Building a diverse team

In recent years, we’ve seen the buzzwords diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) gaining popularity. Research unequivocally proves that all three elements are essential to the growth of companies. But what do those terms mean from a practical application?


DE&I go beyond having gender, racial or ethnic diversity in your team. Authentic diversity is having people from different countries, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, college majors and so many more. There is no right answer or limits when it comes to defining diversity. It’s building a culture that makes room for people’s backgrounds, but also their current situations. It’s giving new mothers the flexibility to work from home so she can limit the volume of breast-milk pumping required, and also letting employees take time off to tend to sick  pets since they are considered loved-ones by many in the United States. 


But it’s not just a matter of morals, there is infinite economic value in building a culture around diversity. According to McKinsey, DE&I increase company productivity and even impact a company’s financial performance as corporations identified as more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. Similarly, a Harvard Business Review study shows that diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets.


Here are some practical tips to build a more diverse workforce: 


Check your interview panel: There is value in having diversity on your hiring team. For example, bringing non-HR people into the hiring process can be an excellent way to give different perspectives on a candidate. 


It starts at the top: There are many management areas where top-down strategies don’t work, but diverse leadership is a very essential part of building a truly diverse workforce. Leadership, in particular C-suite executives, need to have representation from underrepresented communities if the team is going to lead the company through the quickly evolving social structures of the 2020s.


Make it a company value: Diversity needs to be viewed as a key objective of the company. We’re not saying put quotas on who you hire, but hiring managers need to be cognizant of the job descriptions they’re putting out and see if they’re attracting/interviewing candidates who didn’t go to college, are immigrants, or represent a minority community. Communicating concrete goals on diversity helps ensure transparency and keeps companies accountable, which can foster a great sense of inclusion in the company’s culture. 


Listen to your employees: This might be the most underrated way to build a culture of diversity: Make sure every employee has a chance to voice their opinions on company decisions in a safe way, through anonymous forms or one-on-one meetings. Giving them a chance to voice their opinion on your diversity and culture initiatives, as well as giving them the room to build their own initiatives are great ways to train future leaders within the company all while championing change. Gone are the days where diversity focuses on attributes you can see in a photo, authentic diversity includes listening to a wide range of voices.

Talk about the tough stuff: Set up regular town halls or open discussion groups on different topics. In the United States, we tend to avoid subjects like racial issues because they can lead to uncomfortable conversations. But silence on these issues will never solve anything. So tackle these discussions and expect that it might not go smoothly, it’s an emotionally charged topic after all. But you can’t learn what is happening in the minds of your team if they aren’t encouraged to talk about it. To discuss this week’s global news or domestic topics, you can set up voluntary discussion groups where people can come and engage in productive dialogue. Make sure you take steps to establish community guidelines or provide a facilitator for these conversations so you can ensure a safe space for all participants.