Why I have a problem with Diversity and Inclusion policies

Before you unfollow me, block me and report me to the authorities, let me clarify. Diversity and Inclusivity is a good thing and massively important. A diverse workforce leads to more creativity and innovation. It improves staff retention and ultimately delivers bottom-line benefits.

“What’s your problem, then”? I hear you ask.

I believe it stops us looking at the bigger picture

As with many things, the theory is great, and it stems from a well-meaning desire to change the status quo. Of course, all organisations should encourage a range of experiences, backgrounds and viewpoints into their structures. That’s the way companies thrive and evolve. But as often happens with great theories, when it comes to practice, the execution falls down. Implementing a D&I policy becomes a box-ticking exercise. And when it reaches the point where recruitment is driven by hitting quotas, rather than finding the best person for the job, you are doing your company, and its people, a disservice.

The fintech sector already faces a skills shortage

Anyone working in the sector will know that one of fintech’s biggest concerns is a skills shortage. The aspiration to scale up and become a market leader demands the ability to attract, hire and retain the best talent.

The challenge is that fintech has moved rapidly from being a niche sector to become London’s fastest-growing market. However, the availability of the people needed to support that growth just hasn’t kept up. And as a result, organisations are competing for the best talent. Add meeting a D&I quota into that mix – well, good luck with that.

If policies aren’t the answer, what is? 

A fundamental change is required to attract people from all walks of life to our sector. The trouble with policies is they are usually compiled to meet corporate governance requirements. Diversity officers are employed, but result in little in the way of change, with data suggesting companies with such positions being barely more diverse than any other.

A change in perception is needed. D&I should not be viewed as a problem that needs to be resolved, but as a massive opportunity to improve your company, to grow and reinvent. 

Stop spending time on drafting initiatives that tick boxes and start working on ways to listen to people and value their differences. Diversity is not about tolerating or acknowledging distinctions, it’s about embracing them. A top-down culture of dignity for all that welcomes integrity and meritocracy, along with measurable metrics that audit the fair treatment of all are the fundamentals for change.

Enabling the calling out of workplace discrimination, along with giving people the confidence that such behaviour will be tackled will help. Other countries have become very serious about tackling workplace discrimination, with Slovenia, for example, criminalising workplace bullying and harassment.

Going back to the skills shortage, we need to find a way to tackle the root issue and encourage a diverse range of people into our sector. Designing roles that give everybody the same opportunity to fulfil them, such as flexible working hours, higher levels of autonomy, mentorship and company benefits will help to ensure that your vacancies are open to all. 

And we need to work with academia. Finding ways to make the sector more visible to students through sponsoring sector events and discussions, working with universities to deliver fintech specific modules in business, computing and engineering degrees and supporting work experience programmes are all examples of the type of initiatives that need focus.

How a recruitment partner can help

Most organisations have a go-to system when looking for new people to join their team. Unfortunately, this often means that the same types of people get recruited into the business again and again. (See my blog on hiring for culture add or fit here).  

Choose a good recruitment partner, and they have none of the unconscious bias that you may have internally. They will use their expertise and market knowledge to bring you eligible candidates regardless of background, location, ethnicity, gender or disability. Make sure you ask about how they ensure they source the best candidates and be open about your business needs to help ensure a positive result.

We’d love to hear about your views on D&I, and how you face the challenge of engaging with candidates from all walks of life in a sector with specific skills shortages. Comment below to contribute to the discussion. 

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