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DE&I Priorities for the New Year

An Interview with Andrew Stephens, DE&I Manager

As organizations across the world continue to recognize the importance of DE&I in the workplace, company leaders are taking a step back and looking at where they currently stand in the area of DE&I, as well as where they would like to be.

For many, initial conversations around DE&I can be confusing and uncomfortable. But with these uncomfortable conversations comes a complex journey in education and respecting the experiences of others.

To further our own DE&I journey here at The Bonadio Group (TBG), we hired Andrew Stephens as our Manager of DE&I. Andrew has joined us at TBG after spending over six years at M&T Bank where he most recently served as the Senior Employee Experience Program Manager. Within this role, one of Andrew’s main focuses was onboarding 4,000-5,000 employees a year.

Throughout his time at M&T, Andrew worked on a number of DE&I initiatives and programs over the years. He founded the Rochester chapter of the PRIDE (LGBTQ+) employee resource group, co-facilitated town hall sessions for employees following the murder of George Floyd, co-chaired the PRIDE (LGBTQ+) employee resource group charter for the bank, led the United Way employee campaign for the Rochester region, and was a core team member of the LGBTQ+ employee journey mapping team.

We sat down with Andrew to discuss how DE&I and the employee experience fit together, DE&I priorities and challenges in the year ahead, and more.

DE&I and The Employee Experience

DE&I and the employee experience have a natural connection. In fact, “the employee experience doesn’t exist without DE&I,” shared Andrew. “It’s critical to consider the perspectives of all of our employees as well as the perspectives of those who are aren’t here. What does our firm want to look like? Who currently isn’t here and why?”

According to Andrew, the most important first step in transforming the employee experience is listening—and not just doing it once but creating continuous cycles of listening and learning.

He also cautions companies against looking at the employee experience from too large of a scale. While a survey may show that 90% of all employees are happy with their employee experience, a survey of just women or just black employees, for example, might not show the same results. Which is why it is crucial to listen and evaluate feedback from a variety of people and groups.

“A culture is only as good as it is for the least represented in the organization,” said Andrew.

Looking Ahead: DE&I Priorities for TBG

In his role at The Bonadio Group, Andrew will work with the DE&I council, senior leadership, and others to develop and deliver a meaningful long-term DE&I strategy, including programs, initiatives, and communications, which are designed to attract, retain, develop, and advance diverse talent.

Andrew cited one of the main priorities for the new year pertaining to DE&I is creating a system for collecting constant and current feedback. While a survey regarding the overall employee experience is useful to a certain extent, Andrew is looking to create a process for collecting analytics on employee sentiment that are more specific, clear, and continuously up to date. Using this feedback, changes can be made across the firm to make the workplace more equitable and inclusive, leading to greater retention.

Looking Ahead: DE&I Challenges Across Industries

Alongside reporting and retention, Andrew stated that recruiting will continue to be a priority within the context of DE&I. Recruiting candidates with diverse experiences and backgrounds has long been a challenge for the accounting industry as well as various other industries.

While many companies are interested in hiring more diverse candidates, some make the excuse, “I am working with the talent pool I have.” However, Andrew advises these organizations to shift their thinking and start meeting people where they are rather than having them meet your company where it’s at.

“One way to do so is starting to recruit as early as high school,” shared Andrew. “It’s also about discovering what roadblocks are preventing diverse candidates from entering an industry in the first place and discussing what can be done about this. Overall, there is a lot that can be done, and we will never achieve perfection in this area. We are just looking for continual progress in this ongoing journey,” said Andrew.

If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about the ways TBG is committed to creating an inclusive workplace, don’t hesitate to reach out. And be sure to check out our DE&I page here!