Nearly a third (32%) of professional services firms cannot provide evidence that their DE&I efforts are having the desired results for employees, according to the latest iResearch Services report: A Fairer Future: Equality and Inclusion in Professional Services.
The report is based on a series of surveys, canvassing the views of 570 professionals in the UK and the US across accountancy, consultancy, legal and architecture services, finding that firms struggle to match policy with action.
For example, 64% of firms support employees disclosing their disabilities, yet only 31% are running initiatives to support those with disabilities.
While the majority of firms (73%) have a formal DE&I policy, 8% have nothing. When broken down into different diversity segments, it is clear where the focus lies. Only 12% of firms focus on LGBTQ+ policies; race and ethnicity receive the most focus, with 35%.
“Firms may be able to point to the DE&I policies they have in place, but the reality is that actions speak louder than words. There is a danger of “performative” policies, whereby they point to the right policies and reap the rewards of being perceived as inclusive, yet are unable to back this up with concrete action and evidence.”
Most respondents (84%) agree that company culture is a priority in professional services. However, the research indicates an emerging divide between DE&I perceptions based on seniority. While 81% of directors and 85% of HR heads believe that enough is being done for DE&I in their companies, less than three-quarters (74%) of managers answered positively to the same question.
Rachael Kinsella, Editor in Chief at iResearch Services, adds: “There is a worrying divide between senior leadership and management at these organisations. With the Great Resignation and competition for talent fiercer than ever, employees are more vocal about their feelings of inclusion and are voting with their feet when it comes to the firms they are choosing to be a part of. It is clear that a perception gap exists across multiple strands of business, and there is work to be done across professional services firms to align DE&I vision with practice.”
According to the survey respondents, the top three drivers for cultural change for greater DEI were employees (58%), organisation leadership (56%) and business partners (48%).
Yogesh Shah, CEO iResearch Services, adds: “Embedding DE&I practices into culture can be a sensitive process and take longer than simply rolling out a policy. The priority for business leaders as we approach 2023 must be to acknowledge that there is more work to be done in bringing to life policies that drive true meaningful action.”