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The Pyramid of Progress: Creating a culture of staff development

September 10, 2021 4 min read

Our staff’s personal and professional development is one of the most important aspects of our culture. Here’s how we support that development.

Image of hands togetherPicture a pyramid where technical skills form the foundation. Communication skills, which staff must use to share their technical skills effectively with clients to build relationships, come next. As clients become more comfortable and secure in their relationships, staff can better provide insights and solutions related to clients’ business opportunities and challenges. Finally, over time, we reach the pinnacle — the point where clients come to view firm staff as trusted advisors.

We call this our “Pyramid of Progress,” and we challenge our staff to understand where they are on the pyramid and what needs to be done to reach the next level. It’s a way for them to visualize and articulate how well they’re serving our clients and identify opportunities for improvement.

We support and motivate staff on their journey to the top of the pyramid through extensive training and other programs.  


Both new hires and seasoned staff take advantage of ongoing firm-focused and technical trainings geared to specific roles and competencies. We also focus on leadership development training early on, proactively preparing staff for advancement. Trainings are intensely focused, highly interactive, and often include members of the firm’s leadership team. Participants are encouraged to ask tough, candid questions. 

We also offer many optional training courses on time management, public speaking, and conflict management, to name a few examples. If a staff member requests a training we don’t offer, we’ll help identify external training. And, we encourage all staff to share their knowledge gleaned from external trainings with one another in informal settings, such as our popular “lunch-and-learns.” 


Ninety-four percent of our staff said they’re offered training and development opportunities to further themselves professionally.

Programs & policies

In addition to our training programs, many other programs and policies support our culture of staff development.


Buddy & team partner program

Often cited as new staff members’ favorite thing about joining the firm, our Buddy & Team Partner Program pairs each new staff member, including interns, with two experienced staff to oversee their care and career development. Buddies function as a big brother or sister to help newcomers get acclimated, while team partners assist with career coaching, planning, and performance evaluation.


Open door policy

We’re serious about our open door policy. Staff are encouraged to stop in, ask questions, or share concerns with each other anytime. Except for scheduled meetings, even our managing partner’s door is always open.


Candor is kindness

Supervisors and staff members are expected to treat each other with mutual respect and candor, and staff at all levels are encouraged to offer positive, constructive, and immediate feedback.


Innovation groups

Tech-savvy practice staff with ideas about optimizing technology have opportunities to put their heads together and share their thoughts with the firm’s CIO and management team. Often, innovation groups go on to run a pilot of their idea or take ownership of implementation.

Female mentoring programs

Our Women in Leadership initiative champions a popular, 18-month mentoring program that pairs senior-level female associates with female and male partners to provide additional guidance and support along the path to partnership. Beyond formal mentor pairings, participants also have access to training on many personal and professional development topics.


Inclusion & diversity

We provide all staff a do-it-yourself education via a variety of resources — articles, events, trainings, etc. — to help understand cultural differences and become allies and advocates. We want all staff to know they can directly contribute to increasing the retention of our diverse staff — by educating themselves, showing empathy, and creating a shared sense of belonging among all staff members.


Staff resource groups

Plante Moran has four staff resource groups (SRGs) — the African-American SRG, PM Pride (LGBTQ+ staff and allies), the Veterans SRG, and Satellite SRG (remote workers) — designed to serve as a network for staff with a variety of diverse backgrounds by providing a source of networking, camaraderie, and belonging that ultimately maximizes their potential for career development. These groups have been instrumental in retaining talented diverse staff. “These SRGs provide a sense of belonging that’s crucial to keeping talented staff at the firm,” says Inclusion & Diversity Consultant Ashley Parker-Ozier. “I want to welcome diverse staff members and share that sense of community with them in every way that I can—because retention is as important as recruiting. Retention is what helps us build the pipeline of diverse leaders to provide the representation our industry desperately needs.”


As you can see, our staff’s personal and professional development is one of the most important aspects of our culture. Our firm was founded on the belief that successful organizations develop, coach, mentor, and reward staff. And it pays off: According to the 2020 Great Place to Work survey — the basis for Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, which we’ve been on for 24 years running — 93% of our staff said they’re offered training and development opportunities to further themselves professionally.

So how about you? How will you progress up your pyramid of progress? Check out our open opportunities today. 

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