June 20, 2016

10 Things I Know About...

10) It's a near-borderless economy. Companies conduct business all over the world. You need people who can relate to cultures and businesses in different markets.

9) Diversity allows you to compete upstream. In industries like accounting, regional firms compete with global entities on a regular basis. It may not be feasible to open offices overseas, but you can have multilingual team members who can translate documents or lead projects in foreign markets.

8) Business owners are a diverse group. Entrepreneurs emerge from every culture. To work with them, your team needs to understand where they're coming from (literally).

7) Good decision-making requires different perspectives. High-level decisions should not be made in a bubble. Diverse teams provide much broader input on ideas and tackle issues from different angles.

6) Keep good employees engaged. Employees will not stay on a team if they aren't fully accepted, nurtured and given important roles – regardless of their background.

5) Formalize it. In order to create change, you need a task force or a formal initiative that develops a thoughtful approach around the objective, which will be different for almost every company.

4) Set the tone at the top. If your leadership is not on board, it won't work.

3) Train for diversity. Companies need regular training on what diversity means to them and how they support it. They need to understand why it makes sense to welcome employees of varying race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

2) Use the resources at hand. Resources are already out there to help guide diversity efforts. In the accounting world, the Massachusetts Society of CPAs has a task force that provides tools and support. Look to your industry organizations for relevant material. Massachusetts also provides resources through its Commonwealth Compact partnership with UMass Boston.

1) Recruit diverse talent early. The talent pipeline begins earlier than you may think. As early as high school, ambitious students are charting their career. By the time they enter the workforce, they will be able to easily self-select companies that make them feel welcome.

Carla McCall is co-managing partner at Westborough accounting firm AAFCPAs and chairwoman of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs. You can reach her at cmccall@aafcpa.com.

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