This marks the fourth consecutive year that North Highland, an employee-owned strategy firm based in Atlanta, makes our Best Firms to Work For list. Even more impressive for the firm, which employs a local model of client services via its 45 offices around the world, is where the firm finishes—either No. 3 or No. 4—each of the four years. How’s that for consistency?
“Being a Best Firm to Work For means waking up every day excited to go to work,” says Dan Reardon, CEO of North Highland. “It means knowing that hard work is going toward a good cause and that you are supported in doing the right thing for your people and your clients every day—no exceptions. For our company, the recognition is especially important because it is consultants taking their own time to go out and complete the survey and say what they think. We take it as another measure of engagement.”
Undoubtedly, Reardon says, North Highland’s unique model contributes to the firm’s overall employee satisfaction and retention rates. Reardon says the firm works hard to ensure that North Highland’s talent-related programs are carefully aligned with the business strategy and employee value proposition. The firm’s promise to employees is straightforward: “own your life; own your career; own your company,” he says.
“Every talent-related program or approach must align with this commitment. Our focus on building strong local businesses that let our people live and work where their clients do remains one of the unique things about us,” Reardon says. “Our ability to serve them locally wherever they do business around the world is another key thing. And being able to do that and keep 90 percent of our people in their home market every week is amazing.”
The firm invests in a career coaching program that ensures that every consultant has someone who has an active role in helping them match their interests and project assignments, determine areas for growth and development and identify opportunities for alternative assignments in the company.
Reardon says the firm just completed its five-year strategic plan, and intends to expand into two or three more U.S. cities, as well as in the UK and China.
“Last year was the toughest year we have seen in the last 20 years, but we always try to plan for the worst-case scenario as well as the best, and our plan B really served us well last year,” Reardon says. “We made many changes quickly to balance supply and demand and avoided layoffs.”
And Reardon remains optimistic. “As we’ve gone from the stress of 2009 to the middle of a very busy 2010,” he says. “We are trying to do our part to help clients overcome the challenges this economy presents and believe that this focus is what is most important to our success.” Q&A with Dan ReardonOn the survey, North Highland excelled in the areas of Culture and Work/Life Balance. We asked Dan Reardon, CEO of North Highland,
why he thought the firm scored so high in these areas.Culture
As we continue to grow, maintaining and enhancing our culture is very important to us. We’ve all seen what happens when a company’s culture gets away from them slowly over time. The fact that we are employee-owned really helps with self-policing the things that we say we want to be about. For example, everyone in the company has been through a two-day cultural immersion course that is facilitated by firm leadership—not attended by, but facilitated by. When you are fast-growing and have so many new people, you have to be deliberate about culture. We also try very hard to make sure people are comfortable expressing their opinion and that people are involved in solving problems at all levels.
We get consistently high marks on this topic. Our approach to consulting and our business model allow for consultants to “have their cake and eat it too.” Some hear this and think it sounds too good to be true—have a great consulting career, work for big-time clients and have a life at home? If it were really possible wouldn’t everyone do it? Well, it is possible, but people shouldn’t be misled: We work very hard to make it all work! We give our people the freedom to put their time and energy where their passion and priorities are.