Hiring to Enhance Culture, Not Preserve It

September 2021 Labour Force Update

As the Delta variant looms large across a mostly vaccinated Canada, the labour force grew by 157.1k (0.8%) in September to a new total of ... Read more
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In a competitive hiring market, a strong reputation and great HR is a company’s best asset. This is front of mind for Brittany Pitruniak, Marketing Director at Crowe MacKay LLP—but not simply for strategy’s sake; rather, great HR simply informs all aspects of a business. 

This approach has made Crowe MacKay a model for employee-centric leadership with an impeccable reputation. 

Employee-Led Career Development

“If you ask our leadership, they’ll tell you this is a very entrepreneurial firm,” says Pitruniak. “We don’t really have ‘lanes’. In our team of 400, we encourage people to explore.”

“In a typical firm of this size, employees are normally handed a neat and tidy box of responsibilities. They become experts in those narrow purviews and are not encouraged—or even allowed—to explore other aspects of the work,” she says. “But we’re a teaching firm. Right from recruitment and hiring, we’re encouraging employees to pursue the work that sparks passion.”

Creating an atmosphere that encourages creativity, curiosity, and commitment makes for high levels of employee engagement. High engagement yields better results for the company and employees alike. 

“This is a doubly-beneficial strategy,” says Pitruniak, “because when our employees are happy, they excel in both their professional and personal lives. This also means they’re happier and more engaged at work.”

“We’re empowering our people to be entrepreneurial and create their own careers,” she adds. “We want them to take ownership of their contributions to this business. It means we can all service our clients in the best way possible.”

A Career Stepping Stone

While many Crowe MacKay employees do become partners, some people decide they’re looking for other opportunities. The pandemic has intensified this kind of introspective analysis. Many people are considering what they need from life and, for some, that includes finding new work.

“It’s always difficult to lose good employees,” says Pitruniak. “But we are all building the lives and careers we want so it’s natural to see some diverging paths. We’ve learned to adapt to this reality. We are going to lose people—that’s fine,” she says. “We want people to find their true passion, even if that’s not with our firm.”

This is a very unique stance. Most companies have no infrastructure to support employees as they move on; some organizations are downright spiteful if talent takes another opportunity. But this only serves to undermine important industry networks and connections. 

“The most important thing is that when people leave here, I want them to feel supported,” says Pitruniak. “It could be career coaching or maintaining these great business relationships and networks; I want them to feel supported and confident in moving on. They spent time with us, and we’re a part of their journey. I don’t take that privilege lightly.”

Employees Enhancing Culture

Being employee focused necessitates a loose hold on company culture. Rather than cramming talent into a specific lane, Crowe MacKay recognizes that culture will change as people do; but this isn’t something to fear. Rather, it’s something to encourage.

“We genuinely care about our people and we want to see them grow,” says Pitruniak. “So when we’re recruiting, we’re basically shouting from the treetops: ambition and personal goals are welcome.”

More perspectives and experience at the table creates a more dimensional, higher achieving organization. 

“I don’t want new employees to just fit into our culture,” says Pitruniak. “I want them to enhance our culture. I want them to understand what we stand for as a company and who we are, and for them to see a space for themselves with us. I want people to feel like they can invest in this team and benefit from this environment we’re all creating together.”

Supportive HR Attracts Talent

Crowe MacKay’s great reputation hasn’t completely alleviated the challenges of hiring in this labour market and the processes that support employee retention never take a holiday. This is why HR takes a central focus for the organization. 

“We, along with everyone else in this industry,” says Pitruniak, “are looking for good people and trying to retain good people. Before the pandemic, that meant lots of focus on career development and mentorship—very work-focused but unique benefits,” she adds. “But the last year and a half has been a learning experience; we’ve had to re-evaluate what will benefit our employees the most, typically through employee consultations.”

Engaging employees for direct input demonstrates the value of their time and opinions; it also gives leadership a clear view of what their workforce needs. 

“The pandemic taught us the importance of flexibility and work-life balance,” says Pitruniak. “People are re-evaluating what matters most to them, and it’s important that they see those values reflected by their employer. For us, our core values affirm that we care about our employees. We want them to be happy and feel supported here.”

These values can manifest as flexibility, more generous work from home arrangements, or other concessions for people that need them. The point is demonstrating to employees that the company recognizes their value on an individual level and wants to help them succeed in a very challenging period. 

“We share our knowledge, we invest in our people, and we grow together,” says Pitruniak. “These values are so simple, but they feed through everything that we do.”

Personal communication between Rose Agency and Brittany Pitruniak, October 2021.