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Diversity and inclusion are key areas of focus for many organisations currently, as the commercial benefits of a working culture that is inclusive are vast, from helping to improve employee satisfaction, company culture and performance. Within the finance and accounting sector, implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives are essential to helping address the under-representation of minority groups.
Although the issue is multi-faceted, a major contributor to the success or failure of meeting diversity and inclusion goals is the recruitment into and advancement within the business. To drive change in finance and accounting organisations, senior management must regulate their recruitment efforts where inclusion is top of the agenda. Though this can be easier said than done, as unconscious bias is a challenge many business leaders face when trying to scale their team. We are all partial to forming opinions on people based on first impressions, though there are steps you can take to eradicate these snap judgements from the recruitment cycle to grow a diverse, inclusive and successful finance and accounting team.
Establishing a diverse and inclusive workplace in finance and accounting can help to improve results, provide different perspectives, and better connect with a more diverse customer base. More and more businesses are recognising that diversity can drive innovation, increase productivity and improved gender diversity in senior management positions can also help drive better results. According to McKinsey & Company’s report on why diversity matters:
Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians
Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians
It is clear that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse and inclusive business. In addition, many investment firms specify a certain level of diversity before they will commit to investing, or withdrawal if diversity quotas are not met.
One barrier to fair representation is in selection process, where finance and accounting firms can be unwittingly biased in their decision-making process. Many of us, albeit unconsciously, hire in our own image, so low diversity within a business begets continued low levels of diversity. It is important to acknowledge that such biases exist, as reflecting on it allows the opportunity to overcome it. Self-awareness doesn’t mean eradicating unconscious bias; it means recognising when it is happening and provides the chance to step outside and beyond it.
With the shift to remote working, unconscious bias has become an even bigger barrier to diversity in the workplace, due to reliance on video-based CVs or preliminary virtual interviews early on in the hiring process. There are several steps you can take in order to reduce unconscious bias in your finance and accounting recruitment process, some examples include:
Removing identifying features from applicant CVs means parsing them on skills and experience alone, eradicating the chance of preconceived ideas influencing decisions at the very start of the process. Achieving this requires the help of external recruiters who can anonymise the CVs, or applicant software that automatically submits CVs ‘blind’.
This might be in the shape of training for your HR department and line managers in your finance and accounting business, recruiting diversity and inclusion officers or utilising recruitment agencies who have the requisite training and expertise themselves to help scale and grow an inclusive team.
A number of interviewers (together or separately) can reduce the risk of unconscious bias coming in to play during the selection process, and this is reduced further still the greater the diversity there is among those interviewing.
Don’t rely on ‘feeling’ when it comes to assessing the suitability of candidates at interview stage but quantify suitability instead. Use a pre-defined skills matrix to identify both hard and soft skills required for the role and rate each candidate by scale after interview.
Failure to do so will make impressions rather than solid facts likely to hold more sway in the decision-making process, and it’s these snap judgments that are in danger of being led by unconscious bias (our brains are lazy – they will jump to the fastest possible conclusion!)
At Edward Mann, we value the importance of growing diverse and inclusive teams and ensure unconscious bias is eradicated from our recruitment process. Feel free to get in touch if you are looking for tips on how to build and maintain diversity and inclusion initiatives to help drive performance.
With our database and deep networks within the finance community we are also able to source high-calibre candidates to suit the specific needs of your business goals, ensuring you don’t miss out in the future. We actively look for the most technically proficient candidates and have an international mindset, to make sure you get the best possible skillsets to suit your needs.
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