Imagine driving through a new development where every home is painted the same color and built on the same floorplan. Real estate agents would have a tough time selling homes in a neighborhood where every home was identical. On the other hand, a vibrant neighborhood, full of complementing but unique colors and diverse floor plans, can attract more buyers looking to set down roots and put their personal touch on their home. The same can be said for employers.
For mortgage companies, having a diverse and inclusive workforce is more than just an aesthetic preference. A diverse workforce provides lenders immediate and tangible benefits. A recent study of 1,000 companies across 12 countries by McKinsey and Company found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability. Meanwhile, companies with greater ethnic and cultural diversity benefitted from a 33 percent increase in performance.
Why the performance increase? Lenders that employ a diverse workforce benefit from diverse viewpoints and perspectives, which can help the company develop better products and create a better customer experience for all borrowers. Medium’s article, “The Top Five Workplace Diversity Statistics,” highlights additional benefits of diversity, including more innovation, better decision making, and higher rates of job offer acceptance.
Understanding the value of diversity empowers mortgage leaders to make the strategic decisions necessary to increase their company’s inclusion efforts. Building a comprehensive diversity and inclusion program begins with a thorough understanding of diversity. From there, leaders can determine what their organization can do from an internal and external perspective to attract all qualified candidates and foster an inclusive organization.
Define diversity and inclusion: More than gender or race
A common misperception is that diversity and inclusion solely refer to gender or racial considerations. While these are the most visible factors, a truly diverse workforce is one that embraces all ages, races, religions, nationalities, sexual orientations and genders.
A diverse workforce is just the first step. Mortgage lenders must also recognize the value of inclusivity, which is a company culture where people from all backgrounds are not only present, but valued. Inclusivity is the key to maintaining diversity in the workplace.
For example, if a mother returning to work following maternity leave has no space to pump breast milk, or a Muslim employee is insecure about maintaining his daily prayers on company grounds, a company may be considered diverse, but not inclusive. If employees feel they must hide core parts of themselves at work because they feel unsafe or unwelcome, it will take a toll on their motivation and engagement.
The challenge of creating a diverse workforce is making complete inclusion a strategic priority. If a lender focuses all their diversity efforts on creating a more equitable company when it comes to gender balance, they may unintentionally widen the racial or religious gap. While it is very important to ensure gender equality, it is just as important to ensure all represented groups are valued by the company.
On the surface, the task seems challenging. However, with an intentional commitment to diversity and inclusion, lenders can ensure their organization is attracting qualified candidates from all walks of life and creating a culture that encourages their growth within the company.
Start at the top
Step one to creating a diverse workforce is to evaluate the current state. Take a step back and consider how the company looks to an outsider. Is there a diversity and inclusion team? Are there employee resource groups that celebrate a range of diverse perspectives and provide internal assistance and guidance? Does the company Web site, social media platforms and marketing materials reflect a diverse image?
Too often, mortgage lenders assign diversity and inclusion projects solely to human resources. But a commitment to diversity must be embraced by all leadership. Consider the diversity of the executive team. Are men and women equally represented? What about people from various cultural and religious backgrounds? The makeup of your top leadership is a huge signal to the rest of the company, potential employees, customers and stakeholders.
The organization’s leaders also can demonstrate their commitment to diversity by creating internal diversity and inclusion teams that incorporate members from across the organization. These teams can focus on sharing the importance of inclusion across the organization through educational events, seminars, and more, while touting their commitment to diversity throughout the company and playing a role in the hiring process.
The diversity team also can help lenders evaluate external communications to ensure all materials and messages within the organization promote inclusion. Both internally and externally, the company should have visual representation that diversity and inclusion is a priority.
Make the most of your internal data
Another critical step to building a diverse organization is to look at the data on existing employees. Lenders can evaluate the level of diversity not only across the organization, but also look for imbalances in specific areas. For example, does the accounting department have significantly more women than men, or are there a lack of Spanish speaking employees in the customer service department? Without taking a deep dive into the data, lenders may only be making assumptions and risking only making surface level decisions about diversity.
This data should encompass everyone in your organization, including remote employees. By looking at the staff makeup in full, the diversity and inclusion team and HR department can make appropriate decisions on how to engage in outreach opportunities to diverse potential job candidates. The goal is not to make hiring decisions based upon the diversity of any particular person or group, but to ensure that all individuals and groups are made aware of employment opportunities, encouraged to apply, and given fair consideration based on their talents and qualifications for the position.
Attract a diverse workforce
Once lenders have evaluated their internal data, it is time to cast a wider net for candidates.
The best way to communicate a commitment to diversity is to proactively reach out to strategically build relationships with the training programs and universities that could help build a stronger workforce. For example, the hiring and diversity teams can build relationships with colleges and universities that graduate qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds, such as historically African-American universities or Hispanic-serving institutions.
Lenders also can invest in improving their reputation and recognition within their market by participating in local events that celebrate diversity. For larger organizations, there should be plans in place from a local, regional and national level to spread the word about the importance the organization places on diversity and the jobs available.
The goal is to connect with individuals of diverse groups and ensure the lender has access to qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. Common options include sponsoring, volunteering or partnering with specific conferences or working alongside event coordinators that target a specific audience to help associate the company with the various groups.
Make first impressions count
Once a lender identifies the changes they would like to make, how does the hiring team make sure the hiring process supports the message of diversity and inclusion?
From the first step, the hiring process should live up to the expectations of being inclusive with a diverse panel of interviewers. Make sure that panel also is made up of individuals from all levels in the organization. If that is not possible due to the current structure of the hiring team and executives, then utilize employee resource groups in the interview process to share information on the organization.
In addition to the hiring and onboarding processes for new employees, let your organization’s current employees know that diversity is celebrated and acknowledged. Consider instituting programs that invigorate, celebrate and incorporate women, people of color, differing abilities or different socio-economic backgrounds, for example, and share those programs across your communications channels.
Include current employees in the outreach
Another way to increase diversity within the organization is to utilize current employees in your recruiting efforts. Many of your current employees may know good candidates for the roles that need to be filled. Incorporating employee referral programs help with outreach and reward employees for their assistance in the process.
Companies can develop partnerships and work with organizations or contacts that can help source a diverse slate of candidates for the job.
Another way to get your organization’s employees involved is to collaborate and showcase diversification. Honor employees’ heritage and celebrate achievements to reenergize employees and show that their work is making an impact. At the end of the day, lenders have to be intentional about making sure every person is valued.
Inclusion at its finest
Diversity and inclusion are important and should be an important area of emphasis for the entire organization, starting with the hiring process. With help from internal data and resources, as well as outside organizations that assist in reaching diverse audiences, obtaining a fully diverse employee base is a lot easier than most would assume.
By building a truly diverse workforce, lenders draw attention to their organization as being a top place to work by promoting acceptance and celebrating differences. In addition, lenders benefit by tapping the creativity, innovation and perspective of different mindsets and backgrounds to help the organization grow and become more profitable.
The statements provided are the opinions of Quincy Amekuedi and do not reflect the views of Genworth or its management.
Quincy Amekuedi is the recruiting leader for Genworth Mortgage Insurance, where he works with various business partners to set strategies for recruiting, employment branding, and diversity and inclusion across the organization. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Brand Management and Marketing from North Carolina State University and joined the staffing and recruiting industry in 2012.