5 Strategies for Hiring a Diverse Team

Ji-A Man by

To create an effective team, it’s important to consider the diverse and complementary skill sets of individual team members. But diversity in skills is only one component of building a successful team.

What does a diverse team look like and how does diversity contribute to a more effective workplace?

Types of Workplace Diversity

Workplace diversity is defined as understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between people. In general, when we think about workplace diversity we think about inherent diversity – demographic characteristics such as gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and age.

The other type of workplace diversity is acquired diversity – differences in knowledge, personality, skill sets, and values, which are often uncorrelated with demographics.

The idea is that the less monolithic your team is in these categories, the more able you’ll be to foster an environment where different ideas, innovative approaches, and collaboration can grow

Benefits of a Diverse Team

Companies that embrace diversity find that their productivity often increases, in part because data show diversity and inclusion are drivers of:

  • Product development
  • New market creation
  • Problem solving and creativity
  • Profitability and revenue growth

One study found that every 1% increase in gender and racial diversity is correlated with a 3% to 9% increase in sales revenue, respectively.

Strategies for Hiring A Diverse Team

Just as diversity reflects all the differences already mentioned, so too should your strategies in building a diverse team.

1. Don’t restrict yourself to one form of diversity

Your overall diversity strategy should make a concerted effort to target both inherent and acquired diversity in your hiring and recruitment.

However, it’s always easier to start with one or two metrics to achieve for your diversity initiatives. For example, increase the number of female hires by 5% within the next 12 months. Pick the metric that’s most important for your recruiting and executive teams to achieve and work to make it happen.

Chances are that the strategies used and the lessons learned to achieve that one metric can be used for future diversity goals.

2. Use software tools to address bias in recruiting

A recent Deloitte survey found 68% of companies are exploring technology that reduces bias in recruiting.

Tools available that help address hiring bias include software that uses AI to replace manual resume screening with a system that objectively and consistently applies screening criteria across all candidates.

Automated screening software uses your resume database to learn about existing employees’ experience, skills, and other criteria. The software then objectively and consistently applies this criteria across all candidates, which reduces problems related to unconscious bias and accidental discrimination.

3. Make use of minority referrals

Hiring through referrals can be a major bottleneck for increasing diversity because, in general, people’s networks are comprised of people who are similar to them demographically.

McKinsey’s research found that when men are asked about their professional networks, 63% of them state it’s comprised of “more or all men” vs. 38% of women who state the same.

You can take advantage of this “similarity attracts” effect by encouraging referrals from a more diverse array of employees. This way, you gain all the benefits of hiring from referrals with the added bonus of improving your diversity at the same time.

4. Offer workplace policies that are more appealing to diverse candidates

Research has found that one of the best workplace policies to attract diverse candidates is flexibility.

A PwC survey found that compared to older generations, Millennials place more importance on a company culture that emphasizes work/life balance. McKinsey found that the company value that women are most attracted to is a flexible schedule.

Offering work from home options and flexible hours not only helps you attract more diverse candidates, it helps prevent expensive turnover.

5. Tie recruiting performance to diversity outcomes

Experts argue that the most effective way to move the needle on workplace diversity is to create personal accountability.

Deloitte suggests that one way to do this is to tie compensation such as performance reviews, bonuses, and promotions to diversity and inclusion outcomes, a practice only 6% of companies they surveyed do.

As business continues to become more and more multicultural, the willingness of your organization to invest in people with a diversity in skills, knowledge, and backgrounds will be a leading indicator for how well you’ll be able to compete in a global market.