A central part of the work of global consulting firm Protiviti is to advise clients on the biggest opportunities, challenges and risks that businesses face both now and in the longer term.
In light of this, UNLEASH was keen to find out whether the San Francisco Bay-headquartered company practices what it preaches for its 5,700 employees. The answer is: it does.
This year, the consultancy was ranked the 15th best company to work by Fortune – it also placed third in the consulting and professional services sector.
This is a huge achievement; the employer has risen 19 places since 2020 when it was ranked 34th across all sectors, and it has climbed 11 positions since 2021 in the professional services industry.
But it is not just external accolades that suggest that Protiviti is a good employer. The consulting giant is also Great Place to Work certified – this recognition is based on employee surveys where 94% of workers said it was a great place to work.
All this begs the question, how does Protiviti do it? And what can other HR leaders learn from its example?
The importance of listening and taking action
While Scott Redfearn, executive vice-president of global human resources at the consulting firm, is pleased about the external recognition the company is receiving, “our real heartbeat is the voice of our people”.
“We engage our people in conversation and discussions by asking for…feedback”. Formally, Protitiviti has an annual engagement survey, as well as two or three pulse surveys throughout the year on specific topics.
“We dial into their feedback and let their voice be an important part in setting our business strategy and people agenda”; this makes sense as Protiviti’s employees are the ones on the ground talking to clients.
The issue, according to Redfearn, is that many companies do the listening part but then fail to take appropriate action, whereas Protiviti’s listening model is four-fold: ask, listen, respond and act.
It starts with asking for feedback, then listening – “we read every comment on every survey. We debrief with every focus group to make sure they know what they’re saying is important to us”. Then the HR team analyzes the data “to see if we can find any interesting connections”.
Third, the team responds to the feedback – “it is very important for us reflect back what we heard from our people” – this further ensures that employees know that their voice is being heard and the business cares about what they have to say. Businesses that don’t do this step, according to Redfearn, are missing a trick.
The final step is taking action. “I think leaders are often concerned that they don’t know all the things to do or that too much of the burden is on them to act. But we discovered our people love being part of the process of determining what actions we should take to address issues. They love engaging and trying to help chart the path forward.”
Redfearn adds: “We love it when they do that too, as opposed to everything coming top down”.
Beyond this formal listening approach, Protiviti also collects feedback from employees in more informal ways. For example, through monitoring social media platforms where employees post and share their thoughts on workplace topics.
Protiviti did not share the names of tech vendors it works with either for social media listening or its annual engagement surveys.
D,E&I starts with belonging
In addition to its great place to work accolades, Protiviti has also received external recognition around diversity, equity and inclusion (D,E&I) metrics.
For instance, in 2022, the consulting firm was ranked the 68th top workplace for women, and it was the 61st best place to work for millennials.
On the topic of D,E&I, Redfearn shares that at Protiviti “it all starts with trying to create a sense of belonging for everyone”.
And for the consultancy, this sense of belonging starts in the recruitment and onboarding process. The HR team wants to make sure “they feel valued”, and they know the type of organizing they are joining.
Therefore, Protiviti has an onboarding process called ‘Passport to Protiviti’ – it lasts for a year and aims to “move people from feeling welcomed to feeling like they belong”. It empowers new hires to get involved in the world at Protiviti from day one, not just in terms of their work, but with the wider workforce, such as through employee networking groups (ENGs).
“We have 11 ENGs. These are grassroots organizations within Protiviti” – yet another example of employees taking action into their own hands – but they have an executive sponsor to help drive initiatives.
Protiviti data shows that “people that participate in our ENGs tend to feel a much stronger connection to the organization as a result”.
While some organizations – UPS for instance – has specific ENGs for millennials and Gen Z, this isn’t something that Protiviti does (despite two thirds of workforce come from these generations). Instead, it encourages younger workers to participate in other ENGs, and uses its listening model to get feedback.
Protiviti has learnt a lot about how to improve its business and HR strategies from listening to millennials and Gen Z. For instance, while transparency is important to all employees, younger generations particularly want visibility on “the reasons behind our decisions”.
Sometimes what they ask for isn’t possible in the timeframe or isn’t aligned with Protiviti’s business model, and that needs to be communicated back to the employees.
“Organizations have not been accustomed to doing this, but it’s increasingly important to ensure everyone is with you”, notes Redfearn.
From transparency to recognition
Ultimately, listening, fostering a sense of belonging and being transparent all play a central role in ensuring Protiviti’s employees feel their voice is being heard.
Another piece of the puzzle is recognition and appreciation. Like belonging, recognition starts before individuals do their first day at Protiviti.
“We send a celebratory welcome box to every new hire to help them prepare for their first day,” shares Redfearn. It contains a note that says: “We’re glad that you’re here”.
“That is the first opportunity we have to demonstrate [that we] celebrate our people” and then “as they come onboard, they begin to see people being recognized for small wins and the major milestone moments.”
However, for Redfearn, appreciation must not just be top down, it is about how employees support each other.
“The real recognition that we seek is in the day-to-day flow of work [where] team members are recognizing each other”, shares Redfearn.
So new employees are encouraged to not just observe recognition at play, but to participate from day one. Their first project at Protiviti could be a chance to thank their supervisor or manager for their support. “Recognition must go both ways” to be successful, in Redfearn’s view.
As people move through their career at Protiviti, the HR team ensures that they feel recognized and celebrated. For instance, when they hit career milestones, like promotions or work anniversaries, they are invited to choose a gift for themselves.
They are also celebrated on Protiviti’s internal intranet, as well as external social media channels. “It’s a big achievement for them, and it matters to us to spotlight their accomplishments”, shares Redfearn.
In addition, every Wednesday the organization sends out an internal newsletter called ‘Wins-Day’ that celebrates “recent wins by our teams and always mentions the people on the team who were involved”.
Protiviti’s focus on recognition, but particularly celebrating career milestones, ties in with Protiviti’s focus on learning and development.
It relies on Percipio as its learning platform; the positives of this tool is that “no matter where they are in the world or the time of day, our people can log at their convenience” and either follow a pre-planned learning channel or find their own learning path.
However, Protiviti isn’t about learning for the sake of it; instead, the firm ensures that employees are applying and reinforcing their learning in their day-to-day work. For Redfearn, “the holy grail of skill building is work experience”.
2023 at Protiviti
As 2022 draws to a close, UNLEASH was keen to find out what Protiviti has planned for 2023 to climb those Fortune rankings and remain an employer of choice in the consulting sector.
Continuing to improve employee experience is top of mind for Redfearn and his HR team; this is because having a great experience at work is even more important in the flexible working world where employees are more physically distributed than ever before.
Protiviti’s future of work model is hybrid, but flexible – there isn’t a set number of days employees must be in the office. According to Redfearn, “our employees are empowered within their teams to determine individual schedules and approaches to how, when and where their work gets done”.
Despite this flexibility, the industry is facing a burnout crisis, which the employer believes is linked with a lack of human connection. “So we want to make sure that everyone has reasons to come together with purpose”. Finding the right balance between in-person and remote work is something many employers are still figuring out, but Protiviti is planning to lean into in-person learning activities to help here.
Finally, Protiviti is going to lean more into transparency and communicating the reasoning behind the company’s decision-making.
“We value creating an open dialogue between our leaders and our teams”, but “transparency is a two-way street” for Redfearn, so Protiviti is asking its workers to share their concerns , particularly around why they might be considering leaving the firm.
The ‘Great Resignation’ is going nowhere, despite a looming recession and cost of living crisis. So employers, be like Protiviti and don’t drop the ball now.
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