For global business services giant EY, a positive approach to disability is key to securing the very brightest talent.
Diversity has long been part of EY's DNA. "The best teams consist of people with a range of skills and expertise, who come from different backgrounds," says senior partner Iain Wilkie. "We need that diversity in order to reflect our customer base. It puts us in a stronger position to take on the challenges that the market presents."
Nevertheless, the past five years have seen a shift in attitudes. Where once the focus was on gender, ethnicity and sexuality, it has now expanded to include disability, as Iain explains. "Five years ago disability was more of a medical/legal issue for us. We'd look at how we could meet people's needs, and whether we were meeting the criteria set out in the Disability Act. Of course we still do those things but we have a very different attitude to it. Disability is now core to our strategy."
EY's AbilitEY network was set up to ensure that the principle guides all aspects of the consulting giant's activities.
The network consists of six groups, each focused on a specific disability: autism; mental health; mobility; stammering; hearing impairment; and dyslexia. The groups meet regularly to share ideas and discuss issues. The outputs then feed into EY at an organisational level. "It gives us the wherewithal to talk to EY leadership in a meaningful way about challenges and opportunities," says Iain. "It's a brilliant way for us all to gain insights into how we can help people with visible and invisible disabilities achieve their full potential."
This approach to disability is driven by the recognition that many people with disabilities also possess notable abilities, talents and skills that are absolutely relevant to EY's work, and help to give them a competitive edge.
To take just one example, people who are deaf will often have a real talent for reading body language and facial expressions: vital in an industry that depends on excellent, intuitive communication. More generally, says Iain, "we also find that people who have had to overcome barriers are more resilient and better able to empathise."
It's no surprise to hear then that EY is keen to tap into all available sources of talent, including people with disabilities.
"Our priority is very simple: to recruit the most talented people," says Business Development Director James Bennett. "We need the right mix of talents and the right mix of people to succeed in an increasingly diverse global marketplace."
The company is committed to providing comprehensive support for candidates, from the beginning of the selection process and beyond.
As well as practical workplace adjustments, a mentoring service for new employees pairs them with more senior colleagues who've had experience of working with a disability. Training in inclusivity began with senior partners, and has since cascaded throughout the business. "This is an exciting time for EY, particularly in terms of disability," says UK disability lead Rukasana Bhaijee. "It's a business priority now, not an HR initiative."
Looking ahead, the aim is that in five years, time there will be no need for the AbilitEY network to exist, because everyone in the company is confident and knowledgeable about disability and long-term health conditions. "We're not there yet," says Ian. "The onus remains on AbilitEY to raise awareness of health issues and encourage more positive attitudes. But we're making good progress."
Now, the focus of the organisation is not just on supporting individual needs: it's about shaping a culture that is genuinely inclusive of everyone.
As Rukasana puts it, "It's about changing the image and language around disability, moving from suffering to strength and productivity. It's no longer about managing disability, but about finding ways to unleash talent and realise potential."
As EY's clients become more global and expand into new markets, they expect us to be equally diverse.
Diversity is about differences, and inclusiveness is about leveraging these differences to achieve better business results. EY is committed to creating an environment where all our people feel, and are, valued, are able to bring their differences to work each day, and always contribute their personal best.
Each of us is different, and at EY we value and respect individual differences. We think broadly about differences, including background, gender, ethnicity, nationality, generation, age, working and thinking styles, religious background, ability and technical skills, plus differences according to service line, sector and function.
Diverse teams are proven to stimulate innovation and new ways of problem solving. But they need an inclusive culture to help them function at their best.
Making sure that all our people's voices are heard and valued not only helps attract and retain the best people, but also it helps get better answers for our clients and our organisation.
Did you know?
Starting with Arthur Young, EY has always embraced differing abilities. Trained as a lawyer, Arthur was deaf with low vision and he wasn't able to comfortably practice. He turned to finance and the new field of accounting to build his career
Reach your potential with EY.
Tips for applying
We encourage you to be open about your disability so we can support you through the application process and ensure you have the right level of adjustments needed
- Be open There is a dedicated section on our application form where we invite candidates to share information about a disability or long term health condition and whether any adjustments are required to support them during the recruitment process
- Be vocal All candidates who complete this section will be contacted by our Student Recruitment team either by phone or email depending on your preference. Any conversations we have with you about your disability will be treated with confidentiality
At EY, we've always focused as much as we can on what our people 'Can Do' rather than what they 'Can't Do', whilst not pretending that any of us are perfect!
We know that experiencing health and disability challenges often changes us and that, whether we're born with or acquire our physical, mental or other conditions, we'll develop skills and resilience to adapt to them. Focusing on strengths in this way is really important to changing culture and careers for the better. These are the strengths we look for:
- People who excel
- People who are good at working in teams
- People with integrity
- People who demonstrate respect
- People with energy, enthusiasm and the courage to lead
We want people with disabilities to be able to access our full range of recruitment and career opportunities. We continue to strive to make our processes accessible to all and have long standing commitment to a number of disability organisations such as the Business Disability Forum in the UK.
EY can offer a superb working environment, thanks to our commitment to flexibility, inclusiveness and development.
Here are some exmaples of support and adjustments we have provided to graduates;
Ben joined EY as a Graduate nine years ago and now co-chairs EY’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Network. EY provides Ben with sign language interpreters who accompany Ben when he attends training courses and a palantypist who converts speech to text during conference calls and other meetings which helps him to participate.
Riyaz joined EY in April 2016 in the Tax team based in Leeds. Some of the adjustments that EY implemented include purchasing JAWS screen reading software which enables him to use all necessary programs on his computer. He has also been provided with the use of a PA which enables him to avoid the obstacles posed by his visual impairment. His PA assists him with basic sighted tasks such as printing and scanning etc.
Read what these graduates have to say about their careers and managing disability in their workplace.
James Gower, Consultant IT Adviser "A friendly, approachable culture at EY means I am never worried to say if I feel my disability may interfere with my work." Read more
Ricky Vachhani, Consultant, Risk "I have been in touch with Iain Wilkie who is a senior partner at EY and he has openly discussed his speech impediment and offered me any support required." Read more
Riyaz Hazi, Assistant Tax Advisor EY has enabled me to circumvent the obstacles that are posed by my disability to ensure that I can maximise my potential. Read more
Dr Lizzy Finn, Executive, Digital Learning and Communications "The more I read about EY – its reputation for talent management, careers for women, a safe place for disabled people, a great LGBT network, interesting projects, passionate people, opportunities abroad, diversity.." Read more
Cathy Wilkins, Associate Director in Global IT Services "Be open to opportunities which arise; manage your own health so that you enjoy your career." Read more
Paul King, Assistant Partner within UK & I Assurance, Government and Public Sector "Since joining in 2012 when I transferred to EY from the former Audit Commission (local public sector audit firm) under an outsourcing programme, EY have enabled me to work far more flexibly than I was previously able to, and to give me a better work-life balance." Read more