Client case study

Grant Thornton

CEO Mike McGuire

Becoming a talent magnet through culture

How does a company that provides similar services as its competitors stand out and gain advantage? In an industry with high turnover and a steady influx of college graduates, how does that company become an employer of choice to attract and retain the most talented people and keep them highly engaged? These were thorny questions that challenged leaders of Grant Thornton LLP, the US member firm of Grant Thornton International, one of the world's largest organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms.


The U.S. firm had grown six-fold in 15 years—in part through acquisitions. As a result, there was an inconsistent culture across its many offices. Clients' needs had also shifted. More were choosing firms in part based on culture fit, ability to provide stable, long-term relationships with highly engaged and accountable teams, and innovative thinking. Adding in the shifting world of work, generational workforce changes, digitization, and other disruptions, it was apparent to CEO Mike McGuire and the leadership team that Grant Thornton needed to transform itself. This would require a culture shift to instill the passion, curiosity and fresh thinking that would distinguish Grant Thornton to clients as a firm that goes beyond status quo approaches to do whatever it takes to move clients forward.


Watch a short video with Mike McGuire on transforming Grant Thornton through culture



"I felt that Grant Thornton had unlimited potential, but in order for us to be successful, we would have to be collaborative and work together as one unified culture," said McGuire. "I thought there were a lot of business reasons for us to be able to do it. We wanted to be able to retain our people. We wanted to be able to increase our employee engagement because if our employees are very engaged and they're very happy, then the service we deliver to our clients is really at an absolute premium."


The senior leadership team set clear business goals for the culture shift, including increasing client quality and satisfaction, enhancing brand reputation, and improving employee recruitment, engagement, and retention. The firm began implementing industry leading policy changes to foster a culture intended to provide flexibility, work life balance, and empowerment for its more than 8,000 employees. In November, 2015, it became the first large public accounting firm to replace its historic annual paid time off policy with a more progressive flexible time off policy.


McGuire said the results exceeded his expectations. In 2016, our retention improved by 500 basis points year-over-year—something that's unprecedented in our industry. Our net promoter scores and client satisfaction scores have always been very high. I think our culture journey has been able to enhance them. We're getting a lot of our business from referrals from satisfied clients. I think that difference is really in our culture. We didn't get into this to win awards, but I am starting to see us win awards all over our Now we're in Top 10 in a lot of these categories."


Results from the culture-shaping work


Grant Thornton's commitment to making culture a key competitive differentiator is paying off in a number of important ways, from attracting and retaining talent to improved client satisfaction.


  • 2016 employee retention improved by 500 basis points year-over-year
  • Interns choosing to stay on as associates more than doubled over past three years
  • 2016 engagement survey score increased by 8 percentage points from 2013 survey
  • Full-year 2016 revenue with Russell 2000 clients increased 21%
  • Revenue with large, private companies increased 29% over 2015
  • 12th place in the Glassdoor Employees' Choice Awards, including #2 firm to interview with
  • 2nd in Vault's list of 2017 Best Accounting Firms for Firm Culture
  • Universum's Top 100 rankings as one of the most attractive employers in the U.S.
  • Best Forensic Accounting Provider 2017 Best of Corporate Counsel survey
  • Crain's Chicago Business list of 2017 Best Places to Work
  • Among 2017 Top Companies for Women Executives by the National Association of Female Executives
Culture Drives Performance Image