The world is at war against COVID-19. As we start to assess the impacts that the pandemic will have on our day to day lives, economy and society- the only certainty in these uncertain times is that we will need to make decisions at a fast and adaptable pace as the world changes around us.It is now more than ever that Diversity and Inclusion across a tax team will matter and have profound effects on the recovery of businesses over the next few months however despite evidence that proves diversity leads to better business outcomes, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens progress in this area.
For Tax professionals across the globe, the Pandemic is proving to be one of the greatest leadership tests of their careers. Tax Leaders and board members are making decisions without any precedent and therefore decisions being made during the crisis are having to be made at rapid pace with fast implementation and a huge number of components to consider. The major risk we face is that these decisions will be made in haste and therefore push the agenda point of Diversity to the bottom of the list. However, now more than ever it is crucial for decisions to not be made alone in a homogenous setting but in a collaborative fashion.
While we move into the ‘new normal’ and emerge out of the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, corporations across the world have trialled the benefits of remote working over the last few months and have reached the conclusion that it is a success. To a certain degree a pivoted business model where individuals are able to work flexibly/remotely has proven a clear benefit. What is less clear is how our reshaped companies, both structurally & geographically, will look in terms of diversity at both a team and leadership level. Taking the ethical yard measure as a given, diversity is vitally important for the recovery of firms and the economy in new unchartered territory.
The evidence of correlation between business performance and diversity is emphatic. It has been consistently proven that more diverse and inclusive tax teams provide a competitive edge for companies, offer an opportunity to maximise commerciality and make bigger, bolder decisions- a crucial component in this recovery. From the Bay of the Pigs to The Financial Crisis of 2008, we have learnt that there are clear benefits of being surrounded by individuals with a different perspective.
Given this proven rhetoric, the business challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis should offer leaders the opportunity to accelerate progress in diversity as there are clear tangible benefits for Tax Leaders to hire diverse & inclusive teams. After all, we know there will be large-scale restructures across the space as the DNA of tax teams fundamentally shift to a focus on restructuring and business tax advisory work. We also know certain industries will be growing rapidly, as consumer demand shifts to online and delivery services.
However, to ensure that opportunities are bread for the D&I agenda, it is essential that diversity proof Frameworks are put into place to ensure that unconscious bias does not creep into the decision-making process. As businesses continue to optimize business control through the use of it’s workforce, it is important for decision makers in Tax to ask themselves the following questions:
Who am I including in my decision-making process and why?
Who am I excluding in my decision-making process and why?
Tax teams around the world are looking to leaders to provide solace during this challenging time and therefore how leaders act today will influence how they are seen and judged post crisis. These actions will influence their ability to retain and attract talent and directly impact their business strategies post COVID-19. The balance is undeniably tricky. Not only must they protect the health of their employees and customers, they must also navigate far-reaching disruption to their operations, plan for recovery and prepare to reimagine their business models for the ‘next normal’. However, shifting the D&I agenda point from a ‘luxury’ to a necessity is imperative during this time.
Seizing the opportunity to advance the D&I agenda, while strengthening your ability to attract talent will guarantee a strong business recovery from the pandemic and will inevitably play a crucial part as we resurface to the next level of normal. Diversity & Inclusion is an essential enabler of recovery, reimagination and resilience- 3 commodities which will be essential in the Tax world’s recovery.
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