Diversity of talent will be a key factor for the Financial Industry

The continued diversity of the talent pool that the Financial Industry looks to recruit from must be considered a key factor in ensuring businesses fully profit from potential innovation, and can attract talent, retain it and grow themselves. The makeup of banks and companies must accurately reflect their customers to best understand and meet their needs. Those in charge of hiring need to look at their methods and ensure that they are looking at the widest possible selection of qualified candidates for the job to ensure their companies fully benefit from the talent pool available. For example, the buying power of the LGBT adult population in the USA for 2013 alone was projected to be US$830 billion, and for financial services firms, such markets simply cannot be ignored. This means talented candidates from under-represented groups must be welcomed with open arms.

To ensure that a fully diverse talent pool is looked at, companies need to examine themselves for a ‘generation gap’. As Aquib Nadir writes, “There are those old-school guys from 50s and 60s that value meetings and encourage teamwork. And then there are millennials from 90s and onwards who prefer to stay alone and working independent.” What this can show is that companies must be aware of this split, both to ensure that they provided an employment space that can maximise productivity for younger workers, but also so that they do not alienated talented older ones. As an example, in 2013, Facebook settled a discrimination case where they had a job listing that included the language, “Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred.” Another recent problematic trend is for employers to require job candidates to be digital natives as opposed to digital immigrants, where a digital native grew up using technology from an early age rather than adopting technology later in life. While in a modern business context it is absolutely necessary for workers to have digital skills, it is a weakening factor to view this requirement with the narrow-mindedness that creates such criteria as the one above. The ‘generation gap’ can help to highlight many of the unconscious biases that can prevent companies from fully utilising the talent pool, in an area that is not often considered.

As businesses move into a values-driven marketplace with 50% of consumers saying they have bought or boycotted a brand based solely on a political or social position, and 75% of consumers believing companies have a responsibility to address social causes and not just earn profits, companies can’t make their positions known via CEOs blurting out a response to their political leader’s statement. Companies need to examine their values, reiterate them, infuse their practices, processes, and supply chains with them, and bolt-on Corporate Social Responsibility will no longer be enough. They must have a dialogue with employees, so they know the company’s values and what their options are if they disagree. The CEO can’t unexpectedly announce that employees who disagree with his position, e.g. “We stand for tolerance” should simply not come to work the next day. What needs to happen is that a diverse, inclusive culture needs to be built at companies, one that will result both in a diverse workforce and one that will lead to better business outcomes. To do this, the foundation of an inclusive culture, one that welcomes new ideas, experiences and points of view needs to be built rather than a knee-jerk response of compliance training and panic-hiring.

Examples of the way companies can best create such a culture lie in revising hiring and firing practises, establishing mentoring opportunities, providing diversity and sensitivity training, and making sure that productive relationships are created at all levels of a company.

  • Hiring and Firing: Employers should aim to reach a wide variety of potential candidates by using the internet to reach beyond their geographic area. They should make sure job ads and job descriptions are neutral and bias-free to attract a wide variety of candidates, and ensure candidates are interviewed by various individuals in the organization to prevent one person’s unconscious bias presenting an obstacle.
  • Mentoring: Companies should provide individuals with the opportunity to be mentored by individuals who are not like them in order to improve communications and foster one on one relationships. It must also be recognsed that preconceived notions may exist, and individuals’ minds may be changed by encouraging exposure to different individuals and groups.
  • Training: It is important for an employer to encourage employees to be tolerant, respectful and accepting of differences and value and support the opinions and ideas of others. An employer should instruct employees not to focus on outward characteristics (i.e., accent, dress and appearance) and avoid snap judgments about others. An employer should emphasize civility and understanding in the workplace.
  • Building Relationships: An employer should aim to create cross-functional teams so that individuals from different backgrounds can work together. The focus should be on each individual’s strengths and what they can bring to the table. The employer should encourage and support participation and leadership opportunities on all levels of the organization and make employees feel as if they have a voice and a seat at the table

Organizations must make a genuine investment into diversity and fostering an inclusive work place. This begins by understanding that it is not a single effort, but a long-term strategic process that requires time and resources. It cannot be a one-off training or lecture, or a single hire. Organizations must make a commitment to taking a series of steps over an extended period of time to ensure success. If they do so, and if they ensure they take full advantage of the talent afforded them, they will be richly rewarded with innovation and success.