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Twenty Actions and Best Practices to Promote Inclusion in the Workplace

In a series of workshops held from October 2017 to May 2018, CFA Institute gathered asset management firms to openly discuss inclusion & diversity — what they are doing, what's been working, and what comes next.* From these workshops, we devised a list of 20 concepts that repeatedly came up and offered recommended actions for how to use them.

  1. Define Diversity

    Diversity priorities vary by geography and industry. They need to be considered and defined by each organization. These priorities can change over time, but without specificity you will be unable to set clear goals or focus. Commit to a specific, useful definition of diversity that leads to common understanding and shared language.

  2. Intersectionality

    This term recognizes that individuals are a combination of characteristics (which intersect), and categorizing them in only one dimension reduces the opportunity to leverage their perspective. Do not oversimplify the demographic profile of individuals.

  3. Culture vs. Policy

    Middle managers are key to embedding culture. If only the C-suite says it, it is a policy, but if others say it, it is the culture. Pay attention to who is talking about D&I – that is your window to understanding how infused it is in the culture.

  4. Biases

    Being aware of biases doesn't protect you from acting on them. Use creative training techniques to help uncover biases and provide tools so employees can identify them in the future.

  5. Storytelling

    Stories have a powerful effect on the human mind. They influence our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values, and they build connections. Encourage the use of personal stories to help people understand how experiences have shaped their colleagues and as qualitative evidence of D&I progress.

  6. Data
    Measure things that matter, not what is convenient. Benchmarks can be an effective tool in the diversity space, especially as data are shared more broadly and tracked over time. Conduct a pay gap analysis and use tools such as the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks and employee engagement surveys to identify other gaps and strategic action items.
  7. Communication

    One of the biggest D&I challenges is making sure employees know what is being done. Such knowledge can improve employee morale and engagement and create informed organizational ambassadors. Have regular communications from senior leaders about diversity efforts and provide talking points for managers, while emphasizing the importance of authentic conversations.

  8. Candidate Slates

    Interview lists are an important area for analysis, and having a process that checks for diversity at this stage can be useful. Select search firms that have a track record of providing diverse candidate slates.

  9. Know Your Candidate

    In an attempt to create equal footing, some firms institute “blind” hiring practices in which résumé data associated with certain demographic information are excluded, but the effectiveness of this approach can be limited. Seek to learn broadly about the background and perspective of candidates to consider how differences can be leveraged to improve your firm’s effectiveness.

  10. Interviewers

    The interview process is an opportunity to show a firm’s diversity to a prospective employee and to get diverse viewpoints on the candidate’s ability to succeed at the firm. Use diverse interview panels when possible and structure the feedback process so that all voices are heard.

  11. Returnship

    Some firms offer programs that recruit those who have taken a career break. Create a returnship program and encourage recruiters and interviewers to consider nontraditional career paths.

  12. Mentors and Sponsors

    Mentors help prepare people for career success, and sponsors advocate on their behalf. Mentors typically give wide-ranging advice, whereas sponsors are focused on advancing the career of their protégé. Encourage mentoring and urge influential leaders to become sponsors.

  13. Cultural Taxation

    This is a phenomenon in which people from historically underrepresented populations are doing extra work to advance firm diversity (i.e., they are overtaxed), and there is a negative correlation between doing this work and getting promoted. In other words, doing “diversity work” is penalized because it takes them away from other work. Develop processes to ensure that employees are adequately compensated and recognized for their D&I work.

  14. Internal Networks

    Firms and individuals benefit from building relationships across an organization, and exposure to people unlike yourself creates a familiarity that fosters inclusion. Create cross-functional programs that facilitate exposure to people across the organization.

  15. Retention
    Keeping diverse employees is a challenge for many firms, yet many do not know how to make improvements. Conduct “stay interviews” with employees to understand why they choose to stay and what might make them leave.
  16. Always On Recruiting
    Continue to build a network of diverse candidates even when there aren’t openings. Adapt your recruiting mindset to an “always on” approach, recognizing that opportunities may arise outside of typical recruiting schedules.
  17. Compensation

    Some firms are beginning to have D&I key performance indicators, or KPIs, as part of executive compensation. Tie leadership-level compensation to progress on culture and diversity metrics.

  18. Outreach

    Actively engage in building the pipeline of investment professionals. Align corporate citizenship with efforts that generate awareness of and interest in investing.

  19. Open Dialogue

    An inclusive culture is one in which societal issues and their impact in the workplace are acknowledged. Encourage candid conversations about diversity topics and informal discussions about current events.

  20. Business Diversity

    Achieve top performance by being inclusive. The goal is to focus on improving performance by tapping firms with the best talent and to proactively consider women- and minority-owned firms. When selecting asset managers, ask consultants to propose a diverse slate of firms.

* These events took place in Toronto, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City, with a total of 344 participants across 99 companies, representing approximately $38 trillion in assets under management. The composition of roles was as follows: C-level executives = 19%, MD/headNP = 36%, other investment professionals = 24%, HR/I&D = 18%, other = 3%.