Guest blog: Steps to increasing inclusion and diversity in modern mutual

Guest blog by Cara Wood, Consultant at Odgers Berndtson

Guest blog by Cara Wood, Consultant at Odgers Berndtson. This article was first published in Society Matters magazine.

Achieving true inclusion and diversity in your organisation should be - and hopefully is – a business priority. An organisation that is inclusive and diverse drives better value for colleagues, customers, communities, and business performance.

Of course, there will be nuanced challenges depending on your organisation – its size, culture, location, resources, current and future skills priorities. One thing, however, should be consistent: diversity should be about what different individuals contribute because of who they are, innately and through lived experience, rather than simply representation of a characteristic. Truly diverse organisations embrace diversity in all its forms, including those that are not visible. Whilst we have seen some progress, there’s much more we can all do.

So, how can you develop a truly diverse and inclusive business?

Your proposition: attracting talent

For many organisations and their leadership, a key challenge is the ability to attract diverse talent to address the current and future skills needed to drive commercial and operational strategies forward. Whilst there is no doubt that the competitor pool is broadening, for modern mutuals, there’s a huge opportunity. Trust barometers, sector wide, indicate that people do not recognise the value of what financial institutions do in local communities. Distinct to some other parts of the sector, building societies have local communities at the core of their business models. This should be critical to your positioning. As should an agile and empowering culture, your commitment to investing in people, a passion for innovation, and communicating the breadth of role types and opportunities that exist within today’s modern mutuals.

Your approach to hiring: securing talent

Hiring underpinned by diversity and inclusion starts with a willingness to broaden the experience requirements. As an executive search firm, at Odgers Berndtson, we take seriously our responsibility to encourage clients to consider the broadest parameters for each role e.g. emphasising skills and potential over years of experience.

Secondly, it’s about considering diversity in its broadest sense and recognising the contribution of different people in our workplaces and communities, as opposed to applying a narrow lens on one or two characteristics.

Thirdly, be thoughtful about how you articulate and convey opportunities. The language should be accessible, with no barriers to interest. Can you highlight flexible working arrangements which might appeal to different groups of people? Perhaps those returning to work, with caring responsibilities, disabilities, or other personal or business interests.

Lastly, is your process accessible, and is the selection panel representative of the communities you serve and seek to attract? Getting these aspects right can also help mitigate candidate withdrawal.

Nurturing talent is fundamental to retaining diverse talent, and ultimately to the success of your people and performance. These are a few simple actions you can consider: create opportunities and forums for different voices to be heard within your business; demonstrate your commitment to investing in developing rounded leaders of the future; ensure promotion processes are objective and transparent (increasingly important as we work in a more flexible way that can give risk to proximity bias); and use data to track the flow of diverse talent in and out of your organisation.

These words only touch on the progress we can all make. Where we go from here is continued cultural and structural change. It requires every one of us to operate with inclusion at our core – as individuals, organisations and as a sector.

For more information visit www.odgersberndtson.com/en-gb/about-us

The views, opinions and positions expressed within guest blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the BSA.