Leadership and Culture: Why I Stay at Vanguard

At Vanguard, we take pride in the unusually long tenure of staff. One of our senior VPs has been here more than 20 years … our chief administrative officer, more than 25. Other senior staff have logged a decade and at least two are at 15+ years.

In the current environment of the Great Resignation, and even before that really, I’ve reflected on why I’ve stayed put. It comes down to two things: leadership and culture. Turns out, those things matter more to me than just about anything else.

When you’ve worked somewhere as long as I’ve worked at Vanguard (16 years and counting), you experience a lot of highs and lows. In both of them, you learn what you’re made of, and what your co-workers are as well. I remember a particularly low point when I made a bad decision that in another company could have cost me my job. Not here. Our leadership used it to teach, not punish.

After the sting of the incident wore off a bit, I asked our president and CEO fairly bluntly, “Why did you stand by me on that?” She replied, “Because our mistakes don’t define us. Our ability to learn from them and move forward does.”

According to Account Supervisor Brittany Vanderpool, this reaction is par for the course. “Even when the going gets tough, we are all always there to support each other. I don’t think that I have ever felt truly alone on a project at Vanguard, which is a really special thing.”

The Importance of Culture

Before that happened, I was already committed to Vanguard because of the way they make me feel about my work and because they appreciate who I am as an individual. A month after I started my job, I became pregnant with my first child. I had not paid my dues — as they say — I had not mastered all the elements of my job, and I was only beginning to build professional and personal relationships with the staff. I was not, therefore, eager to tell my boss that a maternity leave was imminent.

Imagine my surprise when the executive vice president embraced me shortly after the announcement as if it was not going to have an impact on the company at all. “That’s wonderful!” he exclaimed. Months later, he was changing my infant son’s diapers in the office (at Vanguard, employees can bring their babies to work until they are able to crawl). A year ago, he was my son’s confirmation sponsor.

I see these same, deep bonds all around me that reinforce what a special community we have. It’s not just about how we perform from 9 to 5 but our individual personalities and interactions with each other.

“The flexible work environment has been a cornerstone of why I’ve stayed,” says Faith James, senior account manager. “There is no shame in taking time off for health or personal reasons, whatever may be going on in your life.”

The Importance of Fun

One thing that Vanguard does super well is acknowledge milestones.

A few years back, our then-controller became a U.S. citizen. A proud Kiwi and avid golfer, she was delighted when we dressed in red, white and blue and threw her a naturalization party. When she retired just a few years ago, we sent her off at TopGolf, where all of us got in on the fun. Fore!

When two staff members earned their master’s degrees, we gave them a surprise cocktail party to toast their hard work. When we rebranded, our conference room was transformed into a Pacific Island, with beach towels on every chair.

Holiday parties have been observed at Washington, D.C., music venues, and summers are enjoyed at Nationals Park.

Our very own Great Pumpkin never misses a Halloween!

We’ve made gingerbread houses together, teamed up for group trivia and enjoyed a thousand other moments that at the time seemed fun but now are nothing short of precious to me.

The Importance of a Future

Alice Gilley’s Vanguard moments span more than two decades and include special touches like getting treated to massages in the office during a particularly stressful spell and participating in volunteer activities like Toys for Tots. At the same time, however, the senior accounting manager’s loyalty is tied to professional opportunities.

“I feel like there is a consistent evaluation of my career trajectory to make sure I’m doing what makes me happy and what I’m good at,” she says. “I love that I am asked, ‘So, what do you want to do next?’”

She’s not alone.

“In a company like Vanguard, you have the opportunity to work with people at all levels and learn from different leaders and mentors,” adds Vanderpool. “I’ve loved the space to get my feet wet and build new skills without the pressure to be perfect.”

While perfection may not be Vanguard’s goal, having a people-first culture and a responsible leadership is.