Supporting cognitive diversity

Diverse teams are better for business, clients and talent attraction


  • Rebecca Scofield MRICS

07 March 2020

Image by Danilo Agutoli

As RICS professionals, we have a duty to help shape our industry to be the best, most balanced and innovative that it can be. And cognitive diversity has an important part to play in reaching that goal. My own firm, Knight Frank, has developed a range of initiatives to support these aims.

We have created a strategy with a full set of clear objectives to improve diversity and hold senior leaders accountable. This has included six-hour strategic debates with 150 managers and leaders across the UK business which focused on recruiting people from a wider, more diverse pool of talent to foster cognitive diversity, and the launching of a sponsorship programme.

As part of the programme, all our high- potential talent, both male and female, are attached to a senior partner who acts as a sponsor to them, staying with them during their career to help ensure they reach their full potential. The partner will then be measured on the success they have had in supporting the sponsored party to progress in their career and achieve their aspiration.

" Diverse teams are better for business, clients and talent attraction"

Additionally, we are working to diversify the pool of talent from which we recruit, ensuring business balance is apparent from the very start of our employees' journeys. We are being supported by an external consultancy, Wiser, who are helping us to develop our early-careers value proposition, careers site and collateral to help attract diverse talent. We're looking to recruit people who hold non-cognate degrees, and apprentices from schools that are unlikely to have considered the real estate industry as a potential profession. The team is immersed in the culture at Knight Frank and represents the firm to engage with diverse graduates. As a result, more than half of our recent applications were from graduates with non-cognate degrees.

Schools programme

To complement this initiative, launching this spring is a schools programme that will encourage our UK employees to visit schools where pupils may not have had exposure to the potential opportunities in the property industry.

Throughout the year, our recruitment events welcome a diverse range of people to the business many of whom don't have a real estate background but can demonstrate excellent customer- and client-service skills that can be developed and adapted.

But no matter how hard a company works to broaden its appeal to a diverse range of talent, that new talent will founder without the right culture in place. We've recognised this at Knight Frank and launched an innovative programme, KF X, to drive ambitious diversity targets across the firm and fast-track the existing talent we have coming through the ranks. Our KF X Boards, which include nearly 100 people of differing ages and seniority and have a 50:50 male/female split, have strengthened our culture of creativity, knowledge sharing, collaboration and innovation. They are taking our talent further, forging new connections and creating new opportunities.

Improving cognitive diversity is not only essential to Knight Frank's future but also to that of the entire real estate industry. There is no doubt that diverse teams are better for business, clients and talent attraction.

While difficult to admit, there is no fast and easy solution for improving diversity. That said, I'm proud of the initiatives that we are implementing and the changes that the firm as a whole is keenly adopting and shouting about. If it inspires other businesses to follow suit, then the industry as a whole will benefit.