The Business Need for Diversity 

by Richard Levychin, CPA, CGMA 

The need to recruit and retain experienced professionals continues to be a challenge for the profession. In my interactions with other practitioners, the most common complaint I hear is the difficulty to attract senior level employees. Competition for these individuals is high. Firms are forced to raise salaries or risk turnover. In the end, this can lead to declines in client satisfaction and increases in labor cost and stress levels. At a very basic level, taking steps to address diversity and inclusion can result in more minorities and women staying in the profession, which will go a long way in helping to resolve this current talent shortage.

Our firm has evolved with a culture of diversity and inclusion embedded into our DNA. From the partner level down to the administrative level, our firm is consistently staffed with at least 40% women and minorities. A driving factor for this is that one half of our partners and directors are minorities or women. Our leadership team has a strong multicultural background, and we have developed a firm that reflects our personal experiences. Often times, diversity is thought of as simply “checking a box”, which is not effective. For true diversity to be successful, it must be both top-down and personal.

Get Creative
The accounting profession has historically had issues with retaining and advancing minorities and women. I feel that one of the reasons for this is a weakness in creating work cultures that possess authentically inclusive and diverse environments and mindsets.  Because of this, individuals that value inclusiveness and diversity, including males and non-minorities, leave the profession over time. Many of these are at senior levels, which is one of the main areas that the profession is currently losing talent. We have taken this and developed an advantage for our firm by first creating a community based, diverse environment and actively recruiting staff and senior level individuals that greatly desire such an environment. 

In order to get quality talent, you have to be creative. We worked on a large project with another firm that had a managing partner who was from the Philippines. The Philippines is an excellent talent market as it is a widely English speaking country, has a large Big Four presence and follows U.S. GAAP.  This partner would travel back and forth between the two countries three or four times a year to recruit talent. Her firm would hire people to come to the U.S. either permanently or on short term visas, and would also utilize flexible work arrangements for others in the Philippines where they could work from their homes there.

That firm does approximately 90% government and not-for-profit work, so their busiest season is from June to December. Because we have mostly a commercial practice, our firm’s busiest season is from January to June.  We entered into a staff-sharing relationship with them, where we utilize some of their staff during our busy season, and vice versa. With this arrangement, we were able to keep everyone from both firms close to 100% utilized while diversifying their individual work experiences.  Like that managing partner, over time we have created a platform for individuals that work remotely from both the US and overseas.  These tactics are mutually beneficial for both firms and the individual staff persons, while also keeping qualified talent in the profession.

Look at the Bottom Line
Stop looking at diversity as a strictly social issue. It is also an important tool that can be used to address one of the largest challenges in the profession today. Simply put, the larger the pool of talent you explore, the better chance you have of hiring the person that is the perfect fit for your firm. From a revenue perspective, the larger and more diverse your talent pool is, the greater your ability to attract a larger and more diverse client base. Ultimately, diversity equals revenue, and any CPA firm can appreciate that.

KBL, LLP is a mid-size firm with offices in with offices in New York City and Glendale, California. Richard Levychin, CPA, CGMA is a Partner in the firm’s Emerging Business Group.


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