True Diversity: The Next Frontier for the Accounting Industry

Understanding the Business Case for Diversity

Workplace diversity may best be described as the blend of individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, and behaviors — all coming together to achieve a company’s vision.

Vision is an important concept for small businesses. There are multiple definitions of the word: the sense of sight, a thought or perception, an apparition, even an amazingly beautiful image. But in a business context, a vision is a future-focused statement about what an organization intends to become.

In pondering the common thread of these definitions, it becomes apparent that we “see” things based on our own experiences and perceptions. We may not even notice things that are outside our individual frame of reference. As our perceptions define our reality, they will undoubtedly be the framework for any vision of the future we may have. Following this logic, our vision for our business is limited by our own previous experience and preconceived notions. It’s difficult to grow, and near impossible to innovate, when you continue to do the things you’ve always done, the way you’ve always done them.

Yet when we hire, we tend to gravitate toward people who are just like us. We look for the qualities in others that have made us successful. But success is a moving target, and to stay in the game, we need to keep up. To not limit ourselves to what we already know, we need to surround ourselves with people who have had different experiences.

Diversity Drives Performance

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that traditionally underrepresented minority populations will hit majority status by 2044, and the business case for attracting a more diverse workforce will only get stronger. While it’s important that your employees can relate well to your customer base, diversity is not only about reflecting the country’s demographics. It’s also about driving performance.

McKinsey & Company reports that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. They go on to cite that, “Companies in the bottom quartile both for gender and for ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in the data set (that is, bottom-quartile companies are lagging rather than merely not leading).”

Workplace diversity allows for different perspectives and, therefore, new ideas to come forward. Members of diverse teams learn firsthand that not everyone processes things the same way — or even thinks the same way they do. The acceptance of these differences can lead them to question their own assumptions, anticipate alternative points of view, and create new concepts.

A Different Fit

The recruiting and talent management industry spends a lot of time and effort discussing culture fit. Well before Zappos and Southwest Airlines took center stage in the cultural conversation, human resources professionals were talking about culture development and how that plays a role in business performance. You can’t be in HR, or be an entrepreneur for that matter, and not hear that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” But fitting into a corporate culture doesn’t require you to be just like everyone else. In fact, that’s often the very thing that holds organizations back as they journey toward success.

The recruiting team at HireEffect is committed to helping our clients hire the right people who really fit their business. We pride ourselves on understanding our clients’ needs, both in skills and in character. As an accounting business, too, we are very familiar with the team dynamic and the requirements around being able to work collaboratively and congenially.

We have a client, a small CPA firm in New York City, that needed to hire a new accountant. As we prepared for the search, we learned that the four partners had all been with the firm for more than 22 years, and most of the employees were either family members or close friends. While the firm is quite successful, the partners recognized that to move toward their vision of truly exceeding industry standards, they needed to change things up a bit. Fishing from the same pond doesn’t generally provide you much variety, and they came to us for help.

We encouraged them to revolutionize their candidate selection process and challenge their beliefs around what makes a great employee. We helped them see the strengths in diversity, evaluate the competencies required for the role, and assess the gap in skills. Once we identified the necessary attributes, we expanded the parameters of the search and found someone with a background that was complementary, rather than identical, to those already on the team.

Fast-forward. Our candidate loves her job, the partners could not be more pleased with her work, and most importantly, their clients are reaping the benefits of multiplicity in the process.

A Global World

With global mobility and multiculturalism in the workplace becoming the norm, more diverse companies are achieving better performance. Yet we can all do more to take advantage of the growth opportunity that diverse teams represent. Attracting, developing, and retaining the next generation of diverse employees at all levels of the organization will undoubtedly increase your chances for growth.

Once you align your values and define your expectations, your goals get adjusted and your sights get set even higher. You’re empowered to stretch beyond your comfort zone to realize them. It’s at this intersection of varying experience where innovation and development happen. With a clear vision, diversity in experience, and positive leadership and communication, business success is inevitable.

Sources for this article included: (1) Vivian Hunt, Dennis Layton, and Sara Prince. “Why Diversity Matters.” McKinsey & Company, Jan. 2015. Web. (2) Society for Human Resource Management. “Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Gets Innovative” Society for Human Resource Management, 2017. Web.


Originally published on CPA Trendlines.

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