CPA Group Partners to Support Neurodiverse Professionals
The Ohio Society of CPAs’ initiative is designed to encourage accounting firms to hire qualified candidates who might struggle with traditional workplace structures.
Since summer 2022, the Ohio Society of CPAs has intensified its DEI efforts around neurodiversity by partnering with an employment agency that supports job candidates with ADHD, autism, and other cognitive disabilities.
According to OSCPA Chief Learning Officer Tiffany Crosby, the association’s partnership with CAI Neurodiverse Solutions is an extension of work the association has been doing in the past five years to make those disabilities part of its DEI work.
“We had been talking to firms to consider that as part of their [DEI] strategy,” Crosby said. “Some of the bigger firms recognize that the profession is changing and have become more open to it, and started to realize there were opportunities to bring in different cognitive styles.”
Crosby, who also heads up OSCPA’s DEI efforts, reached out to CAI after seeing a presentation of theirs in 2021, and formalized the partnership the following year. CAI works directly with CPA firms to provide guidance on interviewing, onboarding, and managing neurodiverse employees, who might respond to those processes differently. For instance, Crosby said, candidates with ADHD or autism may be more likely to experience cognitive overload, which can make the traditional one-after-the-next string of interviews exhausting.
“We’re not asking firms to change their entire interview process,” she said. “But maybe the interviews don’t need to happen on the same day, or if they do, perhaps there can be recovery time between the interviews.”
“If you have a talent shortage and you haven’t figured out where to get additional resources, have you looked everywhere?,” CAI Vice President Anthony Pacilio told the publication Inside Public Accounting in a recent article on the program. “This is one place where people don’t often look, even though these individuals are just as productive and may even exceed expectations.”
Under the partnership, CAI will work with the candidates and employees by providing training to prepare for interviews as well as on-the-job mentoring and professional development. Employees hired through the program will work under contract with CAI for a year, with the hope that they will transition into full-time employees after that period.
OSCPA, for its part, will connect with firms to provide training on neurodiverse elements of DEI. “Our focus is to help those who are making the change,” Crosby said. “We’re making sure that sure that your staff, your managers, your leaders have this inclusive mindset so that this arrangement will work.” Since its launch, six firms have connected with OSCPA expressing interest in the program, Crosby said.
Crosby notes that many organizations report that efforts made to support neurodiverse employees often end up benefiting the organization as a whole.
“Candidates who wouldn’t put themselves on the neurodiverse spectrum often find those interview processes draining as well, so they end up having a better experience,” she said. “I found that in a lot of diversity efforts, by addressing the needs of a particular group, you end up improving the experience of everyone.”