As the talent crunch in Singapore’s banking and finance sector intensifies, companies need to broaden their recruitment practices to find the staff they need.
Placing more emphasis on diversity and inclusion can help companies increase recruitment from three groups of talent who tend to be overlooked, namely people with disabilities or special needs, returning mothers and older workers.
Embracing a more diverse pool of employees not only helps firms access more talent but it can also have a positive impact on everything from company profits to staff satisfaction levels.
But firms need to be prepared to invest in promoting a more inclusive culture and equipping staff with the skills they need to gain the maximum benefit from increased diversity.
The case for change
It is no secret that banks and financial services companies are struggling to find the talent they need in Singapore, with many now looking overseas to fill their talent gaps.
Focusing attention on the often-overlooked groups of those with disabilities or special needs, returning mothers and older workers opens up a new talent pool for companies.
At the same time, numerous studies have shown that having a more diverse workforce has a positive impact on a company’s performance.
For example, a study by Willis Towers Watson found that Singapore companies that had at least one female board member outperformed those with no female directors in terms of total shareholder return, return on investment and revenue growth.
The study found similar benefits with age diversity, with boards that had between 20 and 30 years separating their oldest and youngest members outperforming companies that did not, based on return on investment, price-earnings ratios and revenue growth.
The theory is that the more diverse a decision-making body is, the more different skills, experience and perspectives are incorporated into the decision-making process, leading to more opportunities and risks being identified, boosting a company’s performance.
While studies tend to focus on diversity at a board level, the benefits of increased diversity are thought to impact a company at all levels.
Studies have also indicated that employees are happier and have greater trust in companies with diverse workforces.
Weighing it up
Companies are not blind to the benefits different employee groups bring to their businesses, but concerns about the specific needs they may have tend to hold firms back from widening their recruitment pool.
Firms typically associated older workers, classed as those aged over 55, as being more experienced and more knowledgeable, and having good mentoring skills and a more responsible attitude.
In fact, a survey conducted by PERSOLKELLY found that 96% of hiring managers and employees working in banking and financial services in Asia Pacific recognised at least one benefit of employing older people.
But there was also significant apprehension about recruiting older workers, with hiring managers in the sector expressing concerns about health issues among the over 55s, as well as perceiving this group as being closed-minded, less versatile and lacking technological knowledge.
Similarly, 83% of hiring managers and employees across all sectors could see the benefits of employing people with disabilities or special needs, with these employees seen to provide additional perspectives to business challenges, have greater loyalty to a company and a more responsible attitude.
But again, 75% of hiring managers at financial services companies perceived challenges with recruiting people with disabilities or special needs, such as concerns about health issues, worries they would not be able to handle the rigors of the job and fears too many adjustments would need to be made to their team to accommodate them.
The same pattern is seen for returning mothers. Despite having more women in the workforce offering companies a range of benefits, 76% of hiring managers and employees in financial services admitted they have reservations about employing them, with many concerned about a perceived lack of availability due to mothers working part-time or needing to leave work earlier, as well as being less focused and lacking flexibility.
Embracing diversity and inclusion
If companies want to recruit a more diverse workforce, they are likely to need to reshape some of their policies to promote a more inclusive workplace, while they are also likely to need to change some of their hiring practices.
A key first step is to introduce diversity and inclusion training to help overcome some of the prejudice talent in the above groups face, and to ensure diversity and inclusion is strongly embedded in a company’s value system.
Despite the benefits this training can bring, less than one in five banking and financial services companies in Asia Pacific currently offers it.
The next step is to ensure businesses equip their workforce with the right skills to embrace inclusivity.
Our research has shown that the best way of doing this is to improve employees’ soft skills and provide more flexible working arrangements or family-friendly policies, including return to work programmes.
Training and dialogue form an important part of this strategy, to ensure staff feel listened to about their concerns and have the necessary skills to work with different groups of people.
Finally, firms must also pay attention to their recruitment practices if they want to reach underrepresented pools of talent, and ensure they are not creating barriers to people applying to work for them.
For example, if a company is keen to tap into older workers, it is unlikely to reach them if it only advertises vacancies through social media.
Likewise, working mothers and people with disabilities or special needs may be put off applying for jobs if its requirements state ‘extensive travel’ is required.
A growing number of companies are also adopting ‘blind reviewing’ of candidates, under which applicants’ names, ages and even addresses, are removed from their resumes to combat unconscious bias over gender, age or perceived social status.
While there is no quick fix to boosting diversity and inclusion, companies that put in the effort in this area are likely to be rewarded with a wider talent pool from which to recruit and a stronger business performance.