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Accounting for change – are finance employers still focussed on diversity?

Written by: Karen Young, Director of Hays Accountancy & Finance
Published on: 20 Nov 2020

Two people signing to each other through laptopPic: Shvets Production, Pexels

Accountancy and finance organisations were impacted hard by Covid-19. ‘Business as usual’ took a back seat as organisations handled the immediate impacts of the pandemic and huge numbers of professionals switched to working remotely practically overnight. Priorities shifted, and areas of focus, like equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I), could easily take a back seat. 

Months on from our first lockdown, we have started to gauge the impact of the crisis on things like ED&I – which we have explored in our new Hays Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 2020 report

So, should ED&I still be a priority? 

We found that over three quarters (71%) of those in accountancy & finance said that when looking for a new role, an organisation’s diversity and inclusion policies are important to them. Furthermore, nearly two thirds (63%) said they would only apply to an organisation which has a public commitment to ED&I. To professionals, the importance of ensuring diversity was never lost, and while employers immediate focus may be shifting, they can’t lose sight of the importance of ED&I to talent attraction. 

68% also said their company should have a position on topical D&I issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, proving that even now, it is expected for employers to have a clear stance on key issues which speaks to their company values. To fail to do so risks alienate key talent at a challenging time. 

The impacts of flexible working 

Our Hays Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 2020 report also explores flexible working and how it relates to ED&I, as this has taken on whole new meaning in today’s climate. The rapid uptake of flexible and remote working practices has had an impact and now almost three quarters (71%) of those working in finance are working flexibly and encouragingly, 87% of professionals agreed that access to flexible working practices can help their organisation gain access to a more diverse talent pool. 

However, respondents noted drawbacks that this flexibility has, such as feelings of isolation and blurred boundaries between their work and home lives. Furthermore, over a third (37%) believe that working flexibly can limit career progression. 

What employers need to do 

In order to not let ED&I take a back seat to today’s other challenges, here are three key recommendations for employers 

  • Make a commitment to ED&I: A diverse and inclusive workforce is no longer a unique selling point to prospective employees. Employers wanting to attract and retain the best individuals need to make comprehensive ED&I policies a core part of their talent acquisition and retention strategy. 

  • Promote ED&I initiatives to jobseekers: ED&I policies including flexible working options need to be promoted at key points in the jobseeker journey, such as in job ads and on your organisation’s website, to avoid lowering your engagement with top talent. 

  • Tailor your flexible working options: Flexible working isn’t one-size-fits-all. Employers need to realise that it offers huge advantages for some, but drawbacks for others depending on their role, working style and personal circumstances. Try to be mindful of and accommodating to this by remaining open to flexible working for all employees, not just those who are parents or carers. 

How employees can take responsibility 

Responsibility doesn’t stop with employers however, all professionals need to play their part in creating a more equal and inclusive workplace. Here are our recommendations for how employees can help keep their organisation’s ED&I agendas on track. 

  • Look for an employer’s commitment to ED&I: If you are job searching, make looking for ED&I policies a priority. Organisations who are committed to ED&I are invariably more enjoyable to work and are more likely to thrive in our rapidly evolving world of work. 

  • Think about your working preferences: What do you need to work at your best? Consider what your ideal working arrangement would be and discuss this with your employer. An organisation that truly fosters a diverse and inclusive environment will work with you to figure out a flexible working arrangement which best suits you. 

  • Stay adaptable and practical: Try to remain adaptable and practical in light of your employer’s situation and the current circumstances. When discussing ED&I initiatives or flexible working, approach the conversation constructively and focus on how both you and your organisation will benefit. 

It’s only by working as a whole and keeping ED&I commitments front of mind will employers and employees create a working culture that welcomes and celebrates diversity, opening the door to many highly skilled professionals who can help get your organisation through this significant period of change. 

For further insights into how flexible working can help facilitate equality in the workplace, request your copy of the Hays Equality, Diversity & Inclusion 2020 Report.  

About this author 

 Karen is a Director and recruiting expert at Hays Accountancy & Finance. She provides strategic leadership to a team of 400 accountancy and finance recruitment professionals across 100 UK offices. With 20 years of finance recruitment experience, Karen has a track record of recruiting top finance talent for businesses across a range of industry sectors, and is a trusted industry voice on career planning and market insights.