Accounting Firm's Investment in Staff Pays Off

When it comes to investing in employees, CohnReznick LLP knows a thing or two. The accounting, tax and advisory firm was recently named one of the Best Places to Work for Career Development by Crain’s Chicago Business. CohnReznick’s Chicago office was ranked third among the honorees in the career development category.

Crain’s recognition shines a spotlight on an integral piece of CohnReznick’s culture. The firm is deeply invested in actively mentoring and developing its staff at all levels of the business. The firm’s focus on career development includes a formal mentoring program, a dedicated learning and development department, a training program for managers and women’s initiative. The Learning and Development Department works with all of the firm’s offices to offer both soft management skills and technical training based on each office’s individual needs. Some of the areas of focus include business development, client service and networking.

“Our culture is a big driver in how successful we are. It runs all the way from the lower level to the upper level and it consists of more than just looking at bringing in new programs. One area of focus for the Partner Candidate Development Academy is succession planning and what leaders are doing to prepare for that transition,” said Carolyn D’Anna, Co-Chief Human Resources Officer.

The firm strongly believes that its partners play a significant role in the development of its staff and has implemented a training program for potential partners. As part of the curriculum, participants in the Partner Candidate Development Academy are coached on leadership, among other things. Senior managers are nominated into the three-year program based on their potential and readiness to make partner.

“We understand it’s difficult to focus on professional development and take classes during busy season, but we still want to help leaders, especially first-year managers, develop their soft skills. It’s our responsibility to provide them with the tools to succeed as early on as possible,” said D’Anna.

In efforts to help more managers become partner material, CohnReznick is also rolling out a new leadership program for all managers in the fall. The new leadership program has courses scheduled for June – just after busy season – and will help leaders at all levels of the firm develop their business development and management skills. 

“The Leadership Development Program really speaks to the culture of the firm and how much we care about career development. We are constantly developing a pipeline of employees and talents at all levels of the firm. We also place a lot of emphasis on partners and their role in career development,” said Risa Levine, Co-Chief Human Resources Officer. “It’s important that partners are involved in the development of the people under them and that they continue to develop that pipeline. That’s what our culture is all about.”
 
The firm has also implemented a women’s initiative called WomenCAN. While the program provides a network for all women in the firm, it is not exclusive and offers plenty of events and opportunities for male staff to get involved and support their female counterparts. The firm has also taken a slightly different approach in expanding the program to include women executives from its client companies and other organizations. This open inclusion provides other avenues for members to network and share best practices on issues affecting women across multiple industries.

“Women Can is very critical in the outreach of future leaders and all levels of diversity. Our industry is very diverse and the leadership should reflect that. At CohnReznick, we have fantastic women leaders that serve as role models and have helped develop this program,” said Ken Baggett, Co-CEO.

The firm also believes that a key part in developing its people is to instill in them a culture of giving back to the community and those around them. With this in mind, CohnReznick has developed a Pay It Forward program and community days for employees to give back. In the fall, employees receive an extra $25 in their paycheck for them to pay it forward to someone else. During firm-sponsored community days, employees are encouraged to find ways to get involved in their local communities.

The firm is also committed to providing employees with the technology and flexibility to work outside the office in efforts to help their staff maintain a healthy work-life balance, added D’Anna. CohnReznick understands and demonstrates through their programs that career development doesn’t just happen inside the office. They also know that to truly develop someone, they must become a well-rounded individual in all aspects of life – in the office, at home and in their communities.

“As leaders, it is our responsibility to develop people when we bring them into our company, and throughout their career. We sell services and time to clients, and we do that through our people. If you're not in the business of developing people, you're not going to have any services to sell,” said Baggett. “When you ask people to join your firm, you are committing to helping them from beginning to end, and we think that is vital. When it comes down to it, people stay with companies because the company is invested in them.”

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