When thinking about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, we seek to address a core question - are my assumptions holding my business back?
Diverse companies outperform those that are not – the data is unequivocal. Research indicates that innovation and creativity are 20% greater in companies with a diverse workforce, with risk identification increased by 30%. Separate research suggests that a company is up to eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes with an inclusive company culture.
The basis of the Praxity Alliance is collaborating and solving problems across borders, using each other’s expertise to find new solutions. This is impossible without a degree of diversity, which gives the collective experience substance and depth. If you know your firm’s strengths and weaknesses, you can assess what you need to find elsewhere, and what you can offer as part of a broader alliance. This is a source of real power when achieving your aims.
Whoever you are, inbuilt biases and assumptions will follow you and if not analysed and confronted, may affect how your organisation performs. While there is a moral case for honestly assessing and exploring these aspects, they are also a matter for business. Operating to your best potential means being attractive to a diverse range of talent, with optimum performance dependent on their engagement with your mission.
Running your organisation according to DEI principles can give you access to a wider range of talent and a diversity of thought, allowing you to solve problems more easily and innovate more effectively. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are often framed as a code of conduct and as a problem area, but they are as much a business strategy as anything. Pushing past discomfort and getting to the heart of why all this matters can give you a better idea of how your business can succeed. Including a range of people is fraught with subtle challenges and to explore and manage them requires sincere work. However, leaning into the difficulties and getting involved in the details pays dividends. Examining your company culture and affecting change, rather than just complying with legislation, is likely to put you at a serious advantage, both with your teams and in the perception from outside.
Action on DEI encompasses three poles:
Diversity encompasses all the ways that people can be different from, or similar to, each other. It is important that an organisation has access to a wide array of people and perspectives. Offering real and continuing opportunities to people with different characteristics, especially from communities that are underrepresented, gives a company a diverse base.
Equity refers to the outcomes that opportunity and advancement bring, free from suppression or exclusion. This ensures that everyone in an organisation has a stake in its success. It allows for fair access to resources, promotes justice and removes barriers and privilege. Equity is an outcome of diversity, rather than an initiative.
Inclusion means building a safe environment where everyone feels welcomed. An inclusive workplace means that difference is respected, while any intolerance or discrimination is treated seriously. All employees should feel that they can contribute and will be treated appropriately, whatever the facets of their identity.
The landscape and relevance of these areas will differ widely across territories, but almost all will have some bearing on your workplace and personnel. Action should be thought to encourage positive outcomes in the first instance, rather than framing as punishment for non-compliance.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion do not exist separately from each other, neither do the different parts of a person’s identity. There is significant overlap and intersectionality. If we attempt to define a representative or average person, we can see that the whole of your team will be difficult to define based on a reductive characteristic. It’s also true to say that while some differences are self-evident, some can be entirely invisible, undisclosed or even undiagnosed.
How Can Accountancy Firms Take the Lead?
Diversity is built into business, but inclusion is up to us.
Praxity Alliance members are already working across borders and across a huge range of industries. By employing strategies to help develop and maintain this diverse workforce, many member firms are currently leading the race to include diverse voices and innovating in their field.
On a broad strategic level, Moss Adams in the USA report in-depth data about different diversity metrics, with a five-year plan based around what they call their 5 Bold Commitments:
- Foster a greater sense of belonging
- Have representation of diverse talent at all levels
- Instil accountability and transparency on inclusion and diversity efforts
- Build equitable structures, processes and practices
- Invest in our communities
These commitments are embedded in strategy, with the firm emphasising their I&D framework. This seeks to give clarity and support, along with improving information sharing throughout the company.
At a more specific level, MNP in Canada have earned Bronze level certification from the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) programme, demonstrating a commitment to equitable relations with Indigenous Canadian communities:
The PAR certification confirms corporate performance in Indigenous relations and recognises companies who are committed to being good business partners with Indigenous-owned businesses, recognise the value that Indigenous people bring to the workplace, and who promote the potential of Indigenous communities.
With a wide range of imperatives to assess and track DEI, Praxity Alliance members can look to each other for guidance and experience, with case studies and impact analyses readily available.
Diversity of Thought, Unity of Purpose
DEI principles are something of a journey without a finish line - the investigation is the point. Exploring these areas encourages constant growth and demonstrating commitment to the task inspires confidence in the leadership of your business. Furthermore, new direction and inspiration can be found in the search.
In many ways, addressing these aspects is unavoidable. Utilising your talent base means that you will necessarily encounter a wide range of people, and ensuring they feel included in company culture is crucial. A team that feels they have a stake in decisions and that they are integral is more likely to respond well to pressure. Promoting a diverse workforce and ensuring your teams can grow into their roles can help you attract and retain talent, making you a more attractive place to work. Joining up the dots between what your business is, how it interacts with the rest of the industry and how it behaves internally can unlock your full potential.
People with different skills have value to offer and combining these skillsets across different teams can give you a broad base from which to pull your expertise. Tapping this resource enriches your business offering and gives you incredible flexibility and resilience when addressing problems and innovating. When we explore this, we begin to unearth the real purpose of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - a diversity of thought and opinion, ready to turn its hive mind to any problem you may encounter. Your organisation is more ready for the future, more able to access top talent and more able to think clearly.
Collaborating Across Divides
Having leadership that really values Diversity, Equity and Inclusion makes your firm more robust, able to both resist and harness changes in the market. Having cultural sensitivity and being aware of the world outside your immediate milieu will feed a strong vision and inspire commitment to your business aims. To make DEI part of your mission means that you can introspect honestly and courageously, look at shortcomings and successes, think about what can be done to improve things and communicate that effectively.
Putting together a firm that welcomes all people makes your business stronger. DEI should be a crucial part of your planning, showing that you want to promote growth, measure resilience and remain agile. Exploring who you hire, how they thrive and why that matters puts DEI measures in context, and any firm adequately exploring DEI will be at the forefront of rapid change.