March 2, 2018
BEST PLACES TO WORK IN CONNECTICUT 2018

#2 Small/Medium Company Category: Nicola Yester's 'Innovation Lab' gives all employees a say

Nicola Yester

CT Headquarters: Glastonbury

Industry: Accounting

Website: www.nicola-yester.com

Top CT Executive: Norman J. Yester, President

Nicola Yester's Innovation Lab is becoming one of the best ways to help employees have a direct impact at the Glastonbury accounting firm.

"Our first Lab will be redoing our kitchen to become a more creative space and have Millennial appeal to staff and clients," says Laura Steiner, firm administrator. "Everyone's input is encouraged. We turned it into a contest and offered a $25 Visa card if any part of someone's idea is chosen."

The Lab was inspired as a way to keep aligned with the firm's goals and strategic plan to develop a "one firm" concept. All staff participates, even partners.

"It could be as simple as looking at a task that we do and streamlining it," explains Steiner. "Areas of focus can be transforming day-to-day operations or discovering new value."

With more than 30 years as an accounting service provider, Nicola Yester is looking toward the future.

"We are working as a group to have a younger staff as well as attract Millennial clients," says Tessa Jordan, who joined Nicola Yester in 2011 and is now the newest and the youngest partner. She says the 21-person firm plans to grow and add new accountants entering the workforce.

"They can bring a fresh perspective," she explained.

"They have some pretty great ideas," added Steiner. "It's important they are happy and we want them to grow with the firm."

New employees readying for the Certified Public Accountant exam are given paid time to study, money for materials and two days off to prepare.

And the perks don't end there.

"We really try to have flexibility in our work-life balance," says Jordan.

That means half-day Fridays in the summer, healthy snacks all year, work-from-home opportunities, a "dress for your day" culture, individualized career paths and encouragement to take a walk on company time. To create a sense of community and a charity, employees volunteer as a group at the Manchester Soup Kitchen and collect art supplies for Connecticut Children's Medical Center, among other programs.

Then comes tax season, with extended hours and lots of research.

"They can be some really long days," Steiner says.

So, the firm brings in dinners at least twice a week to help compensate for those 10-hour work days. Employees are treated to free-lunch Fridays and participate in spontaneous activities to alleviate stress, like tax season Olympics with silly games like "How fast can you work your calculator?"

"It breaks up the day a bit," says Jordan.

The company revisits its benefits and perks during annual evaluations with staff, during upward reviews and even has a comment box for things the staff wants to keep, change or newly implement.

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