Why You Need to Diversity on Your Team, and 8 Ways to Build It

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By: John Rampton for Entrepreneur, Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Make no mistake about it; diverse teams are just good business. Unfortunately, diversity is still an area where startups are struggling. Thankfully, you can update your thought process about team diversity once you understand how beneficial a diverse team is for your business and how easy it is to build one.

Why diversity matters

“It’s proven that more diverse companies are often more innovative and creative because,” explains Duke Energy Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Joni Davis. The main reasons you’ll gain productivity and a boost in creativity is that you’re bringing together individuals from different walks of life. These people come from varied backgrounds and experiences and will each have uniques ways to improve your products and services you’re offering.

Diverse teams will bring broader ideas and new perspectives to the table. Your new diverse employee groups will also be more productive and much more desirable to work for. Still not convinced? Having various teams helps you retain top talent, strengthens your brand’s image and boosts profits.

In short, diversity is just a solid business concept all around, for everyone in any business. A great way to achieve your new team is by successfully navigating your thoughts and actions into the awareness of being more inclusive. Here are eight ways you can build a more diverse team.

1. Think about diversity from the start.

“I don’t just mean racial, national, age, gender — all of that diversity is super important, we need to hire that — I mean, in addition to that, cognitive diversity which you get from all those backgrounds, but also just personality diversity,” says Sheryl Sandberg.

2. Address all aspects of diversity.

Take a second to consider what diversity means to you. You’re not wrong if you think about gender, race or even religion. But, we often “overlook other aspects like age, disability, language, personality, and sexual orientation,” says Nikoletta Bika.

“These are types of inherent diversity, attributes we are born with. There’s also acquired diversity, ways of thinking acquired by experience,” says Bika. “This kind of diversity matters too.” An example of this would be cross-cultural competence.

You should also be aware of the fact that diversity can lead to conflicts among your team, so you have to prepare for this eventuality. “For example, psychologists are more likely to associate with other psychologists and engineers tend to communicate better with other engineers,” add Bika. “Age differences or socioeconomic backgrounds might undermine open discussions and team spirit. Addressing all aspects of diversity will ensure no one is left out and that team members work better together.”

Now you’re aware of the types of situations you’ll encounter as you chart your course for a diverse team. Plan to create a customized-diversity-vision for your company. More importantly, you can construct a more inclusive culture by implementing a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and by building proper accommodations for those with physical impairments.

3. Improve your recruiting strategy.

Even though you’ve made diversity a part of your culture, that’s all for naught if you can’t attract a more diverse workforce. The first place you need to start is by stepping up your recruiting practices by:

  • Rethink the language you use when posting jobs. For example, masculine-type words like “ambitious” and “dominate” are often less appealing to female applicants.
  • Offer appealing workplace policies. Employees strive for flexibility and being able to achieve a work-life balance.
  • Use a personality assessment. This tool will help you “measure candidates’ personality traits, motivations, and skills.”
  • Cast a wider net. Instead of relying on the same recruiting pipelines, expand your search by using third-party websites and online job boards. You may even want to look for talent at trade schools and community colleges. You may need to provide relocation packages, however, to expand the potential talent pool.
  • Overcome unconscious bias. First, take Harvard’s Implicit Association Test (IAT) to become aware of these. From there, use strategies like “two in the pool effect” or blind hiring.
  • Use technology. Have more phone screenings, diversity recruiting software, and artificial intelligence to shortlist candidates based on qualifications.
  • Work with partners. Either create a diversity council or work with organizations like the National Black MBA Association, National Council of La Raza, National Association of Asian American Professionals, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), and Hire Heroes USA.

4. Celebrate employee differences.

Companies like AWeber achieve this through the workplace with diversity awareness training and events. Hope Bear, Chief People Officer at AWeber, adds that they’ve also established a “monthly team meeting to openly and honestly discuss diversity topics.”

Other organizations such as Bak USA hosts events where employees can share their backgrounds and traditions. They also have dedicated spaces for meditation and prayer.

5. Stop and listen to your employees.

“One of the greatest skills of a leader is the ability to actually listen to the team,” writes Sekinah Brodie. “Many companies fail because team members feel undermined, ignored, and dismissed. When you better understand employees’ experience, you can effectively meet their needs. Different perspectives and including a variety of people can only help bring out the best in a product or service. When you decide what type of culture you want, listening to your team will help to cultivate that.”

There’s no right or wrong way to go about this. It can be as simple as chatting with your team during breaks or having an open-door policy. You could even hold more town hall-style meetings that encourage everyone to speak up.

6. Provide leadership development opportunities.

“Employ a range of formal and informal professional development tools, such as mentoring, coaching, and education opportunities,” suggests Molly Brennan. “Regularly evaluate internal talent to ensure that employees of color are in the leadership development pipeline.”

Other opportunities would be having your team attend networking events or industry conferences. Besides potentially learning new information or skills, it gives them a chance to expand their network. Also, ask if they would be interested in sharing this further information with the rest of your team. Taking the reins of a meeting can help them develop key leadership skills like preparation, communication, and delegation.

7. Improve your own leadership skills.

Working on your empathy and self-awareness are already skills you should be sharpening as a leader. Leadership skills are especially necessary when building and leading a diverse group. For example, understand the challenges that your employees are experiencing.

Listening to your team will be the start of something beautiful if you are not already taking advantage of this leadership growth-hack. You may need to find ways to empower your employees — and this is one action you can take. Another example would be to know the pronouns an employee prefers.

8. Evaluate your efforts.

Finally, take the time in your schedule to see what efforts worked and what didn’t. The easiest way to do this would be soliciting feedback from your team — online surveys are an option. However, I also consider exit interviews to see what areas need to be addressed and fixed.

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