hard to embrace all our people for exactly who they are — and support each of them in their personal and professional journeys,” proudly shared Mike Monahan, the National Managing Principal of People & Community at Grant Thornton.

2021 is such a challenging year full of obstacles and unexpected problems, but with a clear and robust core culture, the firm has shown how a strong relationship can affect the business system and help the firm in such a tough time. They are proud to well design and execute all-rounded plans to advance their employees’ satisfaction in a positive workplace as well as empower every member of staff.

Core Culture Strengthens the Company Value

At Grant Thornton, its cultural values have been present at every single aspect of their growth trajectory, beautifully manifesting themselves in the company’s action and expansion strategies. The firm has embedded the three critical priorities as the most important mission needed to be followed with. These three priorities are:

Priority #1: Take care of people.

Priority #2: Be there for clients.

Priority #3: Keep the business strong

As putting the “taking care of people” in the top of priorities has shown that the company stated the importance of human resources. According to this, the firm has worked to take care of the employees’ policies and benefits in three major areas. First of all, they are devoted to initiating new programs and supportive beneficial policies to support the college throughout the pandemic. Secondly, a family-friendly workplace has been promoted with the permanent shift to flex working model. Last but certainly not the least, Grant Thornton teams provide more events and more opportunities to promote immense diversity, equity and inclusion into the communities, especially to increase the connection between the company and the staff.

Being in such a challenging pandemic would cost too many distance problems, but it will not stop the company from creating more connections and bringing more employee satisfaction into their workplace. Therefore, whenever they spot a problem, they will take care of it. Regardless, the company claimed that they will always be ready to listen to their people as well as creating programs and more resources in and out of the pandemic. They have created the project called DE&I- which is represented for diversity equity and inclusion- that is the core value of our tradition that the company want to impede on their employees recently and for the further future.

Grant Thornton’s Action Plan for Fostering Employee Satisfaction

Grant Thornton staff play soccer on field
Courtesy: Grant Thornton

A successful plan needs to have clear goals or benchmarks. Therefore, to prepare and help the customer and even employee know what exactly they are doing, the company showed their ambition in bringing more positive outcomes in the industry. They have made a first step in changing the recruitment, retention and promotion practice use even the more diverse supplier and equitable pay. Moreover, they also have a specific plan to conduct such as providing mentorship, sponsorship, DE&I training and giving more career advancement opportunities.

After having such a good base of a plan, the next step is what Grant Thornton put into real action, which is bringing the momentous results in how to create more benefit and show that they really care about the employees. That is what we are about to learn right now.

Changing culture is hard, bringing diversity and equality for genders is even harder but it is possible. It is not as easy as saying, you need to take step-by-step strategies and effective solutions. But first of all, you need to understand what challenges that you and your company are facing. Then you would take the real next step action into solving a one-by-one problem.

However, there will always be some familiar problems that can occur in any company. The disconnection between departments, the disappointment about the policies, the uncertainty about the promotion path…. would have led to an increase in turnover rate. It would be worst in this social distance situation. Employees have to work at home which there will be tons of distracted factors. Without you and your company’s understanding and support, they would feel like some kind of outsider and as a result they choose to leave the company.

Understanding the methodology, Grant Thornton has set their goal into four sections:

Section 1: Advance career development opportunities

Section 2: Expand our recruiting and retention initiatives

Section 3: Foster a spirit of belonging and community

Section 4: Promote and adopt new skills and mindsets

Included in these four sections, the company also provides more benefits related to psychology wellness care and tutoring, they also open program named DinnerTime to help prepare home meals for parent employees. In addition, following the firm-wide holidays, the firm also supports arranging more flexible work then the employees will have more opportunities to balance their days.

The increase in average annual bonuses and salary adjustment have helped the company gain more satisfaction from the employees. Not just only give them more opportunity to in charge of their working hours, reward them with the higher salary rates, the company also support education and skill improvement by provided more professional events and workshops to help their colleagues reach higher levers and career goals.

Grant Thornton wants to bring in a new innovation way into their people’s working and living style by giving them more opportunities to balance between 2 essential things in life: families and work. The company continues to bring more changes, especially the working hours. Grant Thornton began to change their permanent shift into a flex work model. This model allows employees to have more time controlling between meeting their clients and their personal priority in responsibility. The firm has already started to change their cultural workplace into a distinctive style. This kind of workplace has been called a culture hub- which will be recommended to be used for collaboration socialization training and development. other styles or business alike face to face with the clients or doing administration papers will be less frequent the firm claimed that this new approach will help them remain the allied in the modern world and bring on innovation into their employee’s experience with the company. They also believe with these latest changes, their employees will feel more supported and more productive as long as they know that besides bringing value to the company, they can still also achieve their personal goals.

Gender and Personal Identity Support Is Really Important for the Lasting Community

Gender and personal identity are one of the most sensitive issues that still is happening in almost all companies. Grant Thornton has brought out the vision that they want to create a workplace in a community that is open for all genders, and everyone will always feel welcome. We must mention that the company also introduced optional questions in their employee’s feedback survey in June 2020. The survey focused on how the employees express their sexual orientation and gender identity and it seems like a big hit by the reaction of the employees. A survey has resulted in good expression by having more than half of employees joining and giving their opinions. After the survey, the company finally brought up some new policies that all of its employees and domestic partners or even dependents are eligible for:

  1. Gender transition benefits through our health plan
  2. Employee Assistance Program
  3. Health, dental, vision and well-being benefits

Thanks to the improving of the policies, Grant Thornton was honored in 2020 with a score of 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index, the nation’s premier benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality.

Do Not Underestimate the Prominent of Diverse Perspectives

Grant Thornton staff celebrate during annual company event
Courtesy: Grant Thornton

One of the best things that the company has provided to the employees is that they were showing their respect to diverse perspectives. Not only gender or identity is important but also the culture, the perspective and the mindset also have a massive impact on the employee’s experience. By having more than 3,500 employees the company realized how their employees react with the variety of culture. All of the members with diverse backgrounds, different traditions and different perspectives have worked and lived together under one company therefore the company has to get the responsibility to embrace and encourage diversity. Grant Thornton has opened many groups with a purpose to let all employees feel like they have their own communities and be happy to learn from the other perspective and culture.

 In the latest annual report, Grant Thornton has listed all the groups that they are having right now and that would be one of the notable examples for you and your company to look after. The business resource groups are as follows: African Americans & Allies, Diverse Abilities & Allies Equality, GT (LGBTQ+ & Allies), Future Leaders & Allies, Hispanics/Latinxs & Allies, Pan-Asians & Allies, Women & Allies, Working Parents & Allies, Veterans & Allies

What Can Be Better than a Promotion Path to Increase Your Employment Commitment?

Grant Thornton staff in a workshop
Courtesy: Grant Thornton

One of the best effective methods in showing your employees how much you care about their career is your efforts in helping them reach a further future along with the growth of the cooperation. Grant Thornton has made the first step in taking a deeper look into how and who that will help to reach as many as possible promoted levels. The core purpose of the action is to try their best to minimize and eliminate the barriers therefore the employees will intentionally be putting more attempt into helping the company as long as they know that their demanding work is recognized and awarded.

Several new initiatives that Grant Thornton has implemented. For instance, new leader scorecards – that incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion metrics – have been developed. Besides, a new self-nomination process for leadership positions is also deployed, aiming to expand the pool of diverse candidates and including consultation with business resource group leaders to determine who will fill leadership roles. Plus, the firm creates a new succession planning process in order to ensure a diverse candidate pool is in the pipeline for leadership positions.

Education and training are powerful. It not only improves your employees’ working results but also helps your company grow gradually. It is essential to invest in the development of your people. You need to help your employees to update to new skills, modern technology, or even new knowledge because the world is running fast in a day of basics. Grant Thornton not only provides their employees with workshops and events, but they also open a lot of coaching programs and feedback conversations. Based on my research, let’s take a look at what did Grant Thornton has been deploying to improve their employees’ skills and expert knowledge:  Providing technical and professional skills training, leadership academies (Manager Development program, Senior Manager Academy, Partner Leadership Academy, etc.), coaching capability development, Job level-specific training, annual performance assessments, growth and industry training Mentorship is an integral part of our culture.

Wynston Reed, a senior associate has shared in Grant Thornton annual report 2021 that “I have been fortunate to have mentors early in my career that not only pushed me to participate actively in our business resource groups but also who help me identify and take advantage of opportunities to build my technical skills.”

The Effort of Remaining Connection and Support during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Grant Thornton staff work remote and collaborate
Courtesy: Grant Thornton

The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has brought many problems and difficulties to not only the finance industry but the entire world. Many companies have made a lot of losses during this pandemic beside that a large number of reports show that the struggles of hiring more employees or maintaining the current staff’s number have been the priority problem. Due to the disadvantage situation, many employees started to quit their jobs and look for another position in another firm. But the difficulties never come alone. It had a massive impact on another part of running the business. It has also related to the cut of human resources events that have been made by some other companies in the beginning of the pandemic. This has made a bad impression on the employees’ trust in whatever companies they are joining. In conclusion, wherever the pandemic arises, the employees are afraid that they can be kicked out of the company anytime so searching for a new company is quite understandable decision. In order to stop this anxiety, the leaders of the company need to show how much they care about their employees and not have any intention of cutting them out.

Grant Thornton has finished their job brilliantly. One of the parts of the DE&I program is collaborated with the business resource to expand more assistant to their employees. We can list here some specific actions they have done:

Action #1: Provide tools and create a resource center for working parents to share best practices and tips with other working parents

Action #2: Offering flexibility in schedules and other support mechanisms.

Action #3: 15 days off (about 2 weeks) of additional backup care, as well as free tutoring benefits for employees and their families.

Action #4: Established series of webcasts, interactive workshops and support sessions on supportive topics that included “Managing Stress During Times of Uncertainty, Working Effectively in a Remote Environment, Creative Parenting and Mindful Living”.

The Bottom Lines

Grant Thornton has once again stated that the company’s value has been made from the employees’ commitment by proving their effort to boost working satisfaction. Even during the pandemic, the company still found out the way to help and support their employees which made them become in the top 100 recommended workplaces.

  • About: Stella Le
    Stella is an out-going and enthusiastic person who loves to try new things. When it comes to work, Stella uses her researching ability and  adaptable skills in learning new knowledge…