2to3days Founder & CEO Juliet Turnbull caught up with Jemma Pearson, mother to three children and also the Resourcing and Inclusion Manager at Grant Thornton (GT) to get her personal perspective on why GT is a great organisation for women to work for. Jemma is passionate about championing the development of women and 50% of her time is currently allocated to the Diversity and Inclusion team, which tackles issues like the gender pay gap and how GT should recruit, retain, and develop their female and non-binary colleagues.
Describe the culture and ethos of Grant Thornton
“Creating an inclusive culture is one of Grant Thornton’s key priorities. We are actively encouraged to build successful lives inside and outside of work which blend and complement one another. Our inclusive culture is visibly driven from the top, with our Senior Leadership Team (SLT), taking part in our reverse mentoring programme (a programme whereby more junior colleagues from a diverse background “mentor” more senior members of the firm to help them understand barriers faced and different perspectives).
We are expected to work hard, but we are given autonomy about how, when and where we do our work, as long as it meets client and team expectations. I often find myself working at different venues, whilst my children attend their extra-curricular activities and this openness to flexibility allows me to perform to the best of my ability. We are actively encouraged to put our personal commitments in our work diary, and to show when we are available. We are fully supported to bring your ‘whole self’ to work; to dress how you feel comfortable, which might include cultural or gender expression; and to be who you want to be at work - this is truly liberating, making Grant Thornton a great place to work.”
What does flexible working truly mean to Grant Thornton?
“Flexible working hasn’t been a knee jerk reaction as a result of the pandemic, we have been working this way long before lockdown. On day 1 of lockdown the entire firm, all 4,600 moved seamlessly to working remotely from home. However many hours we are contracted to do, we are encouraged to work in an agile manner to meet client expectations and deadlines. So how that looks will be different for everyone.
Some colleagues start work earlier or finish later, or work at weekends. I can be there for my children at school pick up, but then I get the work done before and after (and sometimes even during!) Flexible working is about the ‘agility’ of where and how you work, what output you provide and how you ensure the work is completed to a high standard. We do have part time contracts, or school hours only contracts, and we try to make flexible working work for everyone. Each request to work flexibly is treated individually under the premise of ‘how can we make this work’ “
What support do you offer your recruiting managers to ensure that flexible working is properly embedded across the firm?
“All GT roles are advertised as flexible. Our recruiting managers receive regular training to ensure it stays front of mind, even at the first interview. Flexible working arrangements are explained to the hiring managers also. As a firm we are also investing heavily in future proofing the way we work so that we remain agile and can adapt easily to any situation. We are also conscious that as we ease out of lockdown and return to offices, those people still working remotely, who are often female, are not marginalised due to physical location.”
What opportunities are there for women that weren’t there in the past?
“Attracting and retaining our female talent is vital to GT. We would love to see more women in all fee-earning areas of the business including Partner and Director level. All female and non-binary senior managers are now invited to a career development programme called Elevate, which provides a Partner coach to each participant and ability to attend several events and workshops. There is also a further development programme called Breakthrough for female and non-binary Directors, who might be considering the option of becoming a Partner. We are completely open to hiring returners and have done so on many occasions.”
What good has come out of the pandemic for Grant Thornton?
“Our technology has enabled us to work in an agile manner. The pandemic has accelerated our commitment to this process. Grant Thornton benefits from a strong and authentic Senior Leadership Team (SLT) – our Partners believe, and behave in an all inclusive way. During lockdown, the SLT recognised how difficult the period was going to be for all our people and set up a project team dedicated to help support mental wellbeing across all areas of the firm. This included a walking challenge, where over 1,700 people in teams walked “to the moon and back”; Walking meetings were (and still are) encouraged, as this supported mental and physical health. We set up a Grant Thornton Santa’s Grotto, where the children met Mr or Mrs Claus to chat about all things Christmas; we ran a 6-week Health Boost, where we worked with external consultants to drive our mental and physical health, including putting on exercise and meditation classes. And over 800 of our people and their families joined our comedy and magician nights.
These events were an amazing leveller and a great reminder that we are all human and we all, including our families, have been having a tough year. This huge effort to drive positivity across our people’s moods and health, show what a great culture we have at Grant Thornton.”
So, Jemma, what’s the one thing you would say to the women out there that you would love to talk to about working at Grant Thornton?
“It’s an exciting time to join GT, a firm that will enable you to reach your full potential on terms that work for you, your clients and your team. You will be fully supported to be the best you can be, and to bring your whole self to work. We are working on some very exciting projects that will see agile and flexible working being driven further during 2021.”
Find out more about the flexible opportunities at Grant Thornton.