Diversity, equity and inclusion continues to be at the forefront of the business landscape, and business owners and leadership must continue to consider the many ways a diverse team can impact their culture and business. There are many ways to view diversity, and evaluating the strengths that different team members bring to the table can help future-proof your business and reinforce longevity in the team you’re building.
Diversity takes many forms — race, gender, professional experience, education, geographic location and more. All these factors must be considered when looking to build a team that reflects the diversity of the world we operate in.
For more than 20 years in finance, leading teams of 10 to 15 people, I have had the opportunity to curate teams of professionals from a variety of backgrounds, all bringing varied perspectives and experiences with them. Don’t get me wrong: I hired them all because they were the best candidate for the job. But over the years, I have become more intentional about my approach to finding and retaining talent.
Below are the lessons I’ve learned and encourage others to put into practice to help build a diverse and dynamic team.
1. Look for the right qualities.
Often when hiring, we have a checklist of qualifications or capabilities. That search must go deeper than what is included in a resume. I encourage everyone involved in the hiring process to ask questions and observe in a way that captures a candidate’s qualities. Does this person reflect the qualities of your team? You can teach anyone any task, but the intangible skills that personify individual qualities are what demonstrate a person’s true strengths and compatibility within a larger team structure.
What I have found most meaningful about this approach is that these qualities transcend the traditional barriers that can frequently get in the way of opportunities for more diverse candidates. In the banking field, for instance, qualities like grit, determination, caring and empathy are critical skills, and these can be highly developed regardless of race, background or education level.
2. Build your own pipeline.
There is no magical pipeline of diverse talent to choose from; often what we see in leadership and hiring roles is that diverse pools of talent don’t have access to the same number of opportunities.
It is vital that we create access. As leaders, that’s where this question comes into play: How do we use our role to build that pipeline? Some steps I’ve found helpful:
- Talk openly to your team (and other teams within your business) about wanting to dig into their networks to find talent and create opportunities. This might require breaking down boundaries and having candid conversations about how you feel the team can benefit from more perspectives and a culture that encourages inclusivity.
- Form relationships with professional groups that seek to match diverse workers with open positions.
- Look to other parts of your business for transferrable skills. Sometimes leadership takes shape in unexpected places, which can help a team approach their work in a new way.
3. Use team members to build and amplify.
Once you have created a platform that demonstrates your belief in the value of a diverse team, it will take ongoing management and care to create a culture of equity and inclusion — this approach does not stop at the hiring stage. Ensure you create a culture that encourages open and candid dialogue and peer-to-peer learning.
Part of creating that culture is advocating on behalf of your team, especially creating opportunities for diverse team members to become influential voices within their community. Help them take an active role in identifying more potential candidates based on the new approach you are taking (looking at intangible qualities, transferrable skills and building your own diverse pipeline).
Leverage advocates within your team to reach into their networks or out to niche groups to demonstrate what opportunities are available that they may have thought were out of reach.
The most important thing we can do as leaders and hiring managers is to give experience and opportunity. My team has representation from different races, genders, age, etc. and that means my eyes are opened every single day to new perspectives that make us better people and professionals. Sometimes we face hurdles but once they are broken down, our road only becomes bigger to walk together.
This approach requires intentional thought, care and candor but builds a stronger culture and future for all.
This article originally appeared on the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Leadership Trust.
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