The 2011 Best Firms to Work For: 11) Ernst & Young

Bob Patton At No. 11, Ernst & Young is the highest debuting firm on Consulting magazine’s Best Firms to Work For list in 2011. Bob Patton, Americas Advisory Vice Chair at Ernst & Young, says the firm is extremely proud to have received a number of “Best Of” honors, but the Best Firms award is especially meaningful because it’s based on the responses of people in Advisory.

“Our people consistently have positive things to say about Ernst & Young and their experiences here—as an organization where they can make a difference and develop as a professional advisor,” Patton says. In addition, the “ranking validates our clients’ decision to select us in the first place and underscores the commitment our people have to deliver a superior client experience. It will reinforce the pride our people have in the work they do to help clients.”

E&Y has undergone a bit of a transition of late, as Advisory was essentially re-launched under Patton in the Fall of 2008. Since then, the firm has found order in the chaos and managed to grow Advisory more than 25 percent and add nearly 3,000 new people in the Americas. In addition, the firm promoted more than 1,200 people across the practice, including 76 Partners, Principals and Executive Directors—double the previous year, Patton says.

“It has been challenging, but it has also been a time of great opportunity for us, and our clients. For Ernst & Young Advisory, we were unique in that we had ambitious growth plans that meant we needed to continue to invest—even during this difficult time,” Patton says. “It took courage for our board to make this investment, but they did and I believe that this decision was a turning point that underscores one of our key cultural values—demonstrating the courage to lead.”

Without a doubt, Patton says, E&Y’s culture sets the firm apart and is the key driver of its success. “Our culture is our ‘bottled lightning.’ A company can have the best strategy in the world, but without a culture that enables that strategy, that company will fail,” Patton says. “Our [culture] commitment is not a ‘soft’ part of our business. It’s hard-hitting, pragmatic and key to our global strategy.”

The firm will continue to help clients address their top priorities and help them protect their business, improve performance and enable change, he says.
“We see a growth in consulting demand driven by specific industry issues and global mega-trends,” he says. “Businesses today want a full-service firm that can help them manage risks and advance their business improvement efforts.”


Consulting asked Bob Patton, Americas Advisory Vice Chair at Ernst & Young, about morale. Specifically, which programs were responsible for helping make the firm such a special place to work. His response is below.

“We have much to celebrate: increased momentum, sharpened focus and heightened confidence for Advisory. Because of the commitment and effort over the last few years, Advisory is thriving, growing and heading toward the promise of a very bright future for the practice and for all our people.

“I’d sum this up as a burst of positive energy across the Advisory practice at the moment. This has been growing for some time but hit a peak earlier this year when we brought together all 1,800 of our extended leadership team for a week of learning together under the theme ‘Advisory in Concert.’ This year we have also increased our investment in learning at our Manager, Senior and Staff levels by bringing different ranks and competencies together for ‘Learning Weeks.’

“We’ve also adopted an industry-leading approach to resource planning and deployment. We’ve shifted the focus from scheduling people into jobs to creating an ‘experience management’ function. Our experience management team understands the business and the need to align our people’s individual experiences with their natural talents and professional goals.

“We know our people want more and ongoing dialog with leaders and more networking with colleagues, and they want to have more fun! To support this, we’ve strengthened our “Counseling Family” structure, to enable connection, communication and feedback as well as performance management and goal-setting. Most of these groups get together once a month in a structured meeting, and they also spend time together socially or hold community service activities.”