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Diversity is more than skin-deep: Building a truly diverse team

20th June 2019 |

Naturally, we’re drawn to people who are similar to ourselves – particularly when we’re recruiting. So, while we may think that we’re building a diverse team by selecting candidates who look different to us, it’s likely that their opinions are very similar to our own. The true value in diversity, however, is building a team comprised of individuals with conflicting opinions. This encourages debate, which sparks creativity and flexes our critical thinking skills.

Diverse workforces have been proven to increase productivity and yield higher financial returns than their competitors. For example, when each team member comes from a different cultural background, they bring inspiration from unique sources. This can not only attract a wider audience to your business, but widen the team’s pool of knowledge – allowing them to make well-informed decisions much faster.

It’s easy to see the benefits, but how exactly do you build a diverse team?

Reassess your definition of diversity

There’s far more to diversity and inclusion (D&I) than just visible differences between individuals. Many employers tend to focus on ethnicity, gender and race – but education, disability, political views, sexuality, religion and age are equally as important when it comes to building a heterogeneous workforce.

Make your criteria attainable

Without us realising, job descriptions often show unconscious bias. Rather than asking for specific qualifications or experience, focus on skills and values instead. However, only list requirements that are absolutely essential to the role – as numerous studies have shown that women are repelled by lengthy job specifications.

Build on your strengths

When searching for a replacement member of staff, it’s easy to look for a carbon copy of the previous employee. However, have you considered the benefit of hiring someone who is the polar opposite? Remember that hiring the candidate who can challenge your ideas and opinions will bring fresh inspiration to the company.

Establish long-term goals

Never underestimate the importance of your long-term plans and overall vision for the team. Rather than filling gaps with applicants whose skills best align with short-term projects, look for those who share your core brand values but bring new skills and opinions. This helps to create a balance within the workplace.

Prioritise your search

Sometimes, trying to fulfil your D&I criteria can lead you completely in the wrong direction. It’s important to establish the essential skills and qualities you’re looking for before you start interviewing. After all, your new employee needs to be a good fit for the role, not simply tick boxes on a diversity checklist.

Of course, once you’ve built a diverse workforce you need to maintain it. There is bound to be conflict when differing opinions collide, yet it’s important to embrace this rather than shy away from it. While this should spark fresh ideas and inspiration, keep an eye on whether this is encouraging productivity rather than hindering it.

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