The need to improve inclusion is an area of focus for Willis Towers Watson PLC's Thinking Ahead Institute, a non-profit research network. The institute has looked in-depth at so-called T-shaped people and teams — having a mixture of subject depth and subject breadth, according to the institute — that contributes to cognitive diversity and helps to create super teams. For those teams, "diversity is very much at the core," said Marisa Hall, co-head of the Thinking Ahead Institute in London.
To build those teams, employers need to have a framework for inclusion and trust. Part of that means looking at how decisions are made and the beliefs behind such decisions.
"So to build these better teams, diversity is one part of the puzzle, but you also need to bring about inclusion. You also need to bring around ... that rigor and that scaffolding to make the team stronger," Ms. Hall said.
Making staff feel truly included and that they belong to a firm is no easy feat — it means looking beyond hiring and bringing staff into a firm and thinking about how internal meetings are run, for example.
"Do we create spaces within our own meetings where people are allowed to disagree, where the chair isn't the person that's doing all of the talking, where we start with the more junior people first, where we think about ... do we need a technical chair alongside a social chair who is able to kind of track and make sure that everybody's voice is heard?" Ms. Hall said.
Companies need to be open-minded, listen to and understand people, as well as achieve a "psychological safety that people can share their experience," added Margaret Franklin, Toronto-based president and CEO at the CFA Institute.
The CFA has done a lot of work on gender diversity, for example. It launched its "women in investment" initiative seven years ago, and one of the things executives talked about was "visibility is validity. If I can see it, I can imagine it. And so part of, I think, what will be the next generation's thinking is when do people start to make decisions around their careers?" Ms. Franklin said.
CFA data show that about 75% of women's decision-making on careers happens between the ages of 18 and 25, "which means we have to start presenting our industry as a viable, productive, noble, creative space to attract … the diverse talent we want" early on, she said. "People don't see themselves in the industry. They continue to see a reasonably homogeneous, exclusionary industry. I think we have to all do a lot of work around that because ... if we look at the data of what millennials are looking for, (they want) companies with purpose and values," Ms. Franklin said. Emerging, young talent will "challenge senior leadership to think very differently."
That presents an opportunity, particularly in the post-pandemic world. "Nobody has a playbook for return to work. … It creates an interesting opportunity to revisit so many things. And if there's one benefit of the pandemic … it has made us all more human to each other. And what we've lacked in person has probably created greater accessibility for a greater group of people for inclusion," Ms. Franklin said.
Some managers have already made serious moves. "Inclusion is a big thing within our organization," said Lily Burkhart, New York-based global head of diversity, equity and inclusion and talent management for asset and wealth management at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
In fact, J.P. Morgan Asset Management CEO George Gatch's "mission" is to be the most diverse and inclusive money manager in the industry. And everyone plays a part. "It's not just the senior leaders, it's not managers, it's every employee because … your everyday interaction with other employees is what makes the place … inclusive or not," Ms. Burkhart said. "We're just holding everyone accountable to create an inclusive environment."
Among the firm's summer analyst interns, more than half are female and, in the U.S., more than half are also ethnically diverse. For its full-time analyst graduate hires this year, more than 50% are female and more than one-third are ethnically diverse, Ms. Burkhart said. "So it's really promising," she added.