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Strategies for promoting diversity and inclusion Logo aicpa

  Lucinda Harper |   Free |   AICPA |   17 Jan 2017 |   CPA Insider

This article shares a few general guidelines to follow when trying to make your business more diverse and inclusive.

Topics covered:
  • Management accounting: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Employee benefit plan auditing: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Governmental auditing: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Financial accounting & reporting: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Assurance: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Not-for-profit: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • IT management & assurance: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Firm practice management: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Tax: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Forensic & valuation services: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Fair value measurement: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate
  • Personal financial planning: Leadership: Team building, Intermediate

1 Comments/Reflections

Jason Sweeney

Jason Sweeney Feb 2017

The issue of diversity and inclusion is a topic which goes back centuries, with the subject matter often leading to a polarisation of views. Nevertheless, it is an area that businesses accept should play an important part in their strategic thinking.

The articles reviewed offered some insight into the strategies companies are implementing around this area and how tangible benefits can be realised; although it may be regarded as morally questionable to underpin a diversity and inclusion strategy around the financial benefits. From a pragmatic perspective a company's prime directive is to generate wealth for its shareholders, so it may be argued that if the cultural diversity of a company is improving, does it matter if the strategy is driven by financial reasons?


Improved Service Delivery: Organisations who employ staff from a varied social, racial and economic background will have access to a wide range of skills, knowledge and experience, thus they will be better placed to serve the needs of their clients.

Attracting Quality Staff: Potential employees will be attracted to the companies they believe will treat them fairly and be part of an inclusive and diverse workforce. This attraction will increase the pool of talent made available to the organisation.

Lower Staff Turnover: When it comes to it a company with a revolving door on recruitment i.e., staff leaving and being replaced, will likely be at a disadvantage to a competitor who has a stable workforce. From a soft tissue knowledge perspective staff will over time build up a good level of knowledge about the company they work for. Often this knowledge is not written down or quantifiable in terms of saying step one is followed by step two. This soft tissue knowledge will be more a case of, "oh yeah, this happened last year, the best way to deal with is...." This experience can result in a more efficient and effective business, which meets the needs of its customers.

A high staff turnover means this experience is less likely to be gained by individual staff.

A diverse and inclusive workforce can play a significant part in staff retention.

Better Reflect Communities: A workforce which mirrors the population will be better placed to reach out and connect with the population and thus its customers.

Increased Revenue: The 2015 McKinsey study found that companies in the top quantile for racial and ethnic diversity generate revenue 35% greater than the industry median.


As can be said with most if not all strategies, the success or failure of an intended strategy is heavily influenced by the board. The implementation of a strategy to improve the diversity of a company's workforce has to be driven from the top down.

The CEO or equivalent should be continually communicating the message to the workforce. A message which sets out what the company is trying to achieve and the steps it is taking to achieve its aims.

The CEO will need to lead by example, for instance, does the composition of senior managers reflect the population?

The CEO needs to ensure that robust controls are in place around recruitment policies, with attention being paid to a fair assessment scoring system.

Possible Strategies

Attending Student Conferences: Promoting internships.

Engaging with Schools: Attending schools to promote the accountancy profession, particularly schools located in minority heavy areas.

Collaborating with Other Organisations: The sharing of views and ideas can help to generate new strategies and identify what is or isn't working.

Measuring Success

Recruitment: Percentage increase in staff from minorities

Staff Survey's: Do staff feel included?


Companies have invested billions of pounds in an attempt to demonstrate their commitment to CSR. The issue of diversity and inclusion could be regarded as a "Social" issue. So while investment has been made in relation to CSR, investment has historically focused on environmental issues. At no time should the sustainability and environmental issues be pushed aside, but companies just need to be mindful of their responsibility to promote diverse and inclusive societies.