How firms can increase diversity and inclusion

“Our business is people.” This simple phrase has remained at the center of the Raymond James culture and values since 1962, governing how we make decisions and how we approach the future. Maintaining a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive environment – one in which everyone feels welcomed, respected, valued and free to bring their authentic selves to work – is a natural extension of this culture.

Not only is furthering diversity and inclusion the right thing to do, but industry statistics reinforce that it is good for business. Unique backgrounds cultivate diversity of thought, which drives innovation, better service and growth. As a result, diverse workplaces perform better financially and maintain higher employee and customer satisfaction.

The importance of diversity and inclusion is well researched and understood. So why does it seem so hard to move the needle?

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Incorporating diversity and inclusion is an all-encompassing effort, impacting the workforce, workplace and community. And it’s a broad topic to tackle. For most firms, regardless of the industry, the challenge often lies in knowing where to start. The key is to understand where your business is now, and keeping in mind there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each firm will have a unique journey. Here are some takeaways from ours.

Creating a diverse workforce

There are many pathways to enter the financial services profession. As firms grow, attracting talent from a variety of sources is a natural opportunity to recruit diverse candidates.

Seeing the success of advisers who transitioned to our industry from careers like teaching, engineering, law and the military, we know there is tremendous potential for those in other professions who may be looking for a career change. In addition to attracting experienced professionals, our firm participates in programs that expose us to diverse students from historically black colleges and universities, women’s groups and multicultural MBA programs, as well as diversity group leaders on campuses.

We know increasing diversity doesn’t happen overnight, and creating a workforce that will remain diverse years from now requires us to plant seeds among the next generation of associates and advisers today. It’s necessary for us to represent the profession in our communities and engage with younger generations. In order to know they can be it, people have to see it.

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Nurturing an inclusive workplace

It’s important to take this conversation beyond diversity. To cultivate a diverse workforce, it’s critical to foster an inclusive workplace. Inclusion involves engaging everyone to harness the power of diversity. Associates and advisers need to feel empowered and supported to bring their best selves and share their own stories and perspectives.

Understanding and sharing the “why” is foundational to building a more inclusive environment. Each of us has our own story of what inspires and motivates us. Beyond that, each group or network has distinct goals. Some seek to have a greater sense of community. Others would like more education and resources to help them succeed.

Commonalities will surface, and, once they do, it’s important to have resources available. Our inclusion networks and other informal resource groups were formed for associates and advisers by associates and advisers. Our job as a firm is to support them and encourage their efforts to expand the conversation, assuring them that they are in a safe place to do so.

Just having resources and education in place is not enough. Diversity and inclusion efforts should be aligned with business outcomes. But how does one measure inclusion? Ultimately, if you are fueling the pipeline with diverse candidates, retention can be your guide. When people feel like they belong, are included, are heard and are making a difference … they stay.

We have the power to shape what the financial services industry will look like in the future. And we as firms should empower associates and advisers to play an active part in creating change. Through our collective efforts, we can move the needle together.

Pedro Suriel is vice president of diversity and inclusion atand Renée Baker is head of the Private Client Group adviser inclusion networks at Raymond James.

Written by Investors Wallets

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