David Sproul, outgoing Deloitte senior partner and chief executive, has highlighted the need for ‘direct and visible action’ to ensure an inclusive culture within accountancy firms, after revealing about 20 UK partners have been fired over the past four years for inappropriate behaviour, reports Accountancy Daily.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Sproul said: ‘We will fire people for any inappropriate behaviour. No one is protected.
‘There has been unfortunately a number of partners who have been fired for inappropriate behaviour, be it of a sexual nature or of a bullying nature. I would like to say there were not any, but there are.’
Writing in a blog Sproul, who is set to retire in six months, said one of the most significant changes during his eight years at the top of the firm has been the shift towards being a more inclusive organisation.
However, Sproul warned this has not always been straightforward. While interventions such as changes to recruitment policy, working practices and mentoring are important, he cited creating a genuinely inclusive and respectful culture at the firm as the biggest challenge, saying professional firms needed to embrace the kind of openness that has characterised the #MeToo movement encouraging people to speak up.
Saying that he was not convinced that unconscious bias training was the answer to this, Sproul explained: ‘Instead in 2015 we put over 6,000 of our most senior people through inclusive leadership workshops, where they took part in powerful and honest discussions on respect and inclusion, as well as the steps they should take to deal with behaviours that run counter to our values.
‘At the same time we created additional ways for our people to tell us when they were experiencing such behaviours – and for them to know that they could do this in a “safe” way.’
Sproul went on to say: ‘Of course the easy option would be to play down the bad behaviour or deal with it discreetly. But I believe taking direct and visible action – including removing colleagues or partners should their behaviour go against what we expect at Deloitte – is critical.
‘This can make for some challenging decisions and conversations in the short-term, but embedding a respectful and inclusive culture needs leadership to live it, take action when required and speak about it – explaining what it means in practical terms to people and why it matters. Instilling values through checklists alone will not succeed – people need to feel empowered to do the right thing and to know that we will respond in the right way.’
David Sproul’s blog post is here