The topic of diversity and inclusion has become more of a professional talking point than ever before, especially within the financial industry. It’s no surprise – the sector is predominately white and male-dominated, an environment that’s often slow to incorporate inclusive change, sparking important discussions regarding various disparities in the workplace.
Thankfully, it’s an issue that’s starting to be addressed. Last year, Goldman Sachs announced that they will no longer take companies in the US and Europe public if they have boards made up entirely of white men. As a global industry leader, it was a bold and much-needed move.
To embrace diversity at an organisational level, it’s important to focus on the effect that unconscious bias has within recruitment functions. As you’re no doubt aware, several elements can have an influence on initial impressions at the start of the hiring process. Examples include a candidate’s picture, their name, age, or where they’re from. This isn’t overtly done – it happens due to predisposed opinions that we have all developed, hence the term ‘unconscious’.
It’s an issue that needs addressing. Incorporating a set of steps into the recruitment process can help to eliminate unconscious bias, and ultimately result in a more diverse and successful workforce.
Why is this issue important in asset management?
Having a diverse and inclusive workforce not only benefits prospective candidates and existing employees, but also positively impacts the way businesses operate. A team with a vast scope of experience in terms of background, personal circumstances, and professional history can bring a wealth of varied knowledge and skill to your organisation.
It’s important for clients to feel that they are represented within the sector; familiarity and recognition help to foster good relationships that ultimately result in a better service. Customers are more comfortable interacting with professionals who look and sound like themselves, especially when it comes to sensitive subjects like finance. When customer bases are diverse, the workforce supporting them should imitate that.
With technology becoming such an integral aspect of the finance industry, competition for digital skills is having an impact on recruitment. By failing to recognise unconscious bias, organisations significantly reduce the talent pool that they hire from, and therefore disadvantage themselves in key areas.
It’s not just new hires that are affected. Independent research run by the City of London Corporation found finance workers from less privileged backgrounds take 25% longer to progress in their careers than their wealthier peers, despite no evidence of poorer performance at work. Research commissioned by HM Treasury and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy shows that those from higher socio-economic backgrounds hold almost nine in ten senior roles. Disparities such as these can have a negative effect on employee satisfaction and retention.
Step-by-step guide: An unbiased approach
Step 1: Understand hiring prejudices
Recognise that unconscious bias is an issue. Consider carrying out internal research to identify the demographics within your organisation and then determine patterns and imbalances to be addressed. Setting a goal at this stage gives you something specific to work towards. Readdress these points regularly.
Provide your workers with unconscious bias training. As Francesca Gino, professor at Harvard Business School states, “Awareness training is the first step to unravelling unconscious bias because it allows employees to recognize that everyone possesses them and to identify their own”.
Step 2: Edit your job descriptions
Job descriptions play a serious part in understanding a company’s culture. Even the simplest wording can have an impact on the talent pool you attract. Research shows that masculine language, including adjectives like ‘competitive’ and ‘determined’ result in women perceiving that they would not belong in the work environment. On the other hand, words like ‘collaborative’ and ‘cooperative’ tend to draw more women than men.
Step 3: Software is your friend
We know that unconscious bias occurs as a result of first impressions, so the best way to tackle that is to remove them completely. Take advantage of software that can make CVs ‘blind.’ They remove personal and demographic characteristics to allow you to solely focus on the candidate’s specific qualifications and skills.
Step 4: Consider introducing a skills test
Questions surrounding company culture and soft skills play an important role at the interview stage, but this is an area that can encourage unconscious bias. Consider introducing a skills test, even before a formal interview, to establish measurable parameters.
Focusing on numbers-based activities will allow you to compare and contrast your candidates based on actual data. By concentrating on tangible, quantifiable elements, you highlight technical abilities rather than aspects of a candidate’s personality.
Step 5: Welcome international talent
With the global pandemic imposing a move to remote working, our ability to connect on an international scale has become an integral part of the professional environment. This opens up a huge scope of opportunities with regard to people management – your talent pool grows significantly, and with it, diversity. A workforce that includes people from all over the world is obviously going to be more diverse than one from the surrounding area of a physical office.
Unconscious bias is a complex issue, and it’s imperative that there are specific considerations put in place throughout the recruitment process. If you’re looking for more information and advice, we’re here to help.
At Berkeley Croft, we drive investment management firms to thrive and succeed by unearthing the high-caliber candidates that will transform your organisation. Get in touch with us today to find out more about what we can do for you.