A culture that brings people back

What sets EY, formerly Ernst & Young, apart that means when people leave, they keep on coming back for more?

A culture that brings people back

In 2012, more than 6,300 "boomerang" employees re-joined Ernst & Young, now known as EY, globally.

This provides EY with a healthy balance of people who have experiences within and outside the organization, according to Mike Cullen, the firm’s London-based Global Managing Partner of People.

So how does an organization re-attract employees who have left for seemingly greener pastures? Yesterday Cullen discussed engagement and communication, today it's all about how people work and where they work.

Creating a flexible work environment

The nature of the work at accounting firms means long hours are inevitable. As more western workers move out of the workplace and into flexible working arrangements, one of the main HR challenges is to embed a more flexible working culture and a technology-enabled workforce that can deal with increased globalization, says Cullen.

EY’s local management teams around the world are being asked to find ways to support and enable individuals to work independently in an informal capacity and remove barriers to virtual teaming.

Supporting this effort is the new Messaging and Collaboration program, which aims to give employees more flexibility around where and how they work. “This will overhaul our technology capability, enabling people to connect with each other more easily than ever before,” Cullen says. For example, videoconferencing will be possible from individuals’ laptops or mobile devices with just a few clicks of a button, and cloud technology will support enhanced, instant access to global information, networks and knowledge.

Working across borders

With employees spread over 29 regions across the globe, EY is a strong proponent of diversity at the workplace. Last year, it introduced “Enhanced Cultural Intelligence Training” for groups of staff that work across cultural borders on a day-to-day basis. “We also embed diversity and inclusiveness in all our key processes, from how we define the expectations we associate with each of our ranks, through to the metrics we use to measure our partners’ performances,” Cullen says.

Good communication is also critical. In addition to keeping in touch with global leaders, employees also want to hear from their local managers, who play a vital role in explaining the local implications of central messages and translating strategy into “what this means for us,” Cullen notes. To facilitate this, EY has an internal cascade system, whereby area leaders communicate with region leaders, who in turn cascade the information to local teams as appropriate. They are supported by a network of communication professionals.

Talking doesn’t just happen vertically through the EY organizational structure, adds Cullen. “Just as important are the myriad conversations our people have with each other: what we call our lateral communications,” he says. The organization’s current overhaul of its technology systems aims to make these lateral conversations more effective still.

“We know that our existing collaboration tools facilitate faster problem-solving, so imagine what we’ll be able to do when the Messaging and Collaboration program is completed. It will be easier than ever for our people to network with each other, exchange ideas, update each other on projects, and provide mutual support and guidance,” Cullen says.

The road ahead

Ernst and Young re-branded itself as EY on July 1 this year, also adopting a new tagline, “Building a Better Working World”. Wanting to share the new vision in an impactful way with employees, Chairman and CEO, Mark Weinberger, took part in a theatre-style town hall meeting in London. “To make it a truly global launch, we also used video links to connect London with audiences in Johannesburg, Moscow, Hong Kong and Jakarta, with people from across the locations having the chance to ask questions about what they were hearing.”

Through its new strategy, EY recognizes that its greatest asset is its high performance teams, says Cullen. “It’s important we embed the principles of high-performance teaming into everything we do. This has already begun and will continue through, for example, integrating the behaviors into core competencies and interview questions for new hires, including the behaviors in our performance expectations for all ranks and using our internal recognition programs,” he concluded.


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