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Diana Robinson
Diana Robinson       

Lisa 
Owens-Jackson
Lisa
Owens-Jackson
Gwendolyn Highsmith-Quick
Gwendolyn Highsmith-Quick
 

Recruiting a Diverse Staff

Three best practice tips revealed.

March 3, 2011
by Diana Robinson, CPA, PhD, Lisa Owens-Jackson, PhD and Gwendolyn Highsmith-Quick, CPA, PhD

By 2050, the U.S. population is expected to increase by 50 percent. Two-thirds of the projected increase will result from immigration, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Minorities will comprise approximately 50 percent of the population, with Hispanics becoming the largest minority group. According to WebCPA, over 50 percent of CPA firm partners are older than 50 and looking toward retirement; the average age of corporate executives is over 52; and the average age of accounting professors is 57. Seventy-six million American baby boomers (mostly white males) are approaching retirement.

With the shrinkage of white men in the accounting profession and the increase of minorities in the U.S. labor pool organizations must tailor their recruiting efforts to attract talented minorities to the accounting profession. This article is intended to provide public accounting firms, corporations and governmental agencies with advice on how to recruit from a diverse population. This column recommends three best practices.

Focus Your Efforts

To attract the best candidates, concentrate on developing an appealing work environment. Friedman LLP Accountants and Advisors, a New York City-based firm with a very diverse staff, always looks for top quality candidates. Michael Gaines, human resource and administrative partner with Friedman, believes their open-door policy, caring staff and personable employees create an atmosphere that promotes growth and development. Gaines says Facebook, LinkedIn, Craig's List and conferences focused on improving recruiting efforts are also extremely resourceful tools that the firm uses to attract talented candidates.

Another source is majority white institutions that have clearly defined diversity initiatives. Check university websites for diversity plans, goals and strategies. For example, the Office for Institutional Equity at Duke University provides a list of links related to managing diversity, educational opportunities and other resources.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, which covers diversity in academia in depth, is a resource for selecting campuses with programs that match your needs. Publications such as Diverse: Issues in Higher Education offer research on degrees awarded to minority students by "traditionally white institutions." The Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report also rank campuses based on inclusiveness and diversity.

One company that has successfully applied the practice of targeted recruiting is Caterpillar Inc. Africa Booth, a campus relations representative for Caterpillar, says diversity of students across disciplines is among the five criteria the company uses to identify colleges and universities for concentrated recruiting efforts. In addition to the University of Michigan and University of Texas at Austin, Caterpillar also recruits at North Carolina A&T State University, a historically black institution and Southern Illinois University, an institution with a large, diverse, international student body. In all, Caterpillar has chosen 12 universities as "Strategic Partner Schools" and has built lasting relationships with these universities.

Establish a Presence, Cultivate Long-Term Relationships

Organizations are most effective with recruitment and retention when these staff come from all levels of the hiring organization and are progressing within their company. Campus presence is easier to establish and develop at executive MBA business schools where deans and faculty members show a sustained interested in working with company representatives and strive to incorporate their involvement in the academic curriculum.

A number of accounting firms have established programs that cultivate relationships with individual students. Jennifer Neal, national diversity recruiting manager at KPMG, says the firm's Future Diversity Leadership Program (FDL) targets high-performing university students who are interested in future opportunities with the firm. The FDL program begins with a conference that focuses on equipping students with skills to be future business leaders. The students are mentored during their studies by an on-campus FDL faculty adviser and during their tenure with the firm by a KPMG professional.

Dixon Hughes, a southeastern regional firm, attracts talented students by providing scholarships, offering competitive compensation and benefits packages, focusing on each recruit's specific needs and developing meaningful relationships with professors. Courtney Thomas, director of recruiting in Greenville, SC says the successful associate becomes an advocate for the firm with professors at their alma mater. To build on institutional ties, the firm sponsors professor dinners, lunches, outings and gratis CPE Tax training to professors. This year Dixon Hughes contributed $400,000 of direct support to colleges/universities in the southeast region of the U.S.

Work Through Professional Diversity Organizations and Affinity Groups

Organizations successful at recruiting are partnering with numerous professional minority or community-based organizations. Professional organizations such as the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA); Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting; American Indian Business Leaders; American Association of People with Disabilities; Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda; Family Pride Coalition for Equality for Lesbian, Gays and Transgender; and American Society of Women Accountants (ASWA) — to name a few — provide a ready-made network and an opportunity to increase the visibility and recruiting reach companies have on a local and national level.

Sponsoring national, regional and local workshops, receptions and conferences, as well as providing guest speakers for these events, are excellent ways for companies to supply professional organizations needed services and support and cement a mutually beneficial relationship. Thomas indicates Dixon Hughes' partnering with NABA and other diverse organizations yields benefits 10 times to 20 times greater than the financial investment. The firm provides seed money for NABA chapters, often sponsors the opening reception at NABA conferences and heavily interviews members. She mentions that the firm's involvement with NABA, ASWA and other professional organizations at the local/regional level gives Dixon Hughes a competitive edge in the hiring process.

Conclusion

The changing face of the workforce is redefining our society in every conceivable way. Although every change cannot be addressed, the ability to be open-minded, flexible, innovative and proactive in the recruiting process is imperative in order to maintain a competitive edge in our increasingly volatile business environment.

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Diana R. Robinson, CPA, PhD, MBA, is an associate professor of Accounting at North Carolina A&T State University. Lisa A. Owens-Jackson, PhD., MA, is an associate professor of Accounting at North Carolina A&T State University. Gwendolyn Highsmith-Quick, CPA, PhD, MBA, is an associate professor of Accounting at North Carolina A&T State University.