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A Hiring Managers 5-Step Plan To Building a Successful Diverse Team

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Today, businesses are facing immense pressure to diversify their team.

McKinsey’s report on How Inclusion Matters found that having a diverse and inclusive board and senior management team improved the business's performance by 35%. 

And yet Colourintech found that in the UK’s top tech companies, of 152 board positions, only four were held by someone from an ethnic minority background (source).

The Tech industry has a long way to go.

But hiring a diverse team in Tech has its challenges.

They require a specific skill set and are competing for talent in a highly competitive market.

That’s why we collaborated with Jiten Patel, Conscious Inclusion thought leader, Diversity and Inclusion speaker, Director at Diversync, author, coach and mentor. 

He discusses the simple, yet effective steps you can take to lead a fair hiring process that prioritises diversity.

Start with you. Address your unconscious bias.

Being self aware and educating yourself are the first steps. But how? 

Be brave enough to seek feedback from five people you're professionally closest to, your ‘circle of trust’. If actions or words coming from your unconscious are not appropriate (these are often termed as microaggressions) ask them to flag this, i.e., ‘Could you say that in a different way?’ or ‘What did you mean by this?’.

It’s paramount to do this in a way that's culturally supportive. Don’t shoot each other down. 

However, if your network’s monocultural, you can broaden your network by: 

  • Joining your staff diversity network
  • Attending professional events where you can meet people from diverse backgrounds
  • Consuming content that discusses subjects such as inclusive leadership, unconscious bias and microaggressions.

There are plenty of rich resources available. Jiten recommends, for example, the book ‘Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge.

Is your job and person specification working against you?

Check your wording carefully. Is there anything that could be a barrier for people? 

For example:

Saying “We are looking for an energetic, enthusiastic team member” may deter someone over 40 as it could suggest you’re looking for somebody younger.

Instead, try saying something like “We are looking for people who are keen to learn and ambitious to further develop themselves" because it uses more inclusive wording.

There’s plenty of software out there that can highlight phrases and words which could be noninclusive. For example, Textio is a tool which will flag any language that’s aimed towards men and will help you neutralise your job description and person specification. 

The most common mistake that hiring managers can make is hiring to replace a person, not the role.

Without knowing it, you could restrict your search by trying to replicate your past team member as opposed to thinking about what the requirements are for the role.

How do you source candidates?

Avoid advertising to the same limited talent pool. You won’t always reach the best and most creative talent so aim to reach a much broader audience. Try a variety of job boards or use a recruitment company with a large reach and network.

Remember that qualifications aren’t the be-all and end-all. Candidates may have the practical experience or mindset which will make them a valuable member of your tech business.

You can entice people by saying you’re currently underrepresented by people in minority groups, and want to make a change. You could add further value incentives; maybe by providing a Graduate Apprenticeship Programme, and/or a strong Graduate Development Programme, an opportunity designed to develop and nurture your new team members.

So you’ve reached the interview stage, what now?

Select your interview panel carefully. 

If you have a diverse shortlist, but your interview panel is made up of three people who are all the same race and gender, then this may be a deterrent.

They may feel anxious about it and this could hinder their performance since they don’t see themselves represented across the table.

If the situation is unavoidable, then it’s important for the recruiters to talk competently and effectively about how diversity and inclusion plays a part in their business, as it may not be apparent in the current situation. 

It’s decision time…

Always look for the cultural value added, not the culture fit.

Avoid hiring someone just because they are similar to the team you already have. A candidate's differences aren’t obstacles and won’t prevent them from fitting in. Their differences can add value and a fresh perspective to the company and your team. 

Wondering how do you balance role fit and your diversity goals?

If a candidate is part of a minority group and perhaps doesn’t have as much experience, consider your needs. Do you need someone to hit the ground running or do you have some leeway? If so, the value they will add, should counteract the time investment that you need to put into development. Really consider whether you want to recruit just for the now, or for the longer term.

Rather than only focusing on examples and experiences, ask questions such as, ‘What would you do if you were in X Y Z situation?’. This will enable you to focus on their potential, get an insight into their thought process and judge whether their mindset aligns with your values. 

Going forward.

It’s important to remember that policies on their own never eliminate discrimination and are only ever as good as the people who put them into practice.

It’s easy to write a well-worded policy document. But it's all about how you bring it to life. This is achieved by looking at your processes and practises. Are they aligned with each other and your organisation's vision, mission and values?

Creating an environment that is inclusive is not a destination. It’s a journey. Remember to pay attention along the way, you’ll learn so much from it. 

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