In the ever-changing world of business, pushing boundaries is not only necessary but imperative for success. No one knows this better than Eryn Frost, Head of Learning, Diversity, and Inclusion at the innovative accounting firm Cooper Parry.
Eryn met with Luke James, Co-Host of The Interview, to discuss her company’s unique culture, her work with diversity and inclusion and the challenge of upholding a company’s values whilst pursuing its commercial interests.
I’m the Head of Learning, Diversity, and Inclusion at Cooper Parry. We’re the rebels of accountancy, always pushing the boundaries as a business.
We have a unique culture. We have unlimited holidays, and we’re starting 100-80-100 — it’s a more flexible version of the four-day week. Everyone wears what they want: our offices are colourful and fun, we have swings, pool tables and a candy wall. We like to do things our own way, creating an environment where people can work hard and play hard.
I’ve always loved learning and development, and I’m happy to be in a position where I can help people. I’m a really curious person: I love to delve in and find out what makes people tick. My husband works at Cooper Parry too, and he was always telling me how wonderful it is. So, I was desperate to work here and be part of the culture. I’d hate to be part of an organisation that’s stagnant. Forward momentum, bravery, and curiosity are all things that I look for in a business.
The landscape of diversity and inclusion is constantly changing: to respond to that we need to be adaptable, curious and challenge the status quo. Learning is a natural extension of D&I, it is about gaining a greater understanding of people and what makes them feel heard, seen and supported.
Every month, we highlight a different issue. For example, this month, we’ve been talking about eating disorders. Rather than just signpost to an informative website, we’re inviting people to share their experiences. Three incredibly brave colleagues came forward to tell their stories — one wrote her story down, one made a video, and one wrote a poem. So there are lots of ways to engage with a topic to make it accessible to everyone.
We have a committee to decide how to focus our inclusion efforts: we now have about 14 members from across the business. Last year, we had a whole Neurodiversity Month — that gave some of our employees the courage to come forward. We’re encouraging our people to explore neurodiversity: the NHS waiting list is now about three years, so we’re offering private consultations for anyone who might need a professional diagnosis, especially our graduates who may need additional support during exams.
I think it’s about having different touch-points. In-person workshops, informational posters in the toilets, posts on Teams, fundraising focuses and efforts. Make it feel part of the everyday rather than a monthly communication. Make it personal. We are more likely to connect to a topic if we know it impacts or is important to someone we work with, we know.
That’s the challenge that most excites me. When I think about inclusivity, I think about our culture. What do you feel and experience as soon as you walk into one of our offices. People being themselves. I am not saying we are perfect, we have work to do, but we are starting from a position of come as you are. We are growing, but as long as we maintain our values and our pledge to develop into a strengths-based organisation, I believe we can continue to build our inclusive approach.
We are growing, but as long as we maintain our values and our pledge to develop into a strengths-based organisation, I believe we can continue to build our inclusive approach.
I don’t want to think of them as two separate goals, the commercial side and D&I. To be successful, we need to blend the two, ideally, they should be seamless. How we act, think and work to achieve those commercial goals should be aligned with inclusive working practices. We’ve just become B-Corp Certified — a large part of keeping that certification involves maintaining the work we already doing in D&I.
Find common ground. Build an understanding of the business benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce. D&I is the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense. The data and research supports the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.
I’ve just read the Wim Hof Method, and it’s changed my life. It led me on such a powerful journey. Just don’t go jumping into ice water without learning about it first!