Show employees your commitment to diversity and inclusion from day one

It is vital for companies to represent the people they serve

Dec 15, 2018 @ 6:00 am

By Ron Adams

Team play: Northwestern Mutual reps gather in Milwaukee in October.
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Team play: Northwestern Mutual reps gather in Milwaukee in October.

Truly diverse companies emerge from the inside out. Corporations such as Comcast, Marriott Hotels and Coca-Cola are fostering communities of professionals from all backgrounds. While no strategy is ever a one-size-fits-all approach, diversity and inclusion programs can be tailored by individual companies to create sustainable growth and pave the way to more inclusive industries in general.

Specifically, in the financial services space, it is vital for companies to represent the people they serve. The experiences of diverse communities need to be interwoven into the company in order to truly help people with one of the most personal areas of their lives: their money. People feel comfortable with financial advisers who understand and have walked in their shoes.

Companies can attract and retain team members from all walks of life if they focus on improving the experience they offer individuals from the first day they walk through the doors.

Create small teams to introduce company culture

First, as part of the onboarding process, use small teams to help new employees find their footing at the company. Embracing the culture at any new company takes time, but creating small groups helps new employees feel comfortable asking questions or sharing concerns down the road.

Know someone?Do you know a successful adviser from a diverse background who has an inspirational story to tell? If so, email special projects editor Liz Skinner at lskinner@investmentnews.com.

This step is particularly crucial in finance to ensure a team's success. Trainees can learn together and have someone there to help them develop a successful practice. This strategy also gives your firm the opportunity to help employees from different backgrounds become actively engaged in the company by introducing them to committees they can join or outings and events in which they can participate.

Training materials

Give employees the tools they need to succeed and feel comfortable. Accessibility, particularly in financial services, is crucial to bolstering your team members' skill sets and helping them reach their goals. If an employee has an easier time learning in their first language, invest in materials that make that a reality for them.

Partner them with other people who speak their language within the company who can help train them and make them feel at ease during the process.

(More: Worldly adviser excels at working with others, especially outsiders)

In addition to embracing different languages, make sure the firm provides regular check-ins during the onboarding process and ask trainees if they need any additional materials. All an employee may need is another few hours of training to be successful. It is up to the company to notice and make the difference.

Meaningful mentorship

Setting up meaningful mentorship opportunities starts with capitalizing on the connections team members have already created. Use the small teams from onboarding and training, and set time aside for them to meet periodically and provide discussion topics for career development, as well as time for conversation.​

In order to implement a meaningful mentorship program at the company, hold these meetings throughout the year on the same day each quarter so team members can plan ahead of time. Make sure they discuss opportunities for growth at the firm.

(More: Have a plan to encourage diversity at your firm)

The one thing that new employees at financial services firms most often want to know is their likelihood of success. By connecting them with a mentor from within the organization, your company is providing an example of how far they can go with the firm, and demonstrating the company's investment in them. In addition to this, more tenured team members will feel included in fostering diversity within the firm.

Involve employees

Take advice from your current team members in filling open positions. Involving them in the recruiting process gives them even more buy-in to your firm's goals as well as the team's.

Asking current team members for referrals opens the door for more diverse candidates from their communities, helping the company attract and retain employees from different backgrounds. Businesses can also partner with schools to create programs that help young people envision a future in the industry.

This story is part of an ongoing initiative by InvestmentNews to cultivate a financial advice profession in which diverse perspectives are welcomed and respected, and industry best practices can be shared across organizations.

Ron Adams is assistant director for leadership development of diversity and inclusion at Northwestern Mutual.

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