EY Connect Day provides opportunities for the whole team to give back

EY Connect Day is a single day of service that empowers more than 23,000 EY professionals from across the Americas to do their part to give back to the communities they call home. But the preparation that goes into making it such a special day begins long before that, says Ernst & Young LLP Cleveland Office Managing Partner Julie Boland.

“We have an advisory forum and senior managers who really drive the engagement and how we’re going to go and where we’re going to go,” Boland says.

“They spend months working with a variety of nonprofits to find the right sites where we can go in and do meaningful work. Whether it’s working with kids, sorting food at a food bank or painting cabins, there’s something for everybody to do. We try to have a diverse group of sites that appeal to peoples’ interests in terms of what they want to do.”

More than 600 of the firm’s professionals from Northeast Ohio took part in this year’s EY Connect Day held on Sept. 30th.

“Everybody looks forward to giving back, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to get to know some of our colleagues,” Boland says. “With 1,200 people overall, it’s really hard to get to know everybody. Many of us participate on teams and we get a chance to spend time outside the four walls of the office and get to know each other in a different way. It’s empowering for our people.”

Boland’s colleague, Chicago Office Managing Partner Kim Simios, has seen the difference that EY Connect Day makes in the community. But it also provides a boost when everyone goes back to work.

“It gives a very safe space for our people to network amongst each other and to create that energy that ripples out,” Simios says.

For Chicago’s EY Connect Day, Simios teamed with an organization called Future Founders, which focuses on high school students learning about entrepreneurship and how the market functions outside of core skills such as reading, writing and math.

“We had all these high school students and it was a business case sort of challenge,” Simios says. “It was a very simple concept. Your objective was how are you going to develop a product to help people sleep better at night. We had four students from three different schools and none of them knew each other.

“They had very different backgrounds. One had a deep love for math and engineering. One kid was so talented artistically, he was put in charge of the artwork for the product the team came up with. It was interesting to see them come up with creative solutions.”

It was also interesting for Simios to get know one of her own EY team members who was relatively new to the firm.

“The way he engaged with these kids and the things he said to energize them, I said, ‘Boy, I want him one of my account teams. He’s fantastic.’ We got a lot of lift out of that.”

A rewarding opportunity
Boland had a chance to work with a cause that is near and dear to her heart, Achievement Centers for Children, which works with kids with disabilities. Boland chairs the nonprofit’s board and works with its CEO to think about mission and strategy. On this day, however, she was able to witness a group of her own people from EY learn about why Achievement Centers for Children is such a special place.

“Watching 30 to 40 of my colleagues take that tremendous of an interest in making sure Camp Cheerful, where these kids go and have a fabulous time, is at its best,” Boland says. “To watch my colleagues who I really enjoy working with and I’m so proud of and mixing that with my passion for Achievement Centers and the work that we do is truly rewarding.”

The time any business or organization takes to give back to its community will always be time well spent, says Boland.

“I look at the three Cs: clients, colleagues and community,” Boland says. “If you think about those buckets, how do we make sure we are serving our clients and developing our colleagues to serve those clients? But just as importantly, how do we serve our communities to give us such a phenomenal opportunity for our business and how do we give back to those communities?

“When you think about EY Connect Day, it’s a huge cornerstone to what we do. But it’s not the only thing we do. If I look at all of our colleagues giving back in terms of their time, talent and treasure, it is an important thing and part of the fabric of who we are as a firm.”

Simios adds that it’s critical that when a company does work, the executive team is fully engaged and not worrying about titles.

“It helps people engage at a different level when it’s not about you as the boss,” Simios says. “We’re all in it together. At these opportunities, the titles stay at the door. The main leader of that entrepreneurial exercise I mentioned was the person who had been here a year and not me and not the other partner. We experience people in a different way and it helps engage at a much better level.”