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Why workplace diversity is so much more than gender

Why workplace diversity is so much more than gender

When you hear the phrase “workplace diversity” you might assume it’s all about gender.

But diversity also spans age, ethnicity, perspectives and experience. And it matters because, not just in accounting but across all professions, a diverse workforce delivers better business results.

Not all diversity is the same

A study  from the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that teams with a variety of experience are better at solving problems. They identified three types of diversity:
  • Demographic diversity - gender, age, ethnicity
  • Informational diversity - a person's education and experience
  • Value-goal diversity - how a person defines a particular project goal
The study, which looked at how the different diversity types impacted group performance, found that informational diversity helped groups debate and constructively solve problems together.

It makes sense, really: people with different past experiences will come to a problem with different ideas, ultimately giving more options for the best eventual solution.

The case for international workplace diversity

One of the clearest examples of the value of informational diversity in accounting teams is around the (often controversial) local versus international hiring issue.

Some employers I work with are very focused on locally gained skills – they place a huge value on local Australian experience. Yet widening the net to include international experience can bring huge value to an organisation.

Having lived and worked around the world in a number of countries, I’ve seen how businesses on different continents can be extremely different from each other. But I’ve also seen how similar the challenges they face can be.

By not including a range of experiences in an organisation, I would argue that purely locally-focused businesses are missing out on great potential talent and – in an increasingly globalised world – will continue to miss out.

The future accountant will need broader skills

When it comes to accounting recruitment, there are two specific examples why considering workplace diversity could deliver employers better results.

1. Commercial acumen. I believe employers must look beyond what they think they want today because the accountant of the future will need to be extremely commercially savvy. The type of accountant employers would do well to hire now therefore are those who are commercially aware to start with, who are interested in the broader business and business outcomes.

2. Communication skills. Seeing things from a different perspective is part of what a great accountant does – but so too is to the way he relates to people. Accounting is very much about people, because you can have the very best data in the world, but without the ability to be persuasive and influential, and to communicate that data, then your analysis is futile.

True diversity in hiring: questions to consider

When I was in the UK some of my clients would hire from any discipline. There might be two people in a room: one who studied accounting, the other who studied engineering. But it’s the one with the better attitude and aptitude who would often win the job – not the one with the right degree.

In fact, there are some who would argue that the non-accounting graduate interested in a career in accounting is the more desirable candidate, purely because they already have a diversity of knowledge and experience not found in the accounting pool.

At Hudson, our approach is to assess a candidate across all factors. Experience and education, yes, but also motivational drivers, aptitude and career fit to build a complete picture of a great hire. We believe that that’s where clients get the most value: for both the hire itself and for future organisational performance.

What do you think? As an industry can we open our eyes to people with more diverse backgrounds than previously? And are there talented individuals who have the right aptitude – but may not be accounting graduates?

Nick Rogers Accounting and Finance Hudson Nicholas Rogers is an Accounting & Finance Manager at Hudson Brisbane. Nicholas has a proven track record of successfully recruiting qualified accountants up to and including board level appointments across Brisbane and Regional Queensland for both owner managed and ASX listed businesses.


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