How a ‘better together’ mindset fuels this CPA firm’s culture

When the pandemic started in the spring of 2020, like many HR professionals, Heather Rudes jumped into action to support the employees of certified public accountant firm The Bonadio Group: She managed the shift to remote work and implemented initiatives to drive engagement in this new environment; revamped hiring and onboarding activities for a remote setting; expanded holistic health offerings; and created a program to connect all employees with partner-level mentors.

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As the heightened need for directed HR efforts came into focus through the pandemic, The Bonadio Group last summer appointed Rudes to the newly created CHRO position. She had been with the company for seven years, having previously held HR leadership positions at companies including Carestream, Excellus BCBS, Constellation Brands and Xerox. Now, she’s leaning on that experience to drive culture and organizational growth despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.

HRE: What effect have the events of the last few years had on the company culture at The Bonadio Group?  

Heather Rudes

Rudes: At The Bonadio Group, defining and living our culture–“Bonadio Inspired” –has always been a key contributor to our long-term success. The nuances the pandemic presented, however, created even more opportunities to build upon our cultural strategy. We looked at every area of the business to ensure we could quickly and effectively meet our employees’ and our clients’ expectations. As a result, we increased our communication internally and externally, intensified our focus on employee health and wellbeing, and rapidly developed programs to educate, train and empower people to work differently. The impact has been remarkable. Our turnover has remained stable, employee engagement has increased and many of our processes [and] procedures have been streamlined. While we took measures to ensure that the majority of our employees could work from home, most have voluntarily returned to the office. Reason being, we all recognize that our adage stands true: “We are Better Together.”

Read more Insights from a CHRO here.

HRE: What was the impetus behind the Team Partner Mentor program, and what kinds of impacts have you seen since its rollout? 

Rudes: Over the last two years, we developed and launched a program focused on empowering our employees to plan and manage the direction of their professional growth. Our Team Partner Program is a mentee-driven process that allows our employees to take ownership of their personal learning and development goals. Every Partner Mentor works closely with their mentee to foster insight and identify needed knowledge intended to help the mentee navigate through their career at The Bonadio Group. We have conducted surveys to measure satisfaction, and our employees’ responses were outstanding. Employee engagement is on the rise, and our leadership pipeline has expanded. We have shown that we stand behind our commitment to identifying and developing our leaders from within.

HRE: How has The Bonadio Group had to shift its hiring strategies–particularly in light of the expectations for remote work and concerns over the Great Resignation?

Rudes: The Bonadio Group is making a significant investment in our talent management and hiring strategies. We’ve shortened our hiring process and increased outreach to college students. We’re creating programs to engage candidates sooner and planning activities/events to keep prospects connected. For example, we hire approximately 70-100 recent college graduates every year, some of whom have had multi-year internship opportunities with us before becoming full-time. All new hires who accepted an offer to work for our team will be invited to our holiday parties; this includes new hires scheduled to start in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Additionally, we’ve spent a significant amount of time benchmarking our compensation to ensure we remain competitive and have integrated platforms to educate potential candidates on what they can expect from The Bonadio Group. Our hiring strategies integrate transparent communication with a positive growth spirit despite the changes brought on by the pandemic.

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HRE: What is The Bonadio Group’s approach to remote/hybrid work in the long-term?

Rudes: The Bonadio Group formed a committee to identify the best way to enhance the flexible work environment that was already in place before the pandemic. For the last six months, this committee, which represented a cross-section of teams, locations and experiences, worked together to create a Flexible Work Model & Guiding Principles for the Bonadio Employee Experience. The Flexible Work Model is aimed at providing our people with the flexibility they’re looking for while protecting the invaluable culture we have worked so hard to create: a culture of relationship-building, collaboration, teamwork and pride. We respect and value each of our employees as professionals and are empowering our people to make decisions that not only protect our culture but support individual professional development and career advancement. Again, we recognize that we are “Better Together” and encourage frequent, transparent communication.

See also: 2022 development objectives for success in hybrid, remote world

HRE: How have you personally sought to stay balanced and motivated, despite the pressures the pandemic has placed on HR professionals?

Rudes: Clear, consistent, transparent communication has been key to the success of The Bonadio Group’s HR team. I have worked hard to create a foundation of trust and safety to ensure that expectations placed on the team, coupled with outside demands, are in harmony as often as possible. Taking time to celebrate our successes has also been important. We have team members across New York state; to stay connected, we spend time together away from work, out of town and off-site. Staying connected has never been more important. I’m proud of the synergy we fostered during the pandemic. I meet weekly with every one of my direct reports and bi-weekly with the HR team. I’m very aware of the added pressures that have been placed on my team and this profession overall. Therefore, I continue to take measures to recognize and reward the incredible professionals I’m honored to work with.

Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.

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