Emily Cotton was in her second day on the job at the Analysis Group — fresh out of college — when an executive asked her an unexpected question: Had she thought about graduate school yet?
From the moment Cotton joined the Boston consulting firm in 2005, she said, colleagues have gone out of their way to give her valuable advice and guidance in advancing her career.
Several co-workers, for instance, helped her prepare applications for business school. The company paid much of the tab for her to attend the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. And when she returned after getting her MBA, co-workers helped her take on new kinds of projects to broaden her skills. She is now an associate at the firm.
“Everyone is willing to help,” says Cotton. “It’s really not a competitive place.”
For five years in a row, Analysis Group has climbed onto the Globe’s Top Places to Work list. This year it ranks as the number one large company.
In the survey, workers consistently praised the collegial culture at the company, which focuses on providing economic analysis and expert witness testimony to law firms in complex cases — ranging from securities fraud to patent infringement.
The privately held firm, founded in 1981, has 10 offices across North America, including its Boston headquarters. The firm also has 600 employees, about half of whom are located in Massachusetts.
One of the key ways the company has tried to recruit and retain talented workers is by continually helping them advance.
“It’s an investment,” said Chris Coffin, vice president of human resources. “We are constantly getting a return.”
For example, the company immediately assigns new employees both a peer mentor — someone their age to answer questions — and a senior adviser, who can provide career guidance.
Analysis Group also prides itself on helping employees prepare for graduate school, holding workshops on how to apply and study for the entrance examinations. And when workers agree to return to the company after grad school — as about a third wind up doing — Analysis Group typically agrees to pay for roughly half the tuition. The company offers the benefit to workers it hopes to retain; in exchange, employees promise to return after they earn their degree and stay for at least a year.
Coffin said employees have gone on to study at an array of prestigious business schools. And word about the program has already filtered back to colleges, helping Analysis recruit new graduates.
“We see that as a distinguishing factor,” Coffin said.
Analysis Group chief executive Martha Samuelson said she thinks there are other reasons, too, why the company has repeatedly made the Globe’s Top Places list.
For one, she said, the company is committed to treating everyone at the firm with respect — no matter their tenure or department. The firm regularly asks workers to review their supervisors and colleagues so it can quickly be alerted if that is not happening.
And Samuelson said the company is equally committed to giving workers bonuses when they hit their goals and extra assistance when they are falling short.
“We really try to reward achievement,” Samuelson said. “We don’t have a tenure system or treat everyone the same.”
And, of course, the company is committed to helping workers climb the corporate ladder.
The company also provides partial tuition reimbursement for workers to take other classes. And it routinely invites economists and other outside speakers to give talks to workers. Recent speakers have included New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Duke University economist Andrew Sweeting.
“I’m an economist nerd,” Cotton confesses. “I always go to those.”