Wanted: different perspectives — How organizations can build a creative pipeline of diverse talent

The business case for recruiting diverse talent and developing inclusive leaders who can lead diverse teams is compelling. Teams with diverse backgrounds and experiences develop stronger solutions, generate better ideas and perform at a higher level than non-diverse teams.

Thankfully, gone are the days of groupthink because of how it derailed effective decision-making and gave the power to a few like-minded influencers. Today, we know that diverse perspectives drive better outcomes.

However, the pipeline for diverse professionals is still not robust enough. By offering scholarships, developing targeted programming and helping underrepresented minority students learn about careers during college, businesses can help build their talent pipeline and make their organizations more diverse and more globally competitive.

To deepen our diverse talent pool, EY invested $1.5 million in this year’s EY Scholars program, which provides a select group of academically talented, underrepresented minorities the opportunity to gain master’s degrees in accounting-related fields from a leading university. EY pays up to 100 percent of tuition and fees for students in the program. The goal is for these EY Scholars to gain skills to help become strong long-term performers and future leaders at the firm. This year, 53 scholars were selected, up from 17 in 2014.

Wanted: different perspectives

How organizations can build a creative pipeline of diverse talent

Creating programs to attract and engage diverse college students is a worthwhile investment for companies. One approach EY utilizes involves a program hosting 150 students from across the U.S. Education-packed sessions provide them an opportunity to network with peers, EY professionals and firm leadership. The students gain invaluable leadership and networking skills.

Also attending are college faculty and business leaders from top business programs. EY uses this forum to share leading practices about driving diversity and inclusiveness initiatives within organizations. Since the program was launched in 2007, minorities now represent 36 percent of EY’s total full-time U.S. professionals coming from campuses in America. To date, the program has reached more than 600 students; many have since returned and joined EY offices.

Fierce competition

The war for talent has never been fiercer. EY is focused on building relationships with students still on campus so the firm remains top of mind upon their graduation. This is accomplished by engaging them through a multi-year internship program that focuses on underrepresented ethnic minority students who are accounting majors and are at least two years from graduation. By connecting with these students as early as their freshman year, it helps further expose them to the professional services industry. EY as well provides practical experience and on-the job training.

Last summer, there were two sophomore-level interns in St. Louis and four in Kansas City — and these interns are following a pipeline to full-time EY employment.

Our clients expect to be served by teams who mirror their diversity mix, and we know that diverse teams bring the best solutions and perspectives. It’s critical that EY is able to attract top talent. By investing in scholarships and internship programs and building relationships with underrepresented candidates still on campus, organizations will be better positioned to attract top diverse talent and help them launch successful careers.

Ruth Saphian is Managing Partner of Ernst & Young St. Louis. She supports more than 300 professionals and is responsible for developing talent, managing resources, creating high-performing teams and providing exceptional client service. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of EY. For more information, visit www.ey.com.