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Increasing Retention of Diverse Individuals in the Profession  

2050 TB 1.31.19A black female millennial stood up at the CFP Board’s Diversity Summit in the fall of 2018 and asked the question, “Diversity at what cost?” to a panel of industry leaders including FPA Chair Frank Paré, Lazetta Rainey Braxton of Financial Fountains, Catalina Camoscio of Prudential and Dr. Frank Dobbin of Harvard University.

She went on to explain that she’d started her interview process earlier in 2018 and experienced firsthand the findings from CFP Board’s diversity research. It was traumatic, she said.

“You’re exhausted, you get home every day and you’re like, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’” she said, voice quivering. She went on to ask, “How are we being mindful of sending young people of color into these spaces—to help reverse mentor and help folks come along” when it comes to genuine inclusion?

This question and the woman who posed it stay with the 2050 TrailBlazers podcast host Rianka R. Dorsainvil, she said in a recent episode with Katie Augsburger and Andrew Greenia.

“I sit on a couple of diversity advisory group boards and that is something that is always going to stick in my mind,” Dorsainvil said.

Attracting people of color to professions is not the issue, it is retention. Oftentimes people will be attracted to the financial planning profession but feel like this young woman felt and leave.

The following are helpful tips on how to increase retention through genuine inclusion.

Leaders Need to Believe and Examine

Oftentimes people from diverse backgrounds will feel uncomfortable or discriminated against and will leave a firm or organization.

Katie Augsburger, who has a long career in human resources and now is a partner at Future Work Design, said oftentimes companies bring in diverse people and think they are inclusive.

“They will say, ‘Yay, we’re diversified. We’re so excited,’” but once this employee brings up issues of racial tension, microaggressions or discrimination, they are labeled as a complainer who makes everything about race. That employee will either leave of their own accord or get fired.

“That is common amongst organizations—even organizations who say they are really focused on equity, diversity and inclusion,” Augsburger said.

But when these employees speak out on these things, they need to be heard.

“We need to believe people,” said Andrew Greenia, consultant with Promise54, an agency that helps organizations develop diverse and inclusive teams and cultures. Oftentimes when these employees cite racial discrimination or other issues when they leave, it goes to the wayside and leaders simply replace them and ignore why they left.

This is probably because “believing them requires you do something,” Augsburger added. But companies need to do something.

Companies are not going to fix these issues within their culture until they examine and address the reasons why diverse people have left. If it takes hiring a diversity and inclusion consulting company, then do that.  

“We usually think about new employees coming in and what can sometimes be forgotten is all the employees who have left,” Augsburger said. “What were they yelling and screaming for, mentally, when they were leaving? We often place the blame for lack of retention on the people and not the policies, procedures that pushed them out.”

Understand the Barriers to True Inclusion

Augsburger said that diversity is inviting somebody to the party, but inclusion is asking them to dance. In your organization, are you asking your diverse hires to dance? Do you genuinely value the opinions of your employees from diverse backgrounds? Do you invite them to the table when it comes to decision-making? Are you supporting them and listening to them? Are you ensuring they have equal access to advancement, good pay and resources? Augsberger said these are all areas to examine that lead to better inclusion, which in turn leads to better retention.

There are several barriers to true inclusion in companies today, including:

  1. Oftentimes people think that creating a more diverse and equitable culture in the profession means that there will be less work or rights for white males.
  2. Many professional practices, including a heavy focus on one set definition of “professionalism” are deeply rooted in dominant, white culture.
  3. Companies expect people of color to “fix” the diversity problem. “We are expecting people from marginalized communities to just show up and thus the problem will be solved,” Augsburger said.

Examining and altering your perspective when it comes to these things can lead to more inclusive and equitable outcomes.

“Inclusion is really the process of naming and making room for multiple ways of being and seeing them as valid,” Greenia said. “Those require learning what is equity, what is inclusion, what is diversity, and also unlearning what have been the barriers and normalized practices.”

But none of this will be accomplishable without the participation of leaders, said Catalina Camoscio, vice president of recruiting and development at Prudential, at the CFP Board Diversity Summit in October.

“We can talk about it,” Camoscio said, “but until we as leaders in positions of influence act on it and demonstrate it, we will not move the needle for people like” the young woman who posed the question of the cost of diversity.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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A Change of Perspective

As you know, small business is not immune to internal conflict. But no matter the size of your office, a change of perspective may help you see an issue in a new light and find the resolution you’re looking for.

Of course, we’re all naturally clear on our own perspective and how to assess a certain situation or conflict. Seeing that same issue from someone else’s point of view, however, is a skill. But where do you begin? Well, someone wise once taught me a trick to view things through another person’s eyes. Odd as it may sound, it involves physical movement.

Get Moving

Let’s say, for example, there is a disagreement in your office about where a new staff person is going to sit. In this situation, each member of the team may have a different perspective.

  • One staff member feels he should move to the open cube, which is slightly larger than his current space, because he is now the most tenured staff person in the office.
  • The hiring adviser would like the new support person to be in that cube since it is closest to her office.
  • Some staff members feel that, if the most tenured staff person moves, they all should move to be close to a particular adviser or to match space with tenure.
  • Other advisers in the office think, who cares? Whatever.
  • The office manager would like to take an approach that keeps everyone happy and productive.

Discover a New Point of View

While this scenario may seem a bit trivial, it is real life. I’m sure everyone has encountered a similar situation. Here, the knee-jerk reaction that all this is silly (can’t we just focus on work?) may not be valid. Instead, what if you were to physically sit in the open cube, the adviser’s office, other staff members’ cubes or other advisers’ offices? I think you just might discover that the issue is quite real.

The act of physically moving to a different space can help you see things from a new point of view. The issue you’re dealing with could be anything—deciding whether to spend more of the budget on marketing, coming to an agreement on the planning software that will meet the needs of all or even making the firm-wide decision about the best asset allocation for a client segment. You might not find the answer by sitting in your office and trying to understand it from the perspective of others. But you may find it by moving your body to a different location—any location. Physical movement is the tool to help you stand in someone else’s shoes.

Create a Powerful Solution

I was recently reminded of the value of changing space to gain perspective while visiting China. My perspective of the country was “off.” But as I stood in a new space that was 7,500 miles away from home, saw a few of the 1.4 billion people everywhere and breathed the air, I began to understand a different culture and left with a lasting memory of a country of building cranes. A change of scenery can do a world of good. And by truly experiencing a different perspective? You will have a greater chance of creating a more powerful solution.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.


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The Value of Time and Experience

I recently visited an adviser whose business had grown very quickly. In a five-year period, he went from one employee to five and his production tripled, easily putting him in the seven-figure range. In comparison with many other advisers with similar businesses, this adviser is 15 years younger, on average and has a commensurate 15 fewer years of industry experience. Listening to his business challenges—especially those having to do with human resources—gave me pause. Did this adviser have more people problems than most or was something else going on?

Getting Better Vs. Getting Used to Things
In considering this young adviser’s situation, I believed one of two things was going on:

  1. He had not yet developed the skills necessary to manage staff, which was actually contributing to his issues.
  2. He had not yet recognized that people issues are an ongoing component of managing a business.

For example, the adviser felt that he needed to revise job descriptions and re-create a compensation system that would more specifically motivate the behaviors he desired. He wanted his employees to take more responsibility for producing error-free work, instead of depending on him to review their work and catch errors. The issue extended beyond his support staff. He had recently brought on a staff CFP® and discovered that the process of guiding and mentoring the young woman required a significant investment of time to help her understand how to apply financial knowledge and theory to clients’ reality. That’s not to mention the time he was spending helping her evolve business development skills. When I asked how much time he was investing in managing the business, he said 50 percent.

But is that really too much? Comparing his story with that of other advisers with similar business scale and capacity, I found that they were far less verbal and seemed less frustrated with their human resource situation. What was particularly thought provoking was that the young adviser had assumed he must be doing something wrong or that there was something wrong with his organizational model.

We’re Never Done
There is no doubt that if we make the effort to improve, we get better over time. We learn how to manage resources—time, money and people—more effectively. What this young adviser had yet to learn was that he was doing just fine as a manager. The reality is that just when we have things lined up to achieve the perfect organization, a lot can change—someone gets sick, leaves for a different job or needs to implement new technology or procedures, which actually causes him or her to be less effective and may even lead to performance issues.

The longer we spend in a leadership position, the more we learn that when things are going well, all we have to do is wait a bit—they’ll change! The good news is that the reverse is also true. When things are not going right from an HR perspective, focusing your attention on the issue can help improve it. The fact of the matter is that we are never done managing our people. And that’s the real value of time and experience.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.