In recent years, diversity and inclusion have received more attention in accounting firms, but they’re issues our profession has been grappling with for a long time. Unfortunately, diversity is often seen as a threat rather than a strength. We must do better. This isn’t just an issue for law enforcement or legislators—it’s one accounting firm leaders are responsible for addressing daily.
The following seven steps can help your firm work toward sustainable inclusion.
Step 1: Commit to engaging in uncomfortable conversations
Many organizations would rather stay silent than risk alienating some clients by voicing their commitment to fighting racial injustice. However, if putting out an anti-racist statement would alienate your clients, what kind of client base is that? What does it tell other potential clients and employees about the type of company you are?
Step 2: Listen
Most firm leaders aren’t well-versed in racial injustice and best practices for creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Fortunately, you don’t have to have all the answers. Instead, focus on providing a safe forum for employees to express their feelings and concerns. It can be helpful to engage external experts to facilitate these conversations.
Step 3: Destigmatize bias
Everybody is biased. No human, living or dead, has never harbored an unconscious assumption that kept them from building an authentic relationship with someone of a different gender, race, skin color, socioeconomic background, education level or ability.
When you identify and owning those biases, you can control knee-jerk reactions, conquer your fears of the unknown and overcome closed-mindedness. Then you can be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.
Check out Harvard’s Implicit Association Tests for help uncovering your implicit biases—the results might surprise you.
Step 4: Practice empathetic listening
Empathetic listening involves focusing on the person and engaging with what they are saying. It’s about more than simply recognizing their words—it’s about understanding the feelings and emotions behind their words.
To engage in empathetic listening, you paraphrase what you hear from the other person, summarize the content of their message, then check for accuracy.
For example, say an employee confides they’re having issues with a manager. Don’t immediately explain what you think they’re doing wrong or offer suggestions to resolve the conflict. Instead, say something like, “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying. You feel you didn’t receive a positive evaluation because of your ethnicity. Is that correct?”
Even if you disagree with the other person’s take on the situation, empathetic listening ensures they feel heard and understood.
Step 5: Strengthen your inclusion efforts
It’s easy to find excuses to put diversity and inclusion initiatives on the backburner—a worldwide pandemic, busy season, economic uncertainty, hiring challenges. But now is not the time to put these initiatives on hold. Instead, continue to examine your firm culture to ensure you’re strategically working to create a fair and inclusive workplace.
Step 6: Recognize your diverse perspectives
People come to the workplace with various perspectives. Some might believe justice requires immediate action. Others are loyal to the current system. Still others fall somewhere in the middle.
You can support peaceful protests for civil rights and acknowledge the history of racial injustice in our country without disrespecting or blaming people with different perspectives.
Step 7: Develop an action plan
Don’t just make a statement on social media or look for one or two simple things you can do. Commit to digging into fairness, justice and equity and develop an action plan to really make a difference.
We are all unique and want to bring our authentic selves to work. When you create sustainable inclusion in your firm, you allow your people to be their authentic selves at work and increase success across your firm.
Do you need help with your firm’s hiring and talent strategy?
Boomer Talent Consulting can help you get clarity on your firm’s most critical talent objectives and create a go-forward strategy suited to your firm’s unique needs. Schedule a discovery call today to begin implementing an organizational structure that is positioned and accelerating into the future.
As the Marketing Manager for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Heather’s primary focus is on developing the firm’s marketing strategy and brand awareness to help drive business results. She manages and executes marketing and business development initiatives, with daily oversight of the website, social media, and thought leadership content. In addition, as a part of the Business Development team, she provides leadership and strategic planning on marketing and communication practices for the firm.