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How Bloomberg kick-started its inclusion efforts

23 Jan 2020 By Robert Jeffery

The global news business redefined the idea of successful leadership in order to eliminate bias

There can be few businesses anywhere quite as conversant with data as Bloomberg. Across the globe, its eponymous terminals – which pioneered the distribution of detailed financial information to expert audiences – carry millions of data points every minute to more than 325,000 subscribers, powering financial markets and supporting a suite of other metrics-driven products as diverse as Bloomberg Businessweek magazine and a venture capital fund. 

Bloomberg, in short, is the last word in reliable financial information. And at its London headquarters in the heart of the City, data also sets the internal agenda. For Pamela Hutchinson, global head of diversity and inclusion, understanding the numbers is vital to informing the organisation’s D&I strategy. “Data not only helps us tell the story but, critically, understand it,” says Hutchinson, whose remit includes building inclusion and ensuring talent is spotted and nurtured across the company’s 20,000 employees. “If we can measure something, we can manage it. And with diversity specifically, we have some really great data.”

The increasingly global nature of its business is behind Bloomberg’s focus on diverse talent, adds Jig Ramji (pictured right), global head of leadership and talent development. “With 167 locations worldwide, we are the true definition of a global company. Considering this, how do we ensure we have the right level of talent and the right quality of leaders across regions to grow the organisation?”

The answer, in part, is to ensure you have a fully inclusive culture where anyone can succeed regardless of background and where talent is encouraged in every corner of the firm. This, admits Ramji, is “very complex”. 

But the first and most important step has already been taken with his team’s work to introduce an enterprise-wide talent strategy, which uses a clear definition of what good leadership looks like to drive the right sort of behaviours in recruitment and progression. The starting point was to interview, in depth, 50 high-performing leaders from across the world to help identify the key common behaviours they displayed, regardless of background.

The ideal Bloomberg leader, according to this definition, develops people to achieve, spots gaps and seizes opportunities, networks to get stuff done, adjusts the course, communicates the vision and – crucially – creates a diverse and inclusive work environment. The idea, says Ramji, was to find terms that were intrinsically linked to effectiveness but also allowed leaders to feel they were still authentically individual. 

With the behaviours defined, they have been applied liberally to performance management and assessment practices, including psychometrics and 360-degree appraisals. In recruitment and promotion decisions, meanwhile, the deliberate focus on objective behaviours – rather than a sense of whether someone ‘fits in’ or not – has helped managers decrease bias in decisions. 

“It educates current and future leaders about what it takes to be successful here,” says Sangita Clarke (pictured left), who has a key role at the firm in developing diverse leaders. “It helps everyone talk in a consistent way, but also allows us to collect data and start to eliminate biases in recruitment and promotion, ensuring we give all our employees an equal chance of being set up for success. It provides us with significant macro-level data around skillsets, capabilities and deficits. And we also get to unearth talent in a way that wasn’t possible without such a robust infrastructure.” 

Eliminating bias, she adds, is “one of the biggest differences we can make as a leadership and talent function”, but the focus on driving inclusion has also brought other benefits. Clarke points to an initiative that began in Asia to combat the under-representation of women among interviewees within Bloomberg’s video and written output. It turned into a database of female experts across business and finance, alongside a tracking tool that measures representation by gender across different channels. “We can facilitate the thinking, but our employees seize the initiative,” she says. “These things can come from us as an HR function, but they are a lot more powerful when they come from our communities – facilitated by HR but driven by people.”

The broader concept of inclusion, Ramji admits, is a work in progress, requiring an “end-to-end cycle of activity” – some aspects of which are easier to manage than others. He mentions the challenge of ensuring working parents are represented at senior levels of the business where travel becomes non-negotiable, as well as the need to focus on measuring intersectionality between different protected characteristics.

Despite such challenges, the company’s continued and determined focus on inclusion has encouraged more individuals to push it to the forefront of their strategy. “When I joined the organisation seven years ago, we talked about diversity and inclusion in a slightly different way,” says Ramji. “It was something we felt was the right thing to do, but we had some work still to do. Now we have espoused our philosophy around the topic, we are starting to see demand from employees and stakeholders that we have representation across the different dimensions, as well as demand from our business strategy.

“If you are growing as a global organisation, suddenly diversity and inclusion isn’t a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a critical aspect of your strategy.”

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