Does Recruiting a Diverse Team Mean Discriminating Against the Majority?

Talk to me about building companies and you might as well block out half of the day! How about building teams that are like constellations of stars? Move over – I will show you! It is a subject I spend a lot of time on, since my own personal experience and countless research has shown that diverse teams deliver better product and increased efficiency.

In recent weeks I had several of these great conversations. But during one of them I heard again reaction that is not that unusual – “are you saying you should engage in discrimination against the majority?” My answer that is: if that is what you call “discrimination”, then hell yes!

Not only should we avoid hiring clones of our current employees, but we should shy away from building an environment and employee benefits based on the “hot” formula that is only appealing to the majority. Hiring “blindly” and on qualifications alone is no longer good enough! Bringing great skills and knowledge onboard is no longer good enough! Every new person you add should bring in a healthy dose of a unique perspective, experience, culture, personal story, etc. The truth is – people like to hire others who are like them. So you must make an effort to hire outside of your “comfort zone”.

If you are still convinced that a vanilla team is just fine, here are a couple of questions to chew on (especially for those of you in tech companies):

  • How will a crew of 20-something single white and Asian males with computer science degrees (usually from the same school) know how to create, market, and sell a product to a market that is NOTHING like them?
  • How are you supposed to create an environment of innovation and creativity, when everyone on your team is the same? How do you stop the 100% guaranteed groupthink?
  • What do you think a member of a different demographic group will do when they get your job offer, if they see an environment of mostly diversity-indifferent employees? How will that affect your efforts to make your team better?’

Still think this diversity “thing” is bogus?

“But all the candidates we get are from the same demographic group!”. This is a result of your “recruiting funnel” failure. If you can’t fill the top of the funnel with a diverse group of candidates, then your entire system will be broken. So how do you fix this?

  1. Don’t be shy about finding very diverse companies that are doing well and copying their environment and benefits. Use this as a base and then utilize members of the diverse team you are building to help you further improve things.
  2. Referrals are a good source of talent, but to make the top of your funnel attract the most diverse candidates, you have to use creativity. The more creative you get, the better the results. (Example I use a lot: you can find great future developers in music colleges and user experience designers in psychology programs).

“But I have a problem retaining people who are not [insert description of the majority demographic]”. This means you did not work hard enough or have not been open-minded enough about what motivates people different than you. Since this is a big topic, I will write more about this soon.

Until then, I would like to find out what were some of the more unusual places or strategies you used to find great talent. Post a comment, send me an e-mail, or hit me up on Twitter.

Photo credit: Chaotic Good01 on Flickr

NOTE: This updated version of my 2010 article.

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