How diverse and inclusive is your accountancy firm?
70% of accountants surveyed by Public Practice Recruitment Ltd recently confirmed that their firm had a diversity and inclusion strategy.
This is perhaps a reassuring message following recent press releases accusing Top 4 accountancy firms of being elitist.
It’s perhaps true that bigger isn’t always better, as our diversity and inclusion survey results paint an overall positive picture within small to medium accountancy firms — 80% of respondents felt that they belonged within their firm.
However, some would argue that the 10% of accountants who felt that they didn’t belong in their organisation, from a diversity and inclusion perspective, means that there is still room for improvement.
Diversity and inclusion have moved from being a tickbox exercise to becoming embedded in a firm’s culture. However, if even one person feels isolated and doesn’t belong, then indeed, there is still work to be done.
Diversity and inclusion strategies within accountancy firms
Public Practice Recruitment Ltd recently conducted a survey to understand an accountant’s view of how diverse and inclusive their accountancy firm is.
The view of the employees is a great gauge for understanding the reality of diversity and inclusion in firms.
When asked if the participant’s employer had a diversity and inclusion strategy, the Public Practice Recruitment Ltd survey resulted in a resounding yes, with only 30% of respondents saying ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’.
Whilst there is clearly still room for improvement, the reported and obvious existence of diversity and inclusion strategies was a positive start, and the positivity didn’t end there.
Actively promoting diversity and inclusion in accountancy firms
With 70% of accountants reporting their awareness of a diversity and inclusion strategy, it was also positive to find that 70% also felt that it was actively promoted within their organisation.
However, 15% of those who reported a diversity and inclusion strategy still felt that it was not actively promoted within their business, inferring that diversity and inclusion still don’t make it past the boardroom agenda for some firms.
As accountants seek jobs where they can feel included and listened to and priorities change post-pandemic, it’s likely that they will look more favourably on those firms that practice what they preach.
A designated person or team responsible for diversity and inclusion in the accountancy firm
Going a step further, we wanted to understand who is responsible for diversity and inclusion in an accountancy firm.
Interestingly, only 50% of accountant’s surveyed reported a specific person or team responsible for diversity and inclusion within their company.
When looking for your next move, an excellent question to ask in an interview might now be, “do you have a designated person responsible for diversity and inclusion within the firm?”. This should give you a more accurate picture of how diverse and inclusive a practice is.
Diversity and inclusion goals and objectives in accountancy firms
For an accountant to feel that a strategy is taken seriously, it’s essential to have goals and objectives. For those accountants that don’t feel represented, it can be the difference between a tickbox exercise and feeling truly represented within an organisation.
When asked whether their firm had set goals and objectives for its diversity and inclusion strategy, only half of the respondents felt there were goals and objectives for diversity and inclusion within their business.
Openly reporting on diversity and inclusion performance in accountancy firms
Furthermore, we saw a further reduction when we asked accountants whether their firms actively reported on diversity and inclusion.
Less than half of those surveyed (45%) confirmed that although their firms had a diversity and inclusion strategy, they did not openly report on its performance against goals and objectives.
Reporting is an excellent way for organisations to show their progress and commitment to diversity and inclusion, and accountants may lean towards firms that show accountability.
An accountancy firm that values a diverse workforce
Setting aside strategies for a minute, surely the true view of whether a company is inclusive and values diversity is how its people feel on a day-to-day basis?
In response to this question, a resounding 80% of accountants felt that their firm valued a diverse workforce.
A good measure of this is firms that create and request input from representative groups within their workforce. For smaller businesses, this may just mean getting input from all staff members or all departments.
For larger firms with more employees, this could be forming sub-groups of diverse representative groups and involving them in strategy and performance planning and reviews.
Accountancy firm leaders and managers that are capable of effectively managing a diverse workforce
Respondents also felt that their leaders and managers were highly capable, with 80% either agreeing or strongly agreeing.
It has long been said that diversity and inclusion have to come from the top and be a priority for those with direct reports.
Do accountancy firms treat all employees fairly?
65% of accountants who completed the survey agreed that their firms treated all employees fairly.
However, that does leave 20% who refrained from commenting and 10% who strongly disagreed, which is perhaps a concern or certainly a marker for improvement.
This question may be viewed as subjective as different individuals will have a different opinion on what fairness is. However, firms that have consistent processes governed and managed impartially are most likely to have a fair level of treatment across all employees.
Employees within an accountancy firm have an equal chance of success and progression
Although a large proportion of respondents, some 70%, felt that everyone within the firm had an equal chance of succession and progression, 10% of accountants felt the opposite.
It can be challenging if you feel that you get passed up for progression even though you work hard. It can also be why accountants move to an accountancy firm that they feel provides those chances for all employees on a level playing field.
All employees within the accountancy firm are given the opportunity to train, develop and improve their skills and capabilities
The same can be said of training, with 70% either strongly agreeing or agreeing that their employer has no barriers to training and development.
Look closer, though, and 10% of those surveyed reported feeling the opposite, perhaps painting a picture of the reality of diversity and inclusion within accountancy firms.
All employees within the accountancy firm treat each other with respect
The same figure, 70%, felt that their accountancy practice had a team that treated each other with respect.
10% didn’t agree.
A diverse group of leaders/managers within accountancy firms
Raising the bar a little, 75% of participants agreed that they had a diverse group of leaders.
Is this the reason why accountancy firms in this survey are receiving such a positive response?
Is the key to a true diversity and inclusion strategy placing the responsibility of embedding it in the hands of a more diverse group of leaders?
15% of respondents reported feeling that the leaders and managers within their organisation need to be from a more diverse group. This could just be down to the fact that they worked for smaller organisations where the law of averages says that there is likely to be less diversity.
Whatever the reasons, asking for an organisation chart and questioning where managers and leaders have come from will give a strong indicator of how diverse the leadership team is within an organisation.
Treating discrimination of any kind, seriously
80% of accountants reported that discrimination was treated seriously, with 20% feeling neutral on the subject and 5% strongly disagreeing.
Separate from any diversity and inclusion policies, it’s crucial to report discrimination and be taken seriously. Accountants wouldn’t be expected to stay with a firm where this isn’t the case.
Thoughts and ideas are listened to and valued by the accountancy firm
70% of participants also felt listened to and valued, which is a strong indication that diversity and inclusion strategies within accountancy practices are working in reality.
For 5%, though, this was a strong point of contention.
Accountants feel that they belong in their accountancy firm
80% of accountants surveyed felt that they belonged, with only 10% reporting the opposite.
A positive picture for accountants and the firms they work with; it seems the industry, at least in this survey, is making real strides towards a diverse and inclusive workforce.
For that 10% that consistently felt the opposite, though, they’ll no doubt be looking to the 80% of other firms that will listen to them and allow them to feel like they belong.
How to find an accountancy firm with a diverse and inclusive workforce
It can be challenging to understand whether a firm is truly diverse and inclusive, so it’s worth considering the following:
- Partner with an accountancy recruiter that can answer questions about a practice’s diversity and inclusion strategy.
- Check employee reviews for the company online.
- Ask whether the firm has a person designated for diversity and inclusion.
- Consider the diversity you can see and hear. Are the leaders and managers from a diverse background?
If you don’t feel you belong, it’s always best to discuss this with your manager. If you feel that it can’t be resolved and you’re ready for a new challenge, Public Practice Recruitment Ltd can work with you to find your next accountancy job.
Are you looking for an accountancy job?
If you’re looking for accountancy jobs, we’d encourage you to get in touch.
We have a tremendous track record of introducing you (anonymously) to our long-term clients by highlighting your skills and attributes in line with each firm’s needs.
We will handle your job search for an accountancy role with the strictest confidence and sensitivity.
Call Public Practice Recruitment Ltd today for a confidential chat on 03335 777 787 or upload your CV here.