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Embracing inclusion: How to retain diverse talent in 2023


In the first of a series on attracting, onboarding and retaining diverse talent, Kayleigh Graham explores the need for a diverse workforce and the steps leaders can take to create inclusive environments and increase retention of their diverse workforce.

17th Jul 2023
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Diversity extends far beyond the traditional understanding of race and gender. It encompasses various dimensions, such as age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic background, and more. These diverse attributes contribute to the richness of perspectives, experiences, and skills within the team.

Why do we need diversity?

In today's landscape, talent shortages and the so-called "talent crunch" have become prevalent. The accounting industry, like many others, faces the temptation to settle for any available workforce, merely aiming to fill vacancies. 

However, the need for a diverse workforce has never been more critical. The accounting field is constantly evolving, rendering outdated the accepted thinking and processes of a decade ago. Automation has transformed the role of accountants into trusted advisers who cater to individuals and businesses worldwide.

In Will Farnell's recent book, The Human Firm, he emphasises the significance of people alongside cutting-edge technology. It is imperative for our organisations to mirror the diverse client base we serve. Diverse teams collaborate in unique ways, fostering quicker problem-solving, continuous innovation, and an innate ability to anticipate and enhance client services.

So, the question arises: how do we attract, onboard, and retain diverse talent? And how can we initiate these efforts right away?

While it feels like starting with attraction seems the most logical approach, if you are not nurturing the diverse talent you already have you will be increasing the risk of losing them. This would then create a sense of resentment for those that get to benefit from the changes you make in the attraction and onboarding areas. 

Here are the four things all leaders should consider:

1. Make your benefits of REAL benefit 

Ensure the benefits offered align with the needs and priorities of a diverse workforce. Conduct surveys or hold discussions to understand the unique needs and preferences of employees from different backgrounds. Tailor benefits packages to address those needs, such as flexible work arrangements, childcare support, professional development opportunities, or mentorship program (not just free beers and a ping pong table - unless that’s what they really want!) 

2. Ask what people want (and give it to them!) 

Actively engage with your team to understand their career aspirations, goals, and preferences. Create an open and transparent communication channel where employees can provide feedback and suggestions. Act on their feedback whenever possible, demonstrating that their voices are valued. A great way to do this is by sharing “you said, we did” stories in your internal meetings/newsletters and giving credit to individuals where appropriate.  

3. Live your values 

Truly and wholeheartedly! Establish a culture that truly embraces diversity and inclusion, not just in words but in actions. Ensure that diversity and inclusion are integrated into all aspects of the firm's operations, including recruitment, performance evaluation, promotions, and decision-making processes. Encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work, fostering an environment where everyone feels respected, valued, and included.

4. Celebrate diversity and cultural events 

Recognise and celebrate diverse cultures, traditions, and important events. If you don’t know where to start, ask your team what important events they celebrate throughout the year and what the team could do to get involved. It’s important here not to set an expectation that those individuals must then organise celebrations but rather that you value their input and want to support. 

Through all of this we can create an environment that appreciates the unique attributes individuals bring to the table. 

Remember, it's not just about ticking boxes or meeting quotas; it's about fostering a culture that embraces diversity and reaps the rewards of varied perspectives and experiences. By implementing just a few of the above, we can ensure we are building thriving accounting firms that not only retain diverse talent but also drive innovation, excellence, and success for all. 

Let's embrace diversity and create a brighter future together.

In this series on embracing inclusion, Kayleigh Graham explores attracting, onboarding and retaining diverse talent.