Integrating Integrity, Passion and Stewardship for Successful Employee Engagement 

by Karleen Mussman 

At Baker Tilly, our vision is to become the nation’s finest professional service firm and we strive to align all of our operations around that vision. We are extremely proud of our reputation within the profession especially our cultural reputation. We work to create initiatives that keep our employees engaged and make every member of the team feel that they are respected and that their voice matters. As chief human resources officer, one of my biggest responsibilities is making sure that our dedication to employee engagement remains a top priority and that we are consistently taking steps to improve.

To maintain a strong culture of employee engagement, we seek continual feedback from our employees. One of the most beneficial methods of obtaining that feedback is through our annual employee engagement survey. Our survey participation results are exceptional and we actively obtain, analyze and create action plans around that feedback. We want to be sure we are making every effort to address issues and opportunities that our employees may identify.

Our engagement scores have been excellent relative to other organizations within the profession. The firm has been through some major changes and growth in the last few years and we are pleased that we have been able to maintain strong engagement survey scores through that period.

Ensure That Your People Feel Heard
Physical environment is a key factor in promoting employee engagement. Our office environments have been recently redesigned to allow more space for individuals and teams to interact. We’ve worked to create opportunities for folks to gather and enjoy themselves in social spaces to enjoy a cold-brew coffee or share some laughs around Ping-Pong and foosball tables.

There is a level of satisfaction and engagement that comes from having a warm and welcoming work environment, and we have made adjustments to provide great environments for our people. One recent, well-received change to our workplace—a direct result of our employee engagement survey—was our Dress for Your Day program.

Recognizing that the responsibilities and interactions of every day are different, we now allow our employees to make their own decisions on what to wear based on their tasks for the day. There are guidelines around what is acceptable in various situations, but Dress for Your Day allows a much higher level of flexibility for people to go about their day more comfortably, whether meeting with clients, having internal meetings or for a day of volunteering.

There are several additional initiatives that have come about as a result of the feedback received from our employee engagement survey. We have implemented a number of workplace flexibility policies, for example, that give people options on where and how they work. We have created a menu of four to five flexibility program options and each individual is able to choose the option that best suits them. Also, team members can choose to formally participate in the program on a full-time basis, or they can take advantage of the program as needed. I feel this allows us to offer real flexibility to our team.

We have also made some enhancements to our technology to enable these flexibility options and to allow for more synergy and teamwork internally. We have done a lot of important work fostering diversity and inclusion and recently started a national Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee made up of members from across the firm. The committee will be charged with ensuring and accelerating weaving diversity and inclusion in to the fabric of our firm. 

Finally, we have developed a very active learning and development culture. We want to give people a great experience at every level and provide a clear path with high quality training that allows individuals to meet their professional goals.

Action is Critical
One key factor in employee engagement is creating an environment that makes people feel good about what they are doing. Stewardship is one of the core values of Baker Tilly, and we make every effort to demonstrate our dedication to it. We transitioned to our new CEO in June 2016 and we celebrated with a one-day Stewardship Day to fight food insecurity. The entire firm came together and spent the afternoon in locally chosen locations across the country that are dedicated to that cause.

The day was a culmination of the firm’s commitment to stewardship. We actively encourage outreach and volunteerism and have found that our employees very much want to give back. One of our newest initiatives exemplifies our dedication to giving back. This year, we made the decision to forgo our annual holiday gift to the employees and instead dedicated those funds to worthwhile charitable organizations. Our team members are currently choosing where those funds are going to go, but we have already received a lot of positive feedback from our employees about this decision. We will likely continue this initiative moving forward.

From my perspective, employee engagement is a key driver in employee satisfaction and ultimately, business success. When employees feel valued, morale increases and our team of happy, contributing and engaged employees allows us to deliver the highest level of service for our clients.
I think the most important aspect of our employee engagement initiatives is that we aren’t doing these things because it’s what our peers are doing or because it’s what’s expected of us. The power and success of these aforementioned programs comes from the fact they came from or were inspired by our employees. They have let us know what is important and meaningful to them and we have taken the steps to address it. Employee feedback is a great tool but the real success relies on turning feedback and suggestions into actions.

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP is a top 15 firm headquartered in Chicago, IL. Karleen Mussman is the Chief Human Resources Officer.


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