Companies scoring the highest in employee satisfaction are also producing some of the professional service industry’s best performing leaders, according to new research conducted by Great Place to Work, Fortune’s longtime data analytics partner that also compiles its Best Workplace lists.
Among the 55 auditing, advising, law, and professional services firms appearing on this year’s ranking of the Best Workplaces in Consulting & Professional Services, one corporate tax firm stands out as a shining example that focuses on making every employee feel empowered to develop their careers and take on leadership positions. Ryan LLC, which appears at No. 10 on this year’s list, is a Dallas-based global tax services and software provider with more than 2,300 employees worldwide.
Brandi Whitson joined Ryan in February 2018 as a Project Specialist and Executive Assistant to the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer. In little more than a year, she transferred to the IT department to the role of Senior Specialist of IT Projects and also assists the Chief Information Officer. She provides project management over departmental and enterprise tech initiatives and is currently overseeing the company’s business continuity plan.
“Yesterday I was in a meeting and we were discussing this very large project, which is an initiative that is incredibly important to the company and IT has a huge hand in that,” Whitson recently said. “At the end of the meeting I turned to a gentleman from another department that’s helping us herd the cats and I said, ‘Okay my takeaways are that I’m going to do this, this, and this, and you’re going to do this, this, and this.’ And he turned to me and he said, ‘Brandi you are the project manager on this and I am more than happy to point you in the right direction, but I have every confidence that you can take this and run with it.’ And my direct manager turned to me and said, ‘You’ve got this. If you get ahead of your skis just tap one of us in, but I think you’re going to be fine,’” Whitson said.
The incident reflected Ryan’s commitment to trust employees with significant responsibility, and to help all staffers progress with their leadership skills. “It was an epiphany and a singular moment of clarity that not only am I entrusted with this large project, and the outcome, but that I felt I could do it. And that was very encouraging. It was not something I would have seen in a prior company as a woman, and that was really great.”
Ryan’s chief people officer Tony Bridwell says that the company’s leadership development programs (and its success with leadership effectiveness) is all very intentional. “We tend to grow a lot of our own leaders internally, and so we take great pride in bringing them in, developing them very rigorously, and then growing them up into the organization. That’s part of how we retain people, because we’re constantly developing. One of the trends that we’ve seen in the marketplace is that one of the top three reasons why people leave organizations is because they don’t believe they’re being developed, that there’s no advancement, and there’s no development where they are. And we can proudly say that is something that we do here very deliberately,” Bridwell said.
While analyzing the data used to compile this year’s ranking, Great Place to Work found that many of the companies appearing on the Consulting & Professional Services list have also received very high scores for their leadership effectiveness, which is one of the six major areas measured in our list methodology and when determining if a company can be certified as a Great Place to Work For All. A key sign of leadership effectiveness is a large percentage of top management achieving “Level 5, For All Leadership” status. That means that virtually all the members of that leader’s team are having an excellent experience, as measured by the Trust Index Employee Survey. Great Place to Work has discovered that For All Leaders demonstrate traits that include humility, a focus on purpose, and an ability to foster trusting relationships within and beyond their team. Teams led by For All Leaders show higher levels of productivity, decreased turnover risk, and increased agility. (To learn more about the five levels of “For All” Leadership, read A Great Place to Work For All.)
To learn more about For All Leadership and how your company can effectively train and develop its team to become better people managers and “For All” Leaders, register for the 2020 Great Place to Work For All Summit, scheduled for March 3-5, 2020 in San Francisco.
See the full list of the 2019 Best Workplaces in Consulting & Professional Services here.
Christopher Tkaczyk is the chief content officer at Great Place to Work and is a former editor at Fortune and Travel + Leisure.