Diversity for the Sake of Diversity?
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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We recently hired a female advisor because our founder is focused on “diversity.” She had a questionable track record at another firm, left on bad terms (I know someone who is an advisor there and I checked it out) and has rubbed people the wrong way since she came here. There are five of us (she makes six) and I don’t think there is anyone she has not offended or upset in some way. I’m not averse to hiring for gender. But don’t you have to make sure someone is a good fit with your firm? What do you think about this trend toward diversity for the sake of diversity?
Are you asking about my views on the “trend” or are you looking for my confirmation that this woman was a bad decision? There are so many different factors to your inquiry and I’ll try to unpack each one and address them:
- It is critically important when hiring anyone for a position in any financial firm, small to large, to ensure the person is not only capable to do the job but also a good fit for the culture. And yes, I have seen a number of situations where a hire is made for the wrong reasons and the person just does not fit in the culture. To focus on diversity for the sake of diversity usually isn’t good for the person being hired or the firm.
- Your description of this female advisor makes me think her behavioral and communication style is a little rough for your culture. I often see firms that have a “culture of nice” where it isn’t appreciated when someone speaks out, is overly direct or is willing to confront and address things. It is particularly difficult for a female who might be a strong-willed person in these cultures because she is often perceived as a pushy woman. I know you checked her out at this other firm, but the real problem might be the way she is wired as a communicator being very different from the accepted norms in that firm’s culture and yours as well. She might be frustrated or might be feeling left out of things as the token woman so she could be reacting to this as well.
- As an industry we do have to do more work to bring in diversity – gender, ethnicity, background and so on. It has been very white-male dominated, but the marketplace is changing. While I completely agree you should not hire merely for diversity (see my first point above), it is important to have an awareness about bringing in new ideas and new thinking to shake things up a bit.
- When a firm hires someone new – whether a diverse person or not – have an onboarding process and a clear way to introduce the person and integrate them into the team. It sounds to me like this advisor got stuck in something and is trying to figure out the best way to work with everyone. Instead of finding ways to alienate her or prove she isn’t a fit, collaborate with her to see if you can make the experience for her, and others, more positive. Ask yourself if you have done everything to try and help her succeed.
What do you do when the people you have hired to do business development don’t like to sell? We created a new unit within the firm to focus on uncovering new opportunities. But the four former advisors we put there to focus on this don’t want to pick up the phone and call anyone! They spend their time talking to clients and helping the other advisors find opportunities in their client base. How do I get them to sell?
Do they have a clear strategic plan for sales? Are there tactics everyone has agreed upon they should be implementing on a daily basis? Do you know that the conversations they have with clients and/or the other advisors are not new-revenue related and they aren’t using these as opportunities to generate new business? Do they have a list of people to call or are you asking them to find people and call “cold” to introduce themselves? Have you given them any training at all on how to sell effectively?
In the financial advisory/planning space, selling is not as if you were representing a product or service. You can’t be successful randomly dialing people, hoping to get them on the phone and then pitching your services. I’m not sure any product or service is going to be sold that way, especially ones that are people- and relationship-oriented. It’s an exercise in futility. Be careful what you are asking them to do.
The best opportunities often come from existing relationships with clients and COIs. I don’t know that these folks are wasting time having these conversations. If they don’t have a strategy and objective, then they could just be nice conversations that lead nowhere. But if they are being strategic, this could be the best way to generate new revenue.
Be sure you have been clear about the plan, and they are clear on the plan and you are able to together measure what’s working and what’s not.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.