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Voices

Hire people who think differently than you

I grew up in a small town in rural Nebraska where the cows outnumber the people. Diversity wasn’t the first word that came to mind when you looked at the population — our complexions or our professions.

As an adult, I’ve seen diversity widen my horizons and open my mind to ideas I had certainly never considered before. In business, such thinking has strengthened our firm and refreshed our culture.

Especially through new hires.

Diversity is a big buzzword these days, and I think that’s a good thing. After sitting in dozens of interviews, I’ve found one of the things I value most highly in candidates is diversity of thought — the ability to celebrate rather than fear other perspectives and find new approaches to old problems. Entertaining perspectives that others may immediately dismiss is much more important than having stakeholders who all look, talk and think like you do.

You can look through resumes and hope to find the right candidates, but when it comes to hiring people to work with for years, or even decades, you’ll want to look deeper than work history and education.

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Advising issues are multifaceted and complex. Approaching them with the same rigid answers, and training employees to do the same, results in everyone meeting at the same impasses over and over. Hiring someone who thinks differently than you and isn’t afraid to present and defend their view can enrich that approach.

Thought diversity also fares better in the long haul, too. Allowing new angles to come to light and giving your organization flexibility will help ensure the firm remains strong as the markets, and culture, change over time.

A big part of that diversity comes from hiring staff, which isn’t fresh news for the wealth management world. Look around any financial advisor conference and you’ll find a definite absence of women and people of color.

Currently, there are around 300,000 professionals classified as personal financial advisors in this country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 10% are women.

Obviously, that’s not reflective of the U.S. population.

Diversity of thought means diversity of perspective; and, if we truly seek multiplicity, then other types of diversity should naturally follow. Ensure you’re adding a new perspective to your team, rather than hiring a “yes man” or a “yes woman.”

Understanding and respecting a variety of perspectives will also help us communicate with the clients of the future. Bringing in broader perspectives can help us think more like those we serve in order to speak the language of tomorrow’s client. If we hope to remain relevant and engaged, we need to continue making diverse hires and being open to new perspectives.

Celebrating and cultivating diversity of thought is the only way for our profession to move forward. Not just in serving an increasingly diverse public, but in applying new solutions to old problems and new approaches to the market in general. The market will change just as markedly as the population and we need to be ready for it.

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