Gary Belske, EY

Gary Belske

Providing a MAP for College

Editors’ Note

Gary Belske began his EY career in 1978 after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Masters of Arts degree in Accounting. He also has a B.S.B.A. degree from Rockhurst University. Belske first worked in EY’s Kansas City office, and then transferred to the Fort Worth office in 1986, where he focused on banking clients. In 1989, he transferred to the Dallas office where he served several large multinational companies. Prior to assuming his current role, he was Chief Operating Officer of EY’s Americas Assurance and Advisory Business Services practice. Belske currently serves on the board of College for Every Student (CFES).

Company Brief

EY (ey.com) is a leading global distinctive professional services organization that provides assurance, tax, transaction, and advisory services. With 190,000 people in more than 150 countries, EY is one of the largest professional services organizations in the world.

What is it that makes EY so special?

It’s the quality of the people and the culture we have within the firm. Our competitors may be able to replicate our methodology or our tools, but they can’t replicate our culture of teaming and inclusiveness, because it’s rooted in our values, which have always been at the heart of EY.

This culture has been further developed over my years here by all the people we’ve hired. We only hire those who we think will fit our culture and make it even stronger. Many people, including our experienced hires, tell us they join because of our culture, and the focus on teaming and collaboration.

Our culture continues to distinguish us from our competitors, whether they be the big four, large consulting firms, or boutiques. Although I can’t fully tell you how that culture got built, I’m the beneficiary of it, and it continues to thrive. Our culture is a great legacy that the next generation will make even stronger.

I truly believe our culture allows us to serve our clients better, and that’s why it differentiates us in the market. Because we value teaming and inclusiveness across the firm, and work together in diverse high-performance teams, we are better able to deliver quality and exceptional service through our work for our clients.

What is the sweet spot for EY in terms of clientele?

I like to say the diversity of our client base is one of our strengths. We work with many of the world’s largest organizations. And for more than three decades, we have helped entrepreneurs and high-growth companies – many have grown into market leaders. We serve all of those clients today – start-ups, middle market, and family-owned businesses.

As the Fortune 500 turns over during the next decade, it will look different than it does today. We want to continue to serve those Fortune 500 clients because they enter into some of the most strategic and complex transactions. Our people enjoy working on these because they challenge us.

However, we know we need to be in touch with the next Googles of the world. We serve clients of every size in between, because Google didn’t become a Fortune 500 overnight – it took years for them to get there. So we will continue to serve the entire field of clients from the biggest to the smallest.

Would you talk about how the College MAP (Mentoring for Access and Persistence) program fits in with the firm?

Recently, EY distilled our culture and values into a single powerful statement of purpose: “Building a Better Working World.” College MAP reflects that statement because through the program, we’re trying to build a better working world one family at a time by promoting access to higher education.

Many people in our firm are the first in their families to go to college, myself included. We spoke with our people, and the concept of fostering opportunities to attend college resonated with them. We decided to collaborate with a not-for-profit entity called College for Every Student (CFES), where I now sit on the board.

As we talked to our first-generation college graduates, we heard similar stories. They weren’t just changing their own lives; they were changing the future for their entire family. My younger brothers and sisters followed me to college. They now have children, and they’re going to attend college.

It’s easy to see how this has affected the lives in their families, not just for the current generation but for the generations that follow. We felt this was something our people would understand and take personally. I certainly did and this is why I wanted to sponsor this program for the firm.

The program involves having our professionals mentor high school juniors and seniors, many of whom will be the first in their families to attend college. Our mentors help these students gain the confidence they need to take this journey and guide them on how to look for financial support and assistance. Our mentors help them understand what they need to do to submit applications on time and assist in filling out those applications. They help students through the entire college application process, as many lack someone in their family with college experience who can provide advice.

Many of our professionals faced the same issues as they prepared for their education and are excited to help these students get through the process.

I knew this would benefit the students, but the best surprise has been the amazing impact it has had on our mentors. We do surveys in our firm to see how connected our people are to the firm and how they feel about it. People who volunteer with College MAP have much higher connectivity to EY and feel much better about working here. They feel they are contributing to our purpose – building a better working world – and they get so much out of it. We give them time to participate, and they find mentoring these high school students very fulfilling.

Does the relationship continue beyond the school years?

It does. The program started with the goal of getting the students into college, but we soon realized we have to stay focused on keeping them there. Ninety percent of these students get into college but the ultimate objective is getting them through college. They are dealing with a lot of challenges – new living environments, and academic and financial issues. Some students are from single-parent families and, if there is a health issue back home, they might have to quit college to care for siblings.

We have worked to develop programs to help us stay connected to them and monitor how they’re doing. We host programs during the summers that allow students to come back and check in. We always focus on one high school in a city so they all know each other, and they become a very close and connected group. This provides our mentors with a channel to stay connected with these students as they’re going through college and to help them address any challenges they might have. In addition, in 2014, we raised over $306,000 from EY people, and with a donation of $142,500 from the EY Foundation, we created over $449,000 in scholarships for College MAP Scholars.

There is still a lot more that we can do in the future, but it’s a big focus as we move forward.

How large can the program become and what will be required from an infrastructure perspective for it to continue to grow?

When we initially began the program in 2009, we purposely built it in nine cities, and we now have 26 College MAP sites. We made a commitment through the Clinton Global Initiative to grow to 35 cities by 2018. We want to make sure we maintain the quality of the program as our first priority. It’s critical to have the right volunteers from our firm, but we also have to select the right high schools with administrations that are willing to sponsor the program. They must be willing to allow the students to have time off from school to participate in some of the programs in our offices, for instance, and to get exposed to what we do at work.

The process of making sure we get the right high schools, build the right relationships, and foster the right sponsors within those schools is very important, and is not something we should rush. We need to make sure to do it right.

We’ll continue to grow it. Ultimately, we want to have the program in every city where we have an office. We will get there but it will take several years.

How challenging is it to gain alignment with the administrations within the schools?

The reason we partner with College for Every Student is that they’re experts on how we can help students prepare for college. This is not our core competency so we need to partner with someone who can provide that.

We don’t need the schools to provide it, we do need them to provide access to the facility and to the students, and to support and encourage the students to join the program.

We have to make sure the principals and assistant principals are supportive of the program, and talking about it and encouraging the students they think might benefit from it to participate.

Do you need to have metrics in place to track the impact of this work?

We monitor our success rate. For example, we closely monitor how many of the students who we’re mentoring get into college. Otherwise, we won’t know if the program is successful. It helps us understand if we need to tweak the program or do something different.

Also, we need to measure how many of them are getting through college and evaluate what that tells us about ways we can help them succeed in and complete college.

How have you approached promoting this program within the firm?

We have an event in Orlando every year to celebrate all of our people who have been promoted to manager or senior manager. This year when our talent leader and I got up on stage, we talked about what we do to give back to the community because it truly reflects what we stand for as a firm.

I talked about College MAP and was amazed at the number of e-mails and voicemails I got from people in the audience who wanted to learn more about being a mentor.

It’s not our goal to advertise how great we’re doing but to give our people an example of how they can give back to the community. Many of them were first-generation college graduates in their families and this program has really resonated with them.

Is this program almost as exciting as the business?

It is for me, because it’s part of the business – it’s just a different aspect. Many of our students are minorities or from rural locations where they don’t get exposed to college. As a firm that values and thrives on inclusiveness, we are always looking for diversity talent. We do very well from a diversity standpoint, from a hiring and retention standpoint, but the world is continuing to become more diverse. If we can get these young people into college, they will get the education they need to become a productive part of the workforce. That will benefit everyone.•

Deborah Holmes, EY

Deborah K. Holmes

Editors’ Note

Deborah K. Holmes has held her current post since October of 2011. Prior to this, she was Global Director, Corporate Responsibility from June 2008. She also held the role of Americas Director-Corporate Responsibility from April 2003 to July 2008, as well as Americas Director-Center for the New Workforce from November 1996. Before this, she was Director, Research & Advisory Services for Catalyst, Senior Research Director for Families and Work Institute, and Legal Associate for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. She earned her J.D., Law from Harvard Law School and her B.A. in Government from Harvard College.

How critical has the focus on corporate responsibility been to EY’s success?

Our mentoring in the community grows out of our commitment to mentoring in our core professional lives. Every year, we hire tens of thousands of young university graduates, as well as bring in thousands of experienced direct hires. Our training model has a significant mentoring component with seasoned EY professionals mentoring new EY professionals. These mentoring skills are critical for our people to possess and we pride ourselves on the fact that they do.

It has always seemed natural to us to apply these mentoring skills to people who need them in the communities outside of our firm.

How do you decide where to focus your efforts and how does College MAP fit well with EY?

All of our corporate responsibility activities are situated in the intersection of three considerations: first is our firm strategy; second is our organizational competency; and third is societal need. Everything we do is linked to our strategy and what we’re good at, because we can make the biggest difference in addressing societal need by focusing on what we know best. At EY, this means focusing our corporate responsibility activities around growing the impact of entrepreneurs, creating a more inclusive society, and helping to mentor the next generation of talent.

EY’s organization competencies around mentoring are especially strong, and the societal need is profound. There is so much research that proves that young people who have mentors are significantly more likely to have positive life outcomes. They’re more likely to stay in school and complete post-secondary education, and they’re more likely to be gainfully employed and to have positive health outcomes.

College MAP fits in that sweet spot, and it’s no accident that our executive sponsor of College MAP is none other than our Deputy Vice Chair and Chief Operating Officer.

Do you need metrics around these programs to track impact?

It can be difficult, but we look at two sets of metrics: the impact on the students that we mentor and the impact on our people.

The challenge in tracking impact on students is that it requires a very long-term orientation. The program involves a two-plus year commitment by our people to stick with their young mentee. Our people start with the youth in the fall of their junior year of high school and remain committed to them for the two years they’re finishing high school. The commitment switches to an online and virtual commitment as they continue to support them while they’re at college or university.

We track high-school completion and our scholars are graduating from high school at rates above 90 percent even though they are mostly from schools with high-school graduation rates hovering around 78 percent. In these schools, where only a little more than 66 percent of the kids enroll in college, more than 90 percent of our scholars are doing so.

Those are some great outcomes. For the longer-term outcomes like college completion, we’re just now getting to the point where we are able to track this because the program is only five years old.

In terms of the impact on our own people, it’s really profound. The firm conducts an employee satisfaction survey every year and we find that the EY professionals who are mentoring through College MAP are statistically much more connected with EY, which comprises their likelihood to recommend EY as a great place to work, their likelihood to remain with the firm even if a comparable job were available, and other metrics reflecting positive actions.•