What started as one employee’s desire to have a more balanced work-life arrangement has now evolved into a strategic business initiative that helps Rothstein Kass retain top talent and develop stronger relationships with key clientele. It all began in 2007, when , a principal specializing in audit, general accounting and business advisory consulting, identified the need for an initiative focused on creating leadership opportunities for female associates. Working in accounting, a field traditionally dominated by males, Mandel noticed that the number of female accountants significantly decreased as she rose in the ranks. After attending the AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit, Mandel realized that the issues she was dealing wit were almost universal among other women in the industry. In order to create real change, Mandel had to start within her own organization.
The notion of integrating a flexible schedule in the workplace came after Mandel returned from maternity leave. Having a family made her recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, while not jeopardizing her growth within the firm. At Rothstein Kass, this flexibility is formalized in customized work arrangements available to all associates. Employees can adjust their work schedules in order to better accommodate their hectic lives and personal needs. Customized work arrangements are a tool to attract and retain top candidates; however, Mandel realized that there was an opportunity to create a more strategic initiative that was better aligned with the company’s business goals.
And so was born the LIFE program, which stands for Leadership, Inspiration, Family and Empowerment. It began as a full-scale leadership development platform for women. Through the program, female associates have the opportunity to network and participate in professional development opportunities designed and led by people like themselves. According to Mandel, this is important because women lead differently, and LIFE raises awareness about the value of female leadership styles. Over time, the program has expanded. Today, it includes a National Office of LIFE at Rothstein Kass which creates the overarching strategic goals of the program and appoints local liaisons who tailor the program to employees’ local needs and preferences. On a regular basis, members of the national office conduct tours of the local offices in order to continually raise awareness around issues that affect female employees and the LIFE program as a whole.
Mandel attributes the success of the LIFE program to its close integration with Rothstein Kass’ business objectives. Recognizing the growing diversity of its clientele, it was important for Rothstein Kass to reflect these changes in its workforce. By equipping its female workforce with networking and mentoring opportunities, Rothstein Kass was able to position itself as a more attractive business partner and develop strategic alliances with professional organizations around the country. Long-term partnerships with these organizations helped to foster growth in this area. Senior executives at the firm are also engaged in the LIFE initiative. By recruiting top executives for the LIFE Steering Committee, Mandel was able to ensure that the program received ongoing attention and guidance.
LIFE has positively impacted the bottom line at the firm, serving as a mechanism to develop long-term relationships with clients and keep its top performers within the Rothstein Kass community. Mandel found it very effective to turn to the numbers when relaying the economic value of a program that is designed to keep its female employees at the company. “You have to talk in dollars,” said Mandel. “There is a 1.5 percent salary cost to train someone to join Rothstein Kass.” It is important to translate the value of your program into terms by which the decision-makers can identify, whether that is financials or employee satisfaction. It is essential to bridge that gap.
LIFE has become an integral part of Rothstein Kass as a result of the value it has continued to bring to the firm. All in all, “LIFE is a firm initiative, not a women’s initiative,” Mandel asserts. And as a result, the program has opened up alternate business pipelines for Rothstein Kass and created a workplace environment that cultivates success.