How can L&B do what is right by our employees, our clients, and our society? This is the question we asked ourselves as we embarked on our strategic initiative on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in January of 2022. Like many firms, over the past several years we have read the news, held internal dialogue, and implemented new programs. But as we looked ahead to the future of the firm, we knew that this was not enough.
It is not enough because our firm is growing. The strong culture that we pride ourselves on has been grown from the love and commitment of our founding partners. We want this culture to be as strong a part of our future as it has been of our past.
It is not enough because our firm is hybrid-remote. Our connection to one another happens differently in today’s online collaboration. With the impact of COVID on our office-based work, we transitioned our firm to become hybrid- remote including fully remote employees. This has been amazing for the quality and diversity of our team, but it means we must provide for the connection and collaboration that we value in more intentional ways. We don’t always bump into one another at the coffee machine. Instead, we come together around shared experiences and values.
It is not enough because our society demands it. Historically, resources have been distributed unequally. Our firm works with affluent people and businesses. Finding our integrity in serving wealthy clients and actively contributing our time and talent to the community is a part of making a difference in the world. We want to be a place where employees can not just build their technical skills but also explore the question, “Why does what I do matter?” and “Where can my skills truly make a difference?” We want to be a place where clients come not just for sound tax and accounting advice, but also for guidance in shaping a legacy for causes they care about.
So we embarked on an equity audit to begin our journey and better understand ourselves.
First, we started by selecting a consultant who we thought could meet our needs. We chose Humble Oak, a woman-owned small business whose founder was supported in starting her business by her advisor at L&B. “I help historically white organizations think big about how they can expand the scope of their mission, remove barriers to access, and build coalitions across lines of difference,” says founder Lucretia Witte. This was important to us because we wanted our consultant to kickstart a journey of reflection, education and outreach at all levels of the organization and we knew that she had been on similar learning journeys herself and with other organizations.
Our equity audit process included a broad and deep analysis of the firm based on four pillars of data. Our consultant worked with us to collect relevant data from every stage of the employee life cycle and draw connections between existing policies and DEI goals. She also led five focus groups with almost half of our organization participating and piloted a DEI training with fifteen recent hires. At the end of the research process, she presented the equity audit to the partners and senior managers of L&B.
We were really proud to see that she noticed some key strengths of the organization that we felt reflected our efforts and our philosophy over the past thirty years. We also felt her Strategic Opportunities reflected an accurate summary of where we know we can improve. She left our partner group with a set of recommendations which we are currently planning into our strategic priorities for the coming months.
We’ve already scheduled training and dialogue to begin after the busy season and will culminate our leadership training by setting 2-3 strategic goals related to DEI&B for the next year. We wanted to share this communication to be transparent about what we’re doing across the firm, with current and prospective employees, and with clients, because we know it’s important and we want to share our learning journey in the hope that it inspires others to join us in this conversation.
“Even though L&B has never measured itself against a DEI standard before, much of the work you already do to help all employees succeed and advance is related to DEI,” says Witte. “From the mentor program to individual development plans, any program that exists to give employees personalized support and a sense of connection is part of DEI strategy.” Our new challenge is to see all the work our team does through this lens.
Stay tuned to our Culture Conversations page on our website for further updates on our work to make L&B the most inclusive firm we can be.