The latest Financial Services Skills Commission report shows how the profession can improve inclusion – Bobbi Sills takes a look
In autumn 2021, the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) and Financial Services Culture Board (FSCB) conducted research into perceptions of inclusion across 13 major financial services firms.
The report, titled Inclusion across financial services: Piloting a common approach to measurement, provides a snapshot of inclusion across the sector and reveals the key steps firms must take to achieve better outcomes in the future.
The study found that almost three quarters of participants felt they had fair access to progression opportunities and were supported in their day-to-day work.
But a closer look at the demographic data highlighted differences in individual experiences, with disability, ethnicity, tenure and line management responsibility being some of the main differentiating factors.
Only half of Asian employees said they had fair access to progression opportunities, compared with 75% of White respondents. Black employees were most likely to say they did not feel as if they belonged, and more than three times as likely as White employees to worry that they might be stereotyped.
When asked whether they felt a sense of belonging at work, eight out of 10 participants agreed and also answered positively on aspects relating to feeling supported at work.
The findings painted a positive picture of inclusion overall, with 89% of respondents agreeing that managers do a good job of promoting an inclusive working environment.
But the report reveals that employers must do more to invest in inclusive leadership and working practices, with 19% of respondents admitting they worry that the people they interact with at work may draw conclusions about their ability based on stereotypes.
Based on the findings, there are four key areas firms must address to ensure an inclusion strategy that works for all: measuring inclusion as well as diversity; developing a culture of listening and learning; maintaining fair and transparent processes; and demonstrating strong leadership on inclusion.
Claire Tunley, CEO of the FSSC, notes that a well-balanced inclusion strategy is crucial for ensuring firms retain and attract a wider array of talent.
While many firms compile diversity statistics and these are likely to be discussed at senior level, data on inclusion is less frequently reviewed, according to the report.
Ms Tunley acknowledges: “The financial services sector is facing acute skills shortages and it is clear that ensuring an inclusive workplace culture is integral to talent retention, attraction and wider business success.”
She continues: “The report clearly shows that measuring inclusion in the workplace, developing a culture of listening, and prioritising inclusion alongside diversity in the boardroom are key to attracting and retaining talent across financial services.”
The FSSC says that to demonstrate a culture of listening and learning, firms should respond to employee feedback with empathy, make it clear when action is taken and explain why when action is not taken.
“Understanding employees’ experience of inclusion as well as diversity is key to tracking this and an essential step to achieving better outcomes for business and society,” concludes Ms Tunley.
The financial services sector is facing acute skills shortages and it is clear that ensuring an inclusive workplace culture is integral to talent retention, attraction and wider business success
Ms Tunley points to the work of organisations like the CII in paving the way for good practice around inclusivity.
In 2019, the professional body introduced a new requirement for all CII Chartered firms to have an equality, diversity and inclusion policy in place.
The CII also partners with networks such as the African-Caribbean Insurance Network, the LGBTQ+ Insurance Network and the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network to encourage diverse audiences to find rewarding careers in insurance and financial services.
Ian Simons, customer director at the CII, says: “The CII strives to lead by example in its inclusion practice and we are committed to taking action to increase inclusion across the personal finance and insurance professions.”
He continues: “As a professional body, our purpose is to improve trust in the profession and we believe the key to earning that trust is creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce that truly understands, represents and is empowered to serve the needs of our customers.”
This year sees the launch of the CII’s Professional Map, a new competency framework for the profession outlining the technical knowledge, skills and behaviours expected of insurance professionals today and in the future.
Coined the ‘golden thread’, the map includes seven categories of ‘technical expertise’, three ‘enablers’ and seven ‘behaviours’ – including inclusivity – that firms can use to map their organisation’s current skillset and fill in any gaps.
Mr Simons concludes: “We will continue to work with our members, societies and local institutes to develop and share good practice, such as ensuring inclusive recruitment, inclusive language and inclusion measurement, as well as setting aspirational standards for employers.”
The findings from the FSSC and FSCB report serve as a timely reminder that diversity and inclusion not only go hand in hand, but that creating an inclusive workplace is central to reaping the benefits of meeting the diverse needs of customers.
Bobbi Sills is communications executive of the CII