Inside view: There’s no shortage of diverse talent

It’s a common belief among firms that the supply of experienced diverse talent is limited. The Diversity Project’s Jayne Styles outlines steps to increase the size of this pool.

Many professionals working in the sphere of recruitment are concerned about the lack of diversity in talent pools. Surveys by the Diversity Project – an organisation promoting inclusion in the savings and investment management industry – found in 2021 that 87% of professionals working in talent acquisition, such as HR departments, and 71% of hiring managers say that there is not enough experienced diverse talent.

The problem lies in only looking for people doing the same job at competitors, and/or allowing our instincts to impede our talent decision-making. We are not as good at making rational decisions as we think we are.

Much has been said and written about inclusion and diversity (I&D), some of which is contradictory. Some of it claims causation when the evidence only shows correlation, and much of it is from a specific demographic perspective or bottom-up. Some of it promotes actions that do not work, and which can be counterproductive, such as compulsory unconscious bias training.

What is needed is a holistic perspective and practical steps to move the dial. The good news is that there is research out there that shows us what can work.

Behavioural science, which is widely used in finance, can help us to redesign our hiring ‘pipes and plumbing’ to increase the size of the talent pool, improve our talent decision-making, and level the playing field. Only then can there be a true meritocracy.

Replumbing the pipes
Long-term workforce planning widens the talent pool because people from underrepresented groups take longer to hire, as they see fewer people like them in the business. Firms can use this long-term perspective to actively build a bench of engaged talent.

Shift the emphasis to candidate quality and tenure, from cost and time to hire. Also, tailor candidate success criteria for each role, aiming for no more than six key criteria focused on behavioural competencies. Spoiler alert: age, years of education, and years of job experience are poor predictors of job performance!

Source talent widely, creatively, and proactively – including internally – whilst recognising that unconventional, non-linear career paths give people diverse perspectives.

Using neutral, concise language in all communications is important, as is having flexible working as the norm. Insist on at least two diverse candidates on every list and objectively assess candidates using anonymised short, role-specific, written work samples. Administer and score these consistently, using skilled evaluators, and averaging their independent evaluations, to tap into the wisdom of the crowd.

Other best practices:

  • Invite candidates to let you know if they need accommodation.
  • For each role, have three skilled, empathetic interviewers who understand the importance of taking a ‘moment of pause’, to consider how to enable a candidate to perform at their best.
  • Use structured interviews to assess candidates against the key success criteria. Again, average independent evaluations before discussing whom to appoint.
  • Do not undermine the process by introducing unstructured interviews or informal references. The latter are not good predictors of job performance and can be prone to stereotypes and double standards.
  • Be transparent about compensation ranges and do not ask external candidates for current compensation. Somebody who is paid below the market rate may incorrectly be assumed to be not very good.

Buddy system
Start individualised onboarding as soon as possible after the offer is accepted. Ask the joiner if they would like a buddy and help them build relationships with their new colleagues before they start.

Once the candidate starts, do not dilute their perspectives by expecting them to ‘fit in’, that is, align their views with those of others.

People from underrepresented groups have fewer role models and can be less likely to self-advocate. A mentoring programme can help build their confidence to apply for roles and when they take on new roles. A formal mentoring programme makes it easier for those who are keen to mentor but are reticent to do so informally.

Adopting these best practices will help you to deepen your talent pool and significantly shift your I&D dial. To find out more, visit the Diversity Project’s ‘Inclusive Culture Guide for CEOs: practical steps to level the playing field and create a sense of belonging’ at

Jayne Styles leads the Diversity Project’s Inclusive Recruitment Initiative and is a co-lead of the Ambassadors’ Programme

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