Diversity & inclusion is imperative now and always

By Crystal Cooke, Director - Diversity & Inclusion, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

McKinsey's Delivering through diversity report reveals that companies with the most gender diversity on the executive team are 21 percent more likely to outperform in profitability. Include ethnic and cultural diversity and that figure jumps to 33 percent.

Diversity and inclusion is more than just policy.

Putting diversity and inclusion into practice means understanding and supporting people from different backgrounds and walks of life.

Identifying actions to collectively practice requires setting goals. And if you put your diversity and inclusion goals on the back burner now, you run the risk of losing momentum of the gains you’ve worked so hard to achieve over the years.

It’s important to continue efforts to foster a sense of inclusion, especially during times like COVID-19. Understanding the growing concerns that the pandemic is placing on marginalized groups and how your employees may be impacted is imperative.

Create and nurture a work environment that supports diversity and inclusion.

  1. Encourage open communication consistently.

    Building an inclusive team requires creating a safe space where every voice is heard — even the voices of dissent. Improving the quality of products and business operations involves proactively seeking various opinions. You must provide opportunity and encourage authentic conversations on important issues, challenges, and initiatives that impact your employees and customers. 

  2. Invest in diversity and inclusion training. 

    Diversity training is designed to reduce discrimination and create positive interactions, by demonstrating what unconscious biases and discrimination looks like in a workplace; encouraging mindfulness of personal biases; and offering strategies for what to do if you experience discrimination or observe a colleague being mistreated.

    Training on how to recognise and prevent intentional and unintentional discrimination towards a person for their race, gender identity, sexuality, religion, etc. is essential for a healthy work environment. Resources to educate staff, foster meaningful conversations and create a culture of acceptance are available once your CEO signs the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge.

    Creating an inclusive workplace is a work-in-progress. Training that encourages employees to learn more about these issues is a great place to start. 

  3. Create a culturally-diverse calendar.

    Through office-wide email blasts or social media posts, organisations should acknowledge various cultural celebrations throughout the year to promote inclusivity. Creating a calendar encourages colleagues to observe each other’s holidays and traditions, by sharing food, music, and information. One of the best ways to understand is to educate and embrace. 

  4. Incorporate team-building activities.

    Allow employees the opportunity to spend time with each other outside the office and learn about differing cultures. Once social distancing restrictions are lifted, activities could include volunteering at a local food pantry, cleaning up a park, or helping at a school fundraiser. External activities help colleagues bond while giving back to the local community. In the meantime, virtual gatherings could serve as a way to engage among teams. Incorporate non-work-related games or activities that encourage information sharing.

    When people develop interpersonal bonds, they develop a greater sense of trust and respect. And they work better together.

  5. Meet regularly and assess changes within your organisation.

    Times are always changing. So are people. Weekly or monthly meetings will help your team stay current with developments in equality, providing opportunities to make meaningful decisions, and manage perceptions. Minimize status differences in these team meetings to promote transparency and create a safe environment where everyone is free to contribute. It’s important to make employees feel welcome and included.

Numerous studies have shown that a diverse workforce increases creativity and profitability. According to McKinsey’s report, multiple companies worldwide have successfully made sizable improvements to diversity and inclusion across their organisations, and they have been reaping tangible benefits for their efforts.

Embracing diversity and inclusion is a core value at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA President & CEO, American Institute of CPAs and CEO, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants has recently signed the CEO action pledge, joining more than 900 CEOs of the world’s leading companies in leveraging their individual and collective voices to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.