What Are the Best Ways to Diversify your Team?

Diversify your Team

In our previous article, we discussed the complex nature of diversity and how having a diverse team benefits your organizational operations. But, ascribing to diversity in your company values doesn’t necessarily change anything yet. You have to actively diversify your team in order to actually reap the benefits!

But, how do you effectively create a diverse team in your organization? In this article, we’ll lay out the best strategies for how you can do this.

Flip your selection process

When we want to team up with people, we tend to look for like-minded individuals – those people that are likely to fit with the startup atmosphere or company culture that we’re trying to establish. In this, we’re kind of looking for someone that we feel like we could have a drink with, regardless of being colleagues. However, if you want to create diversity, this should not be your reference point.

As a matter of a fact, you should flip your reference point entirely. So, instead of looking for someone to match your company culture, you should ask 3 questions:

  • 1.What can the candidate add to the current company culture/atmosphere that’s not there yet?
  • 2.What are the candidate’s values and primary motivations?
  • 3.How does the candidate make decisions in the work field?

The first question is obvious, the second is important to pursue the company mission, and the last one will tell you a lot about how a person reasons. If this way of reasoning is different from what you’ve already got in your team – but does not contradict the company values – you’ve got a match!

Such a person will challenge you in a way that’s authentic to them. Since such challenges will come from their natural way of reasoning, you can be assured that it doesn’t come from hostile intentions. As a result, such a person forces you and your team to really ground your ideas and decisions in reality-based evidence. Consequently, you will have less groupthink, because none of you can get away with “this feels good” or “this is how we’re used to doing it” anymore.

Embrace feeling uncomfortable

The difficulty with diversity is that we naturally oppose it. We all have biases, stereotypes, and predispositions. This is not per se negative, for it helps us to categorize people, navigate among them, and find our peers. Evolutionary speaking, our peers are less likely to have different bacteria or viruses from those that our bodies are already familiar with. Accordingly, this makes it safer to interact closely with them, which allows us to bond and form relationships.

However, when you’re creating an organizational team, it’s not just about you. And therefore it’s not about who youwould like to have around at work because you are likely to partner up or hang out with that person. In an organizational team, it’s about what’s best for the team and the pursuit that it is dedicated toward.

So, when you’re evaluating new candidates, do this as blindly as possible (when checking a resume or motivational letter you can leave the name and/or photo out, for example). Furthermore, standardize the questions and skill parameters that you will judge your candidates by. This way you can check your bias and the uncomfortable feeling that someone might give you, and actually judge the skills they bring to the table instead.

Finally, try to embrace any feeling of discomfort that you get from people and analyze where it comes from. This way, you can use this feeling to guide you to the right person to diversify your team with.

Make diversity both Explicit and Implicit in your team communications

Let’s start with being explicit: explain your diversity values in your company’s representations, such as your website team page, social media, and vacancies. Then, make sure to not use stock photos in these representations; use actual company photos that display the diverse nature of your team instead.

Now the implicit part: what type of language are you using throughout these representations? And what qualifications are you listing in your vacancies? In both cases, you want to be as non-exclusive as possible.

So, have a few different people go through your texts, and ask them how you could make it more appealing to a diverse group of people. Similarly, go through your qualifications list and evaluate if you really need all those qualifications or if you could do with a more generic profile. The more generic the profile, the more diverse the group of people that you’ll be attracting to your team.

Solidify your diversity values by being inclusive

Being inclusive doesn’t have to be as complicated as setting up diversity groups or committees. Rather, it’s as simple as asking feedback from your employees. How do they feel about their work environment and cultureWould they like to see any changesWhat are their ideas for improving the organization?

Make this type of feedback a talking point for every quarterly or half-yearly team meeting. Then, evaluate with a few team members which parts of the feedback you can work on, and how you can implement them. Finally, make sure to communicate this process back to everyone, so that they know that their feedback is actually taken seriously.

On that last note, make a point of clearly communicating career paths within the organization. If your team is just starting out, this is primarily about responsibilities and the corresponding rewards.

However, if you have a bigger team already, or if you are in the process of hiring new people, then it’s important to have clear paths for advancement established and communicated. This way, there will be less bias involved in moving up the ladder, which will translate in everyone feeling more included.

The road to diversity

As you probably realize by now, diversifying your team takes some effort. However, if you make diversity a continuous feature of your team values and operations, it will naturally cement into your company culture. From then on, you will not just start reaping those diversity benefits, but also naturally attract diversity to your organization.