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Hiring with Handshake – How Tech is Helping Us Become More Inclusive

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Lindsay & Brownell has always prided itself on hiring good people — people with the skills and experience needed to be great accountants and the integrity and values to be trusted advisors. For a significant part of our firm’s history, we’ve been the local alternative to a Big Four firm. Our clients choose us when they want reputable service with a tailored experience. Our employees choose us when they want challenging work and a warm, inviting culture.

When the pandemic hit, our traditional ways of recruiting had to be re-evaluated. We used to primarily recruit in person from the five San Diego colleges with accounting programs. “There were exact times of year when we would visit to hire for certain roles and there were strict guidelines accounting students had to follow,” says Chloe Baird, Senior HR Generalist. “When things went remote with COVID, recruiting became even more overwhelming for students. As I designed our remote recruitment strategy, I wanted to keep that context in mind.”  With no choice but to do things differently during the 2020 hiring season, Baird crafted a new recruiting strategy for L&B that served students well but still put the firm at a unique advantage. Says Baird, “I wanted to be competitive but mindful, and I wanted to broaden our reach.”

Baird got all of L&B’s job openings listed on a platform called Handshake. Founded in 2013, Handshake has more than nine million student users, six hundred and fifty thousand employers and fourteen hundred university partners. As Fast Company explains, “By 2030, Gen Z will make up 30% of the workforce….Research reveals that this group is approaching networking and job seeking much more virtually than ever before—a trend that [Handshake] says has been kicked into high gear by the pandemic.”

At the same time as recruiting practices were moving virtual, L&B was considering how to proactively sustain their strong culture and ability to collaborate in an ever-changing environment. Before the pandemic, most L&B employees lived in San Diego and worked in the office full-time. Once the pandemic hit, however, the firm saw a unique opportunity to offer increased flexibility with where and how our people work.

“After things were forced to go virtual in 2020,” says Baird, who was managing the transition to remote on many fronts, “students from all over the country had the opportunity to explore a career with L&B. Even if they didn’t live in San Diego, they could still participate in our recruiting processes virtually. This opened a unique opportunity because not everyone is able to travel to San Diego for a variety of reasons, but they had the chance to be considered despite those factors.”

Baird believes that the new hiring practices have invited many more students to consider Lindsay & Brownell than in past years. “Our starting class in ‘21 and ‘22 is the most geographically diverse that we’ve ever had. This last year we had several new hires from schools in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Hawaii, Northern California– so many areas we’d never had the opportunity to recruit from before. I think that’s a huge success and really adds to our diversity.”

Take Megan Ketchum. Ketchum was hired to join the firm as a staff member in the tax department in 2020. Ketchum resided in Hawaii when hired. “Joining a San Diego firm being from Hawaii has helped me bring a fresh perspective on diversity and inclusion. Hawaii is a very diverse state. I once lived with a group of girls that came from the Philippines, Tonga, Mexico, Sweden, and New Zealand,” Ketchum says. “Even though we all came from different places, we learned a lot from each other, and got along great. I tried new foods, new customs, learned new music, and learned just how great it is to learn about other people.”

“Based on my experience at L&B,” Ketchum continues, “I would recommend it as a workplace to anyone because this firm highly values their employees. I’ve always felt included even working from home in a different state. I’m grateful the firm decided to advertise their opportunities on Handshake because it opened a career path that wouldn’t’ve otherwise been available to me.”

“Our new hires have different educational backgrounds, different ways of thinking, new approaches and contexts to bring to their work,” Baird says. “Having different cultural experiences brings unique perspectives to the table. For those that have moved to San Diego from somewhere distant, it changes the value people feel for San Diego. Many of our hires made a bold decision to move to San Diego from other places in the US and dive into their career in a brand-new place. There’s a different sense of gratitude that comes when you experience this city as something you opt into.”

These practices have had a significant impact on how employees feel about working at L&B. “L&B has expanded its reach across the country,” said one employee. “We used to traditionally recruit from SD schools but now we recruit from all over.”  Said another, “There is great age, race, ethnic and gender diversity across L&B. It wasn’t there at my previous company. As an outside observer to the hiring process, it looks like there have been steps taken to become aware of unconscious bias and the HR team casts a wide net to find the most qualified candidates.”

When asked if she will continue to hire via Handshake in the future, Baird says she will.  “Having more diversity within the firm allows our employees to have more empathy for clients and prospective employees.” That’s a huge plus for the firm on both a personal and business level. “We are always consciously selecting employees who will add their unique individuality to our firm’s culture,” says Baird. “We’re looking past the similar aspects on the surface level and seeking the common values and integrity that sets our firm apart.”

Our Partnership with Cristo Rey High School

By Our Culture

At L&B, our roots go deep in community engagement. Since our founding, we’ve had a strong tradition of giving back. Our charitable matching program matches up to $25,000 a year in contributions to local organizations. Our employees serve on nonprofit boards, providing sound financial advice to organizations stewarding the resources so crucial to their mission. And in June, we’re wrapping up the inaugural year of our partnership with Cristo Rey High School, and celebrating the amazing interns who’ve worked with us.

In August 2021, we embarked on our first year of partnership with Cristo Rey, a local high school whose enrollment is limited to economically disadvantaged youth. Cristo Rey strives to provide an excellent education at a free or low-cost price point. One of the ways they do this is through the work-study program, in which every student works five days per month at an entry-level position. Through job-sharing, partners like L&B fill one full time position, and students earn their tuition while gaining job experience. Over the past two semesters, four students have interned with us, averaging a week per month at the firm.

Our students for the current year are Dylann Alvarado, David Sanchez, Valeria Tapia and Paola Padilla. Dylann is recognized at Cristo Rey for his incredible work ethic. David says his work at Lindsay and Brownell “is helping him build new relationships and connections and important professional skills that will benefit me in the future.” Valeria says that working at L&B is “a chance to do something different than the rest of my peers and build valuable professional skills and my resume.” And Paula says, “I’ve made great relationships with the staff who are helping me prepare for my future.”

Our inspiration to become a part of the work-study program at Cristo Rey came when our People Operations team noticed that many of the candidates who were applying to the firm came from families where the parents or siblings were already accountants. In many parts of the US, accounting is a generational profession– students opt into the accounting degree because they’ve seen a relative take that path and they understand what to expect.  We realized that accounting is not often featured in the media the way that medicine or law is, and most kids don’t see accountants at work, like they might a teacher, a firefighter, a dentist, or a small business owner. Beyond the field’s low-profile reputation, it also requires a four-year degree in accounting and subsequent certifications, meaning that students are more likely to pursue it if their family has the financial resources to support them through a bachelor’s degree.

“We are hoping we can share the career with people who may not hear about it before they get to college,” says Director of People Operations Amanda Duff. “We want our students to see this as an option for themselves and tell their classmates about the experience they’ve had here,” adds HR Generalist Chloe Baird. “We have seen how impactful of a profession this can be and how successful you can be in it. We want to offer a glimpse into this career to students who are curious about it so they can make college choices aligned to their goals.”

Steve Egge, Director of the Work-Study program at Cristo Rey, confirmed that this is exactly what’s happening. “The partnership we have with Lindsay & Brownell gets our students exposed to financial literacy and planning, understanding long term goals. L&B brought up to me in January the possibility of teaching our students about the industry of financial planning and financial literacy.” But beyond the industry of accounting, Egge said that students at L&B are making powerful connections amongst the firm. “One of the things I thought was unique— all the students I spoke to spoke about how close they felt with their supervisors and the people around them. They all talked about how much the people in the office cared about them and wanted them to succeed. They all talked about Trish, and how that relationship has impacted their confidence and their self-advocacy.

Egge continued, “Yes, our students are building their resumes, getting work experiences, making contributions. But they’re also finding mentors. Mentors who can not only help them find jobs but also help them navigate life. That’s been a wonderful aspect of our partnership with L&B.”

When asked what success for the partnership would look like, Baird answers, “Our big goal is to become more creative about how we connect with our community. We want to break down systemic barriers to accounting because we feel that this is meaningful, fulfilling work, and everyone should have the chance to know about it and decide whether it’s for them.”

Samuel Johnston, who is the partnership manager for L&B, says, “Cristo Rey is preparing students from families of limited economic means to be part of the diverse workforce of tomorrow.” Johnston adds, “The work study program exposes them to potential career pathways, develops essential transferable work skills and builds confidence and aspiration so important to college and career success. When the students in this program graduate, they will have a better resume than most college seniors.”

Interested in learning more about Cristo Rey’s Work Study Program? Check out these articles from the SD Entertainer and SD Workforce.

Wellness @ L&B

By Our Culture

Wellness @ L&B: How we provide mental health support during Mental Health Awareness Month & beyond

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In honor of what has long been a stigmatized issue, we want to share a little about how we approach wellness at L&B in hopes of sharing our values, making our team and prospective employees aware of resources, and beginning a conversation about how we can continuously improve our approach to wellness for employees.

At L&B, employee wellness as a whole has always been a huge priority for us. We think about our team as being “People First, Employee Second.” We operate from the mindset that our business wouldn’t exist without our people, so investing in them is really important. As a society we have long thought about wellness in terms of physical wellness like health insurance and firm sports teams, but at L&B we understand that wellness also includes mental health, like stress management and resources for resiliency. We know that every single one of us is human and we all face challenges at different times. 

“In accounting, we go through busier seasons and calmer seasons,” says Senior HR Generalist Chloe Baird. “This seasonality means that our employees sometimes experience intense pressure to get many things done at the same time. Both at these times and in general, our investment in our people is important to us. It’s a priority, and it’s something that is continually adapting as we learn about new resources and listen to what our employees need.” 

L&B’s wellness investments have adapted to employee needs and desires throughout the years. In the past, Casual Friday was an example of how L&B invited employees to work in ways that were most comfortable to them. Today, it’s opportunities like working remotely and the chance to engage with teachers from around the country, teaching on topics from financial wellness to how our identity informs our approach to work. 

 

L&B’s Wellness Principles

  • Physical Health — 100% paid health plans, two on-site gyms, firmwide sports
  • Mental Health — Headspace Premium Access, Meditation Room in Office
  • Financial Health — 3% match for retirement, competitive salaries and bonuses, Charitable Matching Program, fee sponsorship for CPA Licensure, Financial Wellness Workshops
  • Flexible Policies — Remote Work, Virtual Learning, Flex Fridays, Bereavement and Jury Duty Leave
  • Access to Support — HR Office Hours, Employee Assistance Program, LinkedIn Learning
  • Time Off — Me Day, L&B Day

 

Baird, who manages employee benefits and many of the wellness programs, credits founder Steve Brownell and Director of People Operations Amanda Duff with bringing a listening ear and an open mind to hear what is going well for employees in every season, and make adjustments accordingly. 

Whether it’s for fun or for self-care, flexible scheduling makes a big difference in employees’ sense of balance. Martha Grimes, a manager on the Assurance & Advisory side, says, “I am so grateful that L&B encourages us to use flexible scheduling to be successful and fulfilled in all areas of our lives. Life happens, sometimes during traditional business hours, and it’s a relief that it’s a non-issue at L&B and is extended to all employees.” With flexible scheduling, work hours for exempt employees can be adjusted seasonally.

Beyond doctor’s appointments and travel plans, though, Grimes appreciates the chance to pursue her hobbies and the trust that she’ll achieve her responsibilities nonetheless.  “I enjoy fitness classes, kitten fostering (which requires a lot of sporadic trips to the veterinarian!), and quality time with friends and family.  Through flexible scheduling, I’ve never had to sacrifice those aspects of my personal life. The accounting industry generally has significant turnover, but flexible scheduling at L&B is one of the reasons I’ve chosen to continue my career with L&B for 6+ years.”

In the era of working from home, sports teams make a big difference to employees’ sense of connection with one another, as well as providing them a chance to get out of the house. Bobby Ying, a Senior Accountant on the tax side, says, “I enjoy being active with my colleagues because it allows us to show a different side of our personalities. It allows us to work together towards a common goal in a different way than we are used to.” Ying has championed L&B’s beach volleyball team and looks forward to getting back out for practice and games this summer. 

Chandra Brown, a tax manager, agrees. “Playing sports with colleagues builds camaraderie with people you may not work directly with on a regular basis and helps build stronger relationships.”  Like Ying, Brown enjoys competing alongside teammates and making connections beyond the patterns of the office. Browne appreciates that these opportunities are available at L&B. “I highly value personal/professional balance in trying to upkeep my wellbeing and L&B encourages this with several different avenues of achieving this, sports teams being one of them.” Besides beach volleyball and softball, L&B also has a fun run group.

One of the newest resources in the wellness space at L&B is an employer sponsored Headspace Premium subscription. Partner Mary McGroarty boasts that as of April 22, 2022, she has a 306-day streak of meditating every day. “I started using it to quiet my mind at night,” McGroarty says. In the days of working from home, “my mind would be occupied with thoughts of what I got done, what I didn’t get done, how I could have done something better.  I found that a 5 minute winddown meditation every night helped me clear those thoughts, fall asleep quickly and stay asleep through the night.” McGroarty says she was amazed that just a few minutes focusing on breathing and clearing her mind has a big impact on how she feels physically. 

McGroarty’s perspective on balance exemplifies the personalization and adaptability that we aim to embody at L&B. Speaking about her own experience, McGroarty says, “Balance is important to me, but also looks different for everyone and gets navigated differently for everyone.  What works for me may not work for others.  Our profession has a reputation for being difficult to create good balance, but I believe it can be done and we are working hard to make it better for those who are coming into the profession now.”

“It’s always a work in progress. You never achieve balance, you work consciously and intentionally to create it all the time.  You have to know yourself well and feel confident enough to articulate what you need to create it.” 

McGroarty relates the firm’s emphasis on mental health to a strategic initiative L&B is currently engaged in, around diversity, equity and inclusion. “People are at different places in their life, bringing different experiences and navigating different challenges,” McGroarty says.   “Headspace provides an opportunity to take care of our mind so we are better equipped to face our challenges and keep going.  It also helps us be less reactive to a stressful situation, take a step back and consider our response from a more reflective point of view.” One of McGroarty’s favorite Headspace videos is the one with the blue sky. Its message is that when all we see is dark clouds, we can know that the blue sky is still up there behind the clouds and that it will reappear.

When asked which programs she wished employees knew about or utilized more, Baird discussed the Employee Assistance Program, through which employees have access to five free counseling sessions and resources for a huge variety of life events, from legal counsel to health advocacy to moving logistics to grieving the loss of a loved one.  Baird says she thinks EAP holds a bit of a stigma. “I think sometimes it can seem like EAP is only for people who are intensely struggling, because their resources are aimed to help with dramatic life events. But in reality, their resources today are designed to help manage life events so they don’t become a bigger obstacle to a person’s success.” For example, one employee used the resources on the EAP to find a nanny for a new child at the end of a parental leave. 

At the end of the day, all of us at L&B are here for the same goal: to provide an excellent experience for everyone who works here so they can bring their best selves to work.

Starting with Reflection – Our Journey to Becoming More Inclusive

By Our Culture

How can L&B do what is right by our employees, our clients, and our society? This is the question we asked ourselves as we embarked on our strategic initiative on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in January of 2022.  Like many firms, over the past several years we have read the news, held internal dialogue, and implemented new programs. But as we looked ahead to the future of the firm, we knew that this was not enough. 

It is not enough because our firm is growing. The strong culture that we pride ourselves on has been grown from the love and commitment of our founding partners. We want this culture to be as strong a part of our future as it has been of our past.  

It is not enough because our firm is hybrid-remote. Our connection to one another happens differently in today’s online collaboration. With the impact of COVID on our office-based work, we transitioned our firm to become hybrid- remote including fully  remote employees. This has been amazing for the quality and diversity of our team, but it means we must provide for the connection and collaboration that we value in more intentional ways. We don’t always bump into one another at the coffee machine. Instead, we come together around shared experiences and values. 

It is not enough because our society demands it. Historically, resources have been distributed unequally. Our firm works with affluent people and businesses. Finding our integrity in serving wealthy clients and actively contributing our time and talent to the community is a part of making a difference in the world. We want to be a place where employees can not just build their technical skills but also explore the question, “Why does what I do matter?” and “Where can my skills truly make a difference?”  We want to be a place where clients come not just for sound tax and accounting advice, but also for guidance in shaping a legacy for causes they care about.

So we embarked on an equity audit to begin our journey and better understand ourselves. 

First, we started by selecting a consultant who we thought could meet our needs. We chose Humble Oak, a woman-owned small business whose founder was supported in starting her business by her advisor at L&B. “I help historically white organizations think big about how they can expand the scope of their mission, remove barriers to access, and build coalitions across lines of difference,” says founder Lucretia Witte. This was important to us because we wanted our consultant to kickstart a journey of reflection, education and outreach at all levels of the organization and we knew that she had been on similar learning journeys herself and with other organizations. 

Our equity audit process included a broad and deep analysis of the firm based on four pillars of data.  Our consultant worked with us to collect relevant data from every stage of the employee life cycle and draw connections between existing policies and DEI goals. She also led five focus groups with almost half of our organization participating and piloted a DEI training with fifteen recent hires. At the end of the research process, she presented the equity audit to the partners and senior managers of L&B. 

We were really proud to see that she noticed some key strengths of the organization that we felt reflected our efforts and our philosophy over the past thirty years.  We also felt her Strategic Opportunities reflected an accurate summary of where we know we can improve. She left our partner group with a set of recommendations which we are currently planning into our strategic priorities for the coming months. 

We’ve already scheduled training and dialogue to begin after the busy season and will culminate our leadership training by setting 2-3 strategic goals related to DEI&B for the next year.  We wanted to share this communication to be transparent about what we’re doing across the firm, with current and prospective employees, and with clients, because we know it’s important and we want to share our learning journey in the hope that it inspires others to join us in this conversation. 

“Even though L&B has never measured itself against a DEI standard before, much of the work you already do to help all employees succeed and advance is related to DEI,” says Witte. “From the mentor program to individual development plans, any program that exists to give employees personalized support and a sense of connection is part of DEI strategy.”  Our new challenge is to see all the work our team does through this lens.

Stay tuned to our Culture Conversations page on our website for further updates on our work to make L&B the most inclusive firm we can be.

 

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