Ernst & Young: At the Heart of an Inclusive Culture

Posted February 27, 2013

As the No.1 company for people with disabilities by DiversityInc., Ernst & Young knows a thing or two about inclusiveness. After all, it’s founder, Arthur Young, had low vision and was hard of hearing. Still, the professional service company’s first commitment is to hire the best talent – and that’s no small task as employees must have specific educational backgrounds and skill sets to land a job at this “Big Four” firm.

In order to find “the best,” the company casts a wide recruiting net that includes standard campus recruiting and experienced hire recruiting, says Lori Golden, who heads AccessAbilities, E&Y’s employee resource group for people with disabilities. They work with partners to connect directly with students with disabilities and are a founding sponsor of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities-Families program.

Keeping talent on top

Lori Golden

After finding the right candidates, Golden and her team work to keep employees comfortable and working at the best of their abilities at all times in their career. “We bring in the talent and then we ask, ‘What does that individual need to be successful?’” says Golden, who says Ernst & Young prefers the term “adjustments” to “accommodations.”

As an example, an intern asked for and received speech-to-text software, but it didn’t improve his dictation speed until a team of E&Y employees contacted the manufacturer to find shortcuts. After that, his productivity soared. The intern was given a superior review and received a job offer.

“What that said to me is that our client-serving people on the front lines care enough and know enough to take a step back and look at his needs and make the investment in meeting his needs,” says Golden. “That to me is the biggest indication of our truly inclusive culture.”

Also important is how employees treat one another. Person-first language is used throughout the organization’s internal and external messaging. “We want to be leading edge, not only how we communicate but in how we think and how we make our people feel,” says Golden, who also heads up much of the organization’s disabilitiy initiatives and serves as its disability subject matter expert in the Americas.

The big picture

Clients have been so impressed with E&Y’s employees, they’re are now asking for tips on how to incorporate similar inclusiveness efforts. “Companies that need professional services want to work with organizations that are forward-thinking and share their values on diversity and inclusiveness. Our initiatives are helping us to deepen our relationships with our existing clients and attract new ones,” Golden explains. In fact, one client recently asked for help in developing a global disability employment strategy and E&Y shared all of its tools and materials with that client.

Golden says it’s also important for organizations to integrate their support for people with disabilities with their support for all employees with no distinction between the two. “If organizations can begin to look at supporting people [whatever their abilities] by giving them the tools, environment, mentoring, and development they need to be successful, we will all be able to bring on the best talent to do the best work … and we’ll perform our best as organizations,” she says.