We get asked heaps about workplace diversity.
“If you’re qualifying all candidates against an ‘ideal match’, don’t you end up recruiting a company of homogenous drones that’ll destroy your carefully crafted diversity programme in their tidal wave of sameness?”
I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.
Our response is generally to clarify what we mean when we say “fit”. We’re not talking about recruiting carbon copies of your best staff. We’re talking about recruiting people who share some of the fundamental characteristics, values and traits that make your best staff the best.
We had an awesome example of this with a client last week.
This client, a major communications shop, has traditionally filled their teams with young, mostly-male, hipster-types. Not because they’re agest or sexist, but because they wanted their teams to fit well together – and “looks the same on paper” is an easy trap people fall into when searching for good cultural fit.
A simple shift in the way they thought about “fit” meant this organisation is now recruiting people who seem totally different, but fit so well in real life.
They hired an older woman – late 50’s – into a team with those same young, hipster guys. Sure, there were clear differences. She needed a bit of help with the tech, they needed a bit of help toning down on the machismo. But because they’d been recruited based on a share values, they were able to use their different perspectives to their advantage. This team is now super-productive, they’re hitting higher targets and they’re generally just heaps happier.
You see, the things that made them the same – a shared belief in what they’re doing, the same dedication to sustainability, a preference for working collaboratively – those things are WAY more important than holding meetings on long-boards or shared beard grooming stories. They gave them a solid platform of stuff in common so they could share new perspectives and challenge each other’s assumptions.
True diversity, useful diversity, is about finding people who are different enough to contribute unique perspectives. This isn’t a sitcom, we’re not here to tick diversity boxes and keep sponsors happy. There are real reasons to look for variation in our teams. Sciencey reasons.
“Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.” – Scientific American
Creativity is vital to problem solving. Problem solving is vital to innovation. Innovation allows our businesses to adapt to a changing world and changing behaviours. Which brings us back to diversity being crucial for good business.
We should be putting women on our boards, embracing cultural rituals, and making sure our teams aren’t just full of white guys with hipster haircuts because the truth is this: our businesses are more productive when they’re packed full of different perspectives.
Uniformity is the antithesis of progress. But diversity for the sake of diversity can be just as damaging.
We created Weirdly to help pull teams together based on the perfect mix of commonality and conflict – mashing genders, races and different abilities into a delicious values-based soup. Helping people find the RIGHT kind of diversity for their teams. People with the right kind of weird.
The companies we’ve enjoyed working with the most have found that sweet-spot between complementary values and diversity of experience and perspective. Teams with enough commonality to pull together efficiently, and enough difference to challenge each other.