You Need a More Diverse Workforce. Here's How to Get One.

By Brian Mohr

When most companies talk about diversity, they mean the usual suspects: gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. But diversity goes way beyond that. Promoting diversity is about eliminating groupthink so you can inspire new, creative solutions and keep a competitive edge. Here are five unconventional paths to recruiting more diverse candidates of all kinds.

BE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR BIASES

The first and biggest diversity mistake is assuming your team doesn’t have biases. Everyone has preconceived notions, so it’s important to stay conscious of how these affect recruiting decisions. We at Y Scouts take advice from Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, who wrote in his book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” that “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” You can apply this insight by recognizing areas in which you and your team consider yourselves experts — and thus are maybe unconsciously less open to possibilities that would be worthwhile to explore. Then, encourage everyone to “leave the title at the door” and think like a beginner. Pay close attention to the language and tone you use when critiquing a candidate. Doing so could help you catch an underlying bias. Most importantly, continue to invite your team to mindfully stay open, eager, and aware of preconceptions so recruiting diverse candidates becomes second nature.

BE AWARE OF HOW YOU MARKET THE POSITION

Switch up your job advertising terms. For example, you may use a similar line in every job posting that asks for “bold and insatiable” candidates. These terms can attract more masculine traits, while the terms “empathy and vulnerability” could attract more feminine traits. According to a study by the Technical University of Munich, the words “dedicated,” “responsible,” and “sociable” also appealed more to women. If you’re concerned about age bias, avoid using phrases that typically lure younger professionals, like “digitally savvy” or “lover of all technology.” Also, consider whether or not a degree is truly needed for the position. Sometimes requiring one can adversely impact candidates from less privileged circumstances. The bottom line is that conscious leaders like you need to bring more awareness to the terms used to describe potential candidates. Diversifying descriptions will attract candidates with more varied backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.

LOOK OUTSIDE OF YOUR INDUSTRY

Companies that only hire from within their industry miss out on big opportunities for diversity, growth, and innovation. The same is true when leaders stay in a position for too long and start feeling complacent. Repotting is the answer to staying fresh and inviting new approaches. The concept, which first appeared in “Self-Renewal,” by John Gardner, and was made popular years later by Ernie Arbuckle, a former dean of the Stanford School of Global Business, encourages leaders to reboot their careers every ten years or so. You can use this theory to invite more diversity, new ideas, and unique perspectives by recruiting outside of your industry and encouraging leaders to move to new opportunities after their ten years are up. Remember that just because your connections are inside the industry it doesn’t mean that their acquaintances are. Ask around for referrals, work with a search firm, or proactively reach out to people in other networking groups. Then, as you consider your options, think about the actual skills and behaviors that apply to successful people in your industry. It isn’t necessarily about the inside knowledge; it’s about how the prospective leader does the work.

SEEK ALTERNATIVE RECRUITING EVENTS AND PARTNERSHIPS

Avoid attending only so-called “diversity” recruitment events. Instead, your company needs to be present and visible at activities that matter to a wide, varied group of people. We suggest partnering with high schools, community colleges, and four-year programs to build relationships, trust, and visibility throughout the year. This is particularly important in STEM and other fields where women and people of color are underrepresented. When you attend events, make sure you bring your most successful executives and possible mentors to represent potential career paths and keep students engaged after they graduate.

CREATE AN INCLUSIVE COMPANY CULTURE

Recruiting diverse candidates to your company is hard, but keeping them is harder. Think about how you can create community for those new hires who may not have a strong cultural network to plug into at your company. Then ask yourself, “What does my employee onboarding and orientation look like? Does it ensure every new hire understands and feels welcome within the cultural norms and expectations of the company?” If you can’t confidently say yes, consider hiring an onboarding expert, enlisting a mentor for new hires, or creating an affinity group to help employees get accustomed to the new landscape.

If you want to stay competitive in a global economy, you have to be open to new approaches to diversity. Start with these five unconventional tips and be prepared to watch your business change in a productive, profitable way.

This article appeared in Issue 8 | July/August 2016

Issue 8 is all about women and leadership (with plenty of material for readers of all genders). We feature interviews and profiles of inspiring leaders like Kat Taylor of Beneficial State Bank, shareholder advocate Natasha Lamb, Energy Excelerator's Dawn Lippert, award-winning architect Sarah Wigglesworth, Brook Eddy of Bhakti Chai, Kiverdi's Lisa Dyson, and more. You'll also find even more how-to stories than ever before, including how to recruit a more diverse workforce, learn to disappoint people without hurting your career, and survive a capital raise.

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