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The commercial benefits of a working culture that is diverse and inclusive are vast, not only in terms of the bottom line but also in terms of employee satisfaction, hence the attractiveness of a company to potential employees.
“There is still much to be gained in Dutch business in terms of equality, openness and acceptance;” says Joost Fortuin, Managing Director of PageGroup Netherlands “That is by no means idealistic. There are also strategic benefits to be gained from an active diversity policy. A diverse workforce ensures better alignment of your workforce with your customers, connection to a wider customer base, access to more investors, a stronger reputation and higher productivity.”
Within the finance sector, in particular, implementing D&I is essential in helping address the under-representation of minority groups and to ensure a career in the industry is appealing to the next generation of professionals.
Typically the larger, regulated firms have led the charge on diversity in financial and professional services, and have for many years driven an inclusion agenda. As a result, they have made more creative hires and reset their values, and this has had a positive impact on their culture. When compared to other industries, the finance sector is in some senses, relatively balanced and displays a high level of willingness to embrace diversity. Commercially, the key benefit of D&I is the creation of innovation and better customer experiences. If departments take the silo approach, it can be detrimental to an organisation’s growth, whereas diversity enables a business to change and evolve through difference and collaboration which many businesses are now realising.
Where diversity is a measure of the balance of individuals from particular demographics, inclusivity is a reflection of the culture within the business and the way difference is embraced in an organisation. An inclusive culture must be established from the top, filtered down, and embraced by everyone within the organisation.
Understand the business needs
The best way for an organisation to improve D&I is to set an agenda. Build an understanding of the business by assessing how diverse and inclusive it already is. Identify your D&I issues, get buy-in from the leadership team, establish the organisation’s values and then set D&I objectives.
Implement your D&I strategy
Once a clear organisational vision is decided, the next step is implementation. Introduce D&I training across the business, encourage employee sharing, and set up a mentorship programme. It is essential that the finance department understands the firm’s vision and that everyone is trained to be aware of their own unconscious biases and the halo effect. This is not only important in the recruitment process but also during new-starter onboarding and to aid the business in creating a truly inclusive culture.
Measure and monitor business diversity
Once it is embedded the next step is to measure and monitor diversity and employee engagement effectively. The measurements can vary from business to business, however, if the gender or minority balance is improving on a yearly basis, this should be seen as a positive step.
Where improvements in D&I are identified, the last step is to celebrate. Share and champion your D&I achievements within and outside your organisation. Make your current employees proud but also position yourself as a business who truly embraces diversity to those potential employees considering their options.
Promote a clear D&I programme
Finance professionals need to ensure their departments are on board with the vision and strategy set by the firm. It is important for people managers to embed the D&I strategy of the business by ensuring they are moving in a positive direction. If the above strategy has been put in place and the business is at the point in which they are celebrating and publishing their D&I success, it will become a virtuous circle of success.
PwC's Female millennial report states that 85% of respondents revealed that ‘an employer’s policy on diversity, equality and workforce inclusion, was important when deciding whether or not to work for that employer.’ A clear inclusion programme is essential to attract high calibre candidates. In addition to the fact that D&I workplace strategies are morally and ethically the right thing to do, having a strong inclusion programme can also increase revenue and profit. This is because working cultures that take into consideration and embrace all backgrounds have been proven to build a more efficient and happier workforce.
Finance leaders need to really believe in D&I and the benefits that it will bring to the workforce. Ensure the right language is used in your workspace and create an environment that is welcoming and comfortable to all. The key is a commitment to D&I from senior leaders through a set inclusion programme and continued monitoring of the percentage change. As you begin to build an increasingly diverse workforce, supported by an inclusive culture, your business should in turn experience an increase in the retention of staff and improved productivity.