In building and leading more diverse teams, transparency is the friend of progress.
It is the enemy of surface level PR campaigns and tick box equality initiatives that often cost a whole heap of money and usually make very little difference.
It's now mandatory to tell the truth. Perhaps you are afraid to tell the truth about who you are and what matters to you. But it's also worth asking the same question of the people you work alongside. How many of the people in our organisations are afraid to be different? And what does that cost us in the long run?
A fear of being different stifles talent and contribution, which ultimately means we get less than the full participation of people on our payroll. Clearly, that costs money, but firms also pay the price in terms of innovation, the failure to avoid group-think and to better represent our clients.
While endless studies have proved the link between greater diversity and business performance, it’s the human perspective that matters most to me. We were humans way before we were ever resources or customers. This is an obvious but important observation that is often forgotten in business.
I care about humans – not just the humans of Nucleus or financial services but the humans in our society. I want Nucleus to be a place where people from different backgrounds and experiences can do their best work. A place where we are humans not job titles.
We recently held a week of events and talks around inclusion, which led to a load of brilliant conversations. What I heard the loudest was that the opposite of inclusion - a business that excludes people - is actually pretty offensive.
I believe we cannot become a more diverse organisation through intention alone. We need to behave our way there. Nucleus is committed to promoting inclusion, so we can help extinguish exclusion.
We know progress will take time but our actions today will determine who we are in future.
We have made good progress, but we have more work to do. We retain almost 90 per cent of our people. Some 92 per cent of our people are proud to work for Nucleus and the same number understand how they can contribute to our core purpose. Our people sentiment is on an upward trajectory.
However, this alone is not good enough. When I joined Nucleus three years ago I thought we were a diverse, pretty inclusive company. But then I stopped to take a closer look at our data and understand more about this subject. What we saw as a business concerned us and provoked us to try harder. We must act now to change our behaviour (whether that's conscious or unconscious) so that we can create the outcome we want in the future.
The outcome we ultimately want is diversity of thought. Disagreement done right. As always, this starts with leadership.
We have 45 people leaders at Nucleus, and they all understand the art of creating greatness in others. Being a leader here means being human first and having adult-to-adult relationships that in turn create a culture of high performance.
It means doing more listening than talking. It means shifting the traditional relationship between people leaders and team members from parent-to-child to adult-to-adult. It requires us all to leave our egos at the door and have a coaching mindset because if we want disagreement done right, then we need to hear the voices of the majority, not just the minority.
We encourage all our leaders to start their one-to-one meetings with the phrases such as ‘what’s on your mind’ and ‘tell me more about that’ to allow different voices to be heard.
We talk about the concept of radical candour where it's ok to have what I call a frank, ‘spinach in the teeth’ conversation. In doing so, we’ve made it ok to be unpopular and share a different perspective, even for a while.
Hiring for cultural contribution rather than cultural fit has been a major shift in our thinking. We want to avoid the ‘cult’ in culture. We have been fortunate to have almost a third of our new hires in the last two years referred to us by our own team. Yet while it's great to see such pride in our company, it could run the risk of hiring more 'people like us'.
Steps we are taking to address this include:
- Not being solely focused on hiring the ‘best’ person for the job, instead hiring the best person for the team.
- Reviewing our job ads/wording and the end-to-end hiring experience to make sure no one person makes a hiring decision on their own.
- Anonymised shortlisting of our candidates to remove unconscious bias in our decision-making. We look at answers to key attributes required for the job rather than a CV which reveals things like name, gender and education.
- Organising unconscious bias training for all our people leaders.
- Reviewing on a fortnightly basis how we're doing.
Ultimately we understand that if we don’t let people be themselves, we don’t get to hire the best people.
The final thing I wanted to share was our focus on creating the conditions where our people can do their best work. We see flexible working as one of the ways we can do this. Around 25 per cent of our people work flexibly on a formal arrangement and a whole bunch more have an informal arrangement in place.
Our approach here aligns with our view that high performance happens when we are human, adult and inclusive. We encourage flexible working for all to allow our people to focus on the things that matter most to them.
It's worth remembering you shouldn’t need to give birth in order to work flexibly. This is not the sole domain of working parents. It’s pretty exclusive to see things that way.
If you are running a small business, I can understand how it might be daunting to think about how to take a different approach to getting the most out of your team.
I’d encourage you to make the offer of ‘one simple thing’. Start small and encourage your people to tell you one thing that matters to them, and then support them to do it. This could be coming in later on a Friday to drop off a child at school, or it could be having a longer lunch break on a Wednesday in order to do a yoga class. Run the experiment and I’m sure you will see the benefits in increased engagement and effort immediately.
So, back to where we started this conversation - transparency, truth and human connection.
What we do now will define what happens in the future. Humanity is our ultimate competitive advantage.
I'd like to thank you from tomorrow for taking the time to read this, and for having positive intent about creating a better environment for your people.
My ask of you:
- Be truthful. Speak up. Share your personal story about why this matters to you.
- Be radically candid with yourself. What would the future you say to the you of today on how you approach leadership, recruitment and looking after your team? How would you feel if you did nothing?
- Just as leadership is the art of creating greatness in others, think about how you could create greatness in yourself for the benefit of others.
- Start small, and behave your way into a better way of working.
- One simple thing you can do is to be more human. The commercial results will follow.