Moving the needle on diversity, equity and inclusion in financial services hinges on curating tangible business plans that enable taking action to progress the conversation beyond just words.
“Diversity without inclusion means nothing,” said JT Saunders, associate principal at Korn Ferry’s Diversity and Inclusion Practice during an InvestmentNews Diversity & Inclusion Workshop on Wednesday.
“It’s no longer a question of whether diversity and inclusion is important,” he said. “It’s a question of how do we leverage it to drive strategic business outcomes, not only for our people, but also for the consumer and the community, which we serve.”
If actionable D&I efforts are not incorporated into the business goals of an organization, the industry won’t see results.
“There’s been a major movement afoot to focus on unconscious bias training,” he said. “Unconscious bias training is valuable, but it has to be done with intervention, we have to do it with a more meaningful approach.”
First, Saunders said firms’ leadership needs to understand and be role models. “It’s not just words, it’s action,” he said. “We have to be able to see it — both structural and behavioral inclusion are important.”
Structurally, firms need to revisit governance and be more thoughtful about making sure people of different variables — race, gender, background and even personality traits — contribute in meaningful ways that matter to them.
On behavioral inclusion, which is understanding that as individuals everyone has reactions to differences, it’s not about race and gender, it’s about communication style, Saunders said.
During the InvestmentNews workshop, groups of Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion award winners were asked to develop actionable business strategies that firms can implement to ensure they are a part of the solution. They focused on three areas.
Steps firms should take to prove D&I is a key business strategy.
- A pragmatic acknowledgement that a business case for D&I is important
- Employee engagement on the importance of inclusiveness
- Satisfaction surveys that measure trust for both employees and clients
Illustrating how D&I impacts a firm’s bottom line.
- Focus on cost saving measures like employee retention
- Hire from within to encourage internal development
- Succession planning to continue a culture of diverse leadership
- A set percentage of diverse candidates when recruiting talent
- Create summer internship program for Black and Lantinx individuals
How to hold senior management accountable for change.
- Have senior leaders define what diversity means to the firm and create a strategic vision that they can articulate
- Look at the number of diverse relationships your employees have to consider new business models instead of just looking at the number of your firm’s representation
- Hire a D&I officer that represents diversity and passion
- Build a D&I team with a significant budget
- Start a mentorship program
- Retain diverse talent by ensuring equal and fair compensation
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