Strategies for Building a Diverse and Agile Workforce

NYSE Trading Floor


Melissa Cebula
Senior Vice President, Head of Talent Acquisition
Cerberus Capital Management

As Human Resources executives at a financial firm, my team and I are constantly developing out-of-the-box hiring strategies to broaden our talent pipeline. In financial services, it’s time to break free from traditional recruitment methods that rely on top-tier business schools, which historically narrow talent pipelines and foster a culture of sameness. While this approach has led to some commendable hires over the years, research shows that there is not only a moral case but a compelling business case to expand the aperture.

According to a McKinsey report, companies that recruit a diverse workforce with a variety of experiences and backgrounds are 12% more likely to financially outperform competitors. By expanding your talent pipelines with alternative talent strategies, you too can unlock the power of high performing, diverse teams and achieve great financial results. 

To widen your talent pipeline, consider these creative approaches that yield significant results and great new hires.

Looking Beyond the Ivy League

Cerberus’s Melissa Cebula

Many financial services firms focus on a few “target” schools, limiting their talent pool. For example, Investopedia reports that the Wharton School of Business is one of the top feeder schools for investment banking jobs at Goldman Sachs, and NYU is the top feeder school for JPMorgan Chase. This often leads to students from target schools having relatively easy access to secure interviews with multiple financial companies, fostering a team with considerable homogeneity.

Diverging from this pattern and broadening engagement to encompass a diverse array of institutions inclusive of state universities, HBCUs, all-women colleges and private universities is a key solution to enriching your talent pipelines. A diverse range of schools fosters varied perspectives shaped by factors such as location, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, religion and academic focus. These unique backgrounds expose students to distinct experiences and insights, enriching their understanding of the world and contributing to a more inclusive and well-rounded society.

In the context of financial services, having a team with diverse perspectives can be particularly beneficial when making investment decisions, because the team will have the ability to consider a wider range of factors and avoid the biases that can lead to groupthink.

Here are a few examples: A student from a state university may have a better understanding of the financial needs of middle-class Americans than a student from an Ivy League school, while a student from an HBCU may have a better understanding of the financial challenges faced by Black Americans than a student from a predominantly White institution. A student from a women’s college may have a different perspective on gender and finance than a student from a co-educational college, and a student from a private university may have a better understanding of the financial needs of high-net-worth individuals than a student from a public university.

By having a team with a wider range of perspectives, financial services firms can better understand their customers, make better investment decisions and develop more innovative products and services.

Transferable Skills: The Secret Weapon for Success in Financial Services

HR professionals in the financial services industry often focus on candidates with traditional skills and experience. However, many of the most successful teams in the industry are made up of individuals with transferable skills from non-traditional backgrounds.

Transferable skills are those that can be applied across different industries and roles. They include skills such as problem-solving, communication, teamwork and critical thinking. These skills are essential for success in the rapidly changing financial services industry, where new technologies and business models are constantly emerging.

According to a recent Forbes article, the financial services industry is facing a significant skills gap. The article states that “the demand for tech talent in financial services is growing at twice the rate of the overall workforce.” This skills gap is creating an opportunity for individuals with transferable skills from non-traditional backgrounds to enter the financial services industry and make significant contributions.

For example, a recent hire at our company defied conventional expectations. With a background as a former intelligence officer and retired Army Ranger with over two decades of experience in conflict zones, he now serves as a managing director on our Supply Chain and Strategic Opportunities team. His unique insights equip him with critical skills to evaluate supply chain integrity and identify investment opportunities.

The landscape of work is rapidly changing, driven by technological advancements and a redefined concept of professional growth. Talent acquisition and HR professionals must embrace the reality that sourcing candidates without conventional backgrounds, degrees or skills is essential to building an agile workforce that can navigate this evolving landscape.

The Power of Data in Shaping the Future of Talent Acquisition

Recruitment data is essential for shaping the future of talent acquisition. It enables organizations to make data-driven decisions, enhance diversity initiatives, mitigate bias and build agile workforces.

Recruitment data reveals candidate strengths and helps organizations identify and address gaps in their recruitment process that may hinder attracting top talent. For example, data analysis can uncover biases in job postings and interview questions.

Additionally, recruitment data can be used to predict attrition rates and assess job performance, which can inform talent development, succession planning and other strategic decisions. Data analysis can identify trends, such as which backgrounds may have higher attrition rates or which skills lead to success in specific roles. This insight can be used to develop targeted talent programs and succession plans, ensuring that organizations have a diverse and qualified talent pipeline.

Overall, the utilization of recruitment data is a powerful tool for shaping the future of talent acquisition and building dynamic and agile workforces that are inclusive, equitable and well-positioned to succeed in the ever-evolving professional landscape.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Melissa Cebula is senior vice president, head of talent acquisition at Cerberus Capital Management, where she oversees all talent and recruiting efforts. She’s a fierce advocate of establishing true partnership with hiring managers across all levels and embracing a “recruitment as a service” mindset.

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