”Understanding the organisational culture allows companies to identify the gaps between their value statements and what is happening on the ground, which in turn provides an invitation for change.”
With the largest chunk of my career in financial services (FS), being exposed to the highest circles of the pyramid, and feeling deceived from observing human nature evolving there, I came to the realisation that I could no longer work in an organisation that did not portray the values dear to me and took the hard decision to forfeit a comfortable life to start afresh.
Fuelled by wanting to have a positive impact on the world, I went to explore the realms of sustainability management. And what became apparent very quickly, is the absolute necessity of analytics to tackle any ESG topic (ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance).
As Lord Kelvin used to say, if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. Whilst it is obvious that to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at a particular plant, we need to know how much it emits, it may sound rather counter-intuitive to talk analytics when considering the Social angle of ESG, notably Employees. And even so, when we refer to employees and working conditions, we tend to think of child labour or dire working conditions at sweat shops (read textile factories). We think less of the work environment of the 2.3 million[i] people working in FS in the UK.
So, what is there to be measured besides attrition rates and, since 2018, the thornier topic of Gender Pay Gap?
The ‘How’ of the organisation. All the unwritten codes of how things are done, at all layers of the company, from the board down. Research from the Silicon Valley[ii] shows that having a culture where employees feel they are listened to, that their manager takes genuine interest in their well-being and communicates well makes people feel accepted, want to stick around, feel empowered to innovate, and adding value to the company’s performance[iii].
Learning from the Valley, how can FS firms look beyond assimilation, implying that women and minorities are expected to assimilate into a pre-defined and dominant corporate culture rather than being valued and being integrated for their differences[iv]?
By understanding the starting point, trialling interventions, and measuring success until they get the combination that leads to the desired outcome. That is what Google did in their multiyear data-enabled Project Oxygen.
World leading people analytics and behavioural science company iPsychTec[v], that counts major Financial Institutions as its clients, measures how employees perceive the organisation in terms of behaviours observed; in addition to how individuals behave. This goes beyond employee opinion surveys where questions seem staged to get to a manageable output for organisations. Coincidentally, the elephant in the room is generally not addressed in these questionnaires. Understanding the organisational culture allows companies to identify the gaps between their value statements and what is happening on the ground, which in turn provides an invitation for change. And organisations which hare serious about
Genuinely taking interest in Employees and having data to under back it helps FS firms in their ESG journey. And this in turn will trigger more collaboration between teams, openness and expression of one’s feelings, and creative problem solving. As Gandhi said, “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”, which in FS, starts with its most vulnerable employees and minorities.
You can hear more from Stephanie at the Women Asset Management Virtual Summit on 23rd February 2021. You can view the full agenda and register for your free place here.
[i] Department for International Trade https://www.great.gov.uk/international/content/about-uk/industries/financial-services/
[ii] Garvin, Berkley Wagonfeld, Kind (2013), Harvard Business School – Review 9 – 313 – 110, October 2013, “Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter?”
[iii] Mazur, B. (2014). Building diverse and inclusive organizational culture-best practices: A case study of Cisco Co., Journal of Intercultural Management, 6(4-1), 169-179. doi: https://doi.org/10.2478/joim-2014-0043
[iv] Thomas D. A., Gabarro J.J. (1999) Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America, Harvard Business School Press, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.