Diversity and inclusion as a management priority in accountancy firms

Diversity and inclusion as a management priority in accountancy firms

60% of accountants with management responsibilities within accountancy firms said that their practice had a diversity and inclusion strategy in a recent Public Practice Recruitment Ltd survey. 

Overall, there is a positive picture of diversity and inclusion within the accountancy firms of those surveyed, but only 50% of participant’s marked it as a strategic priority.

As work/life balance priorities have shifted for accountants, and the industry struggles to attract the volume of new trainee accountants required, firms may need to re-prioritise diversity and inclusion as a strategy to attract and retain top talent.

From ensuring you have a designated person responsible for diversity and inclusion to openly reporting on progress — there are quick wins to embed diversity and inclusion in your firm. 

Accountancy firms and diversity and inclusion strategies

Almost two-thirds of accountants with management responsibilities agreed that they had a diversity and inclusion strategy in place. 

This leaves a gaping hole of 40% who either do not or aren’t aware of a diversity and inclusion strategy, which doesn’t bode well either way in terms of attracting and retaining top talent.

Diversity and inclusion as a strategic priority

The lack of a diversity and inclusion strategy is perhaps because it isn’t seen as a strategic priority (with only half of participants indicating it was). 

As top accountants are in short supply and demand for accountancy services rises, a firm’s employee value proposition becomes vital. Diversity and inclusion are central to a forward-thinking firm’s employee value proposition and ability to attract qualified accountants.

A designated person or team responsible for diversity and inclusion strategy and performance

One of the key correlations Public Practice Recruitment Ltd saw with those accountants that felt like they belonged within a firm is a designated person or team responsible for diversity and inclusion. 

Accountants with management responsibility reported a different picture, though, with only 40% of those surveyed saying there was a person in charge of diversity inclusion. 

Whether you designate a diversity and inclusion champion or the role sits with HR, it’s clear that having someone with accountability results in happier employees.

Reasons why accountancy firms have a diversity and inclusion strategy

Making it clear why you have a diversity and inclusion strategy also seems essential, as 35% of respondents didn’t know. 

Those that did, pointed to legal and compliance and improving talent acquisition as the reason. 

Whether it’s regulatory pressure or talent acquisition that accelerates diversity and inclusion as a priority, we mustn’t forget customer expectation. 

Only 5% of participants selected customer expectation as a reason for a diversity and inclusion strategy. 

However, as customers social responsibility pressures increase, the choice to use your firm may come down to how diverse, and inclusive your business is.

Clear and communicated diversity and inclusion goals and objectives

Only two in five accountants with management responsibilities strongly agreed or agreed that their firm clearly communicated goals and objectives, making it difficult for those with direct reports to work towards them. 

No matter how small, assigning goals and objectives can help those with management responsibility to take them seriously and embed them into the department.

My company openly reports on performance and progress towards diversity and inclusion goals and objectives

65% of accountants with management responsibilities didn’t feel that the company openly reports on performance and progress towards diversity and inclusion goals and objectives.

It’s sometimes difficult to find time for every report, especially in a busy practice, but we all take a new strategy more seriously when we can see progress. 

For those from a more diverse background, this can be an accurate indicator that they not only belong but that the firm they work with is actively trying to work towards an inclusive future.

Gathering data on diversity and inclusion areas

60% of participants reported that they don’t even record basic data on diversity and inclusion.

In order to report on progress, it is important to record data on specific elements of diversity inclusion. Accountants that participated in this recent survey only reported gathering data in two areas: 

  • Data required to meet compliance and regulation requirements.
  • Diversity-and-inclusion-related employee performance.

There are other areas that can be recorded, including gender status, academic and social background, ethnicity, and many others. 

As this recent Harvard Business article discusses, data can be used to empower change through accountability.

Responsibility for diversity and inclusion

In terms of accountability, having a dedicated person to manage diversity and inclusion can accelerate progress — only 30% of those surveyed had someone to do this.

The rest said that responsibility sat with directors, HR, and senior management.

The diversity and inclusion strategy within my company is helping to create a more inclusive workplace

In reality, the true indicator that a diversity and inclusion strategy is working is the result — is the workplace inclusive? 

40% of accountants with responsibilities either strongly agreed or agreed that it is, which is a good indicator that having a strategy, reporting on results, and ensuring you have a dedicated person works.

Directors and leaders with diversity and inclusion training

The success of a strategy correlated with the 40% of accountancy firms where their leaders had diversity and inclusion training. 

Diversity and inclusion is an ever-evolving landscape, which requires the support of professional bodies for guidance. It’s acceptable not to know and to seek advice.

Diversity and inclusion affinity groups (BAME, L.G.B.T.Q.I.A+, and working parent/carers) to support diversity and inclusion goals and objectives

Not surprisingly, there was also a link between diversity and inclusion success and firms that had worked with affinity groups. 

Working with affinity groups can be key to understanding the barriers to inclusion within the workplace and helps the firm understand how to effect change.

Actively seeking the diverse opinions and ideas of its employees

The positive result of this survey is that 70% of firms sought the opinions and ideas of employees. 

After all, if you’d like to know more about barriers, it’s best to talk to your team. 

Diversity and inclusion as a barrier to progression and promotion 

Although 50% of participants disagreed that diversity and inclusion were barriers to progression and promotion, 40% did. 

The reality is that for an accountancy firm to become inclusive, they need to show diversity in senior positions and actively report on this inclusion. 

It’s also important to remember that diversity is vast and can include gender status, ethnicity, parental status, and many more.

Diversity and inclusion integrated throughout all departments 

40% of accountants with management responsibilities surveyed agreed that diversity and inclusion were integrated throughout departments.

Key takeaways for accountant firms

Although developing a diversity and inclusion strategy is an excellent starting point, to reap the rewards of a diverse and inclusive workplace, firms could consider: 

  • Designating a diversity and inclusion champion.
  • Training senior managers and working with affinity groups.
  • Making diversity and inclusion goals and objectives clear and reporting on progress.
  • Actively assessing diversity and inclusion as a barrier to promotion.
  • Seeking opinions and ideas from team members.

Are you recruiting for an accountancy position?

If you are looking to recruit for your accountancy practice, Public Practice Recruitment Ltd can help. 

Exclusively developed for the accountancy industry, our professional accountancy recruitment team will seek the highest calibre of candidate for your role, so you’ll be confident they will actively contribute to the success of your accountancy firm.

Call Public Practice Recruitment Ltd today on 03335 777 787 to discover how we can support you. 

 

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