Hiring a Diverse Team

Businesses gain competitive advantage with employees who think differently

It’s natural to gravitate toward people who think the way you do, who you share things in common with and who come from a similar background. It’s a human inclination that can serve you well in social situations yet can also undermine your talent management strategy.

When it comes to hiring and building successful teams, seek diversity instead of similarity. Look for individuals who think differently, who do not have so much in common and who come from a variety of backgrounds. Their unique perspectives may or may not have anything to do with their gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. It would be a disservice to define “diversity” simply in terms of demographics.

Instead, pay attention to hiring and fostering a diverse talent pool who can do something together that is greater than what they can do on their own. When you assemble a team of people who think very differently and who don’t see the world in the same way, much more becomes visible. When you hire people with opposite but complementary skill sets, much more becomes possible. In addition, you gain these competitive advantages:


A greater ability to solve complex problems

With advancements in technology and globalization, most any problem in your business is complex. As an example: In my own company, our team of more than 500 live in 15 countries. We have many different teams, each of which have their own areas of responsibility, such as sales, R&D, product, marketing and finance.

So if a complex problem occurs with a customer, it affects multiple areas: billing, implementation, product marketing, customer service, etc. If we want to solve the problem well (which of course we do), we have to provide individuals from all relevant areas a seat at the table. The last thing we need to solve complex problems is a group of people who think the same way.


An environment ripe for innovation

Innovation often comes accidentally, as a result of experimentation. To create a dynamic that provokes such desirable accidents, you need a team that can effectively contribute conflicting points of view.

Assembled well, this will bring about a useful kind of friction in which opposition is actually constructive. If everyone were to agree with one another, nothing new would come from it. But when you get a disparate group of people around a table who would not otherwise meet, let alone spend time problem-solving together, you create an environment with inevitable conflict that is also ripe for innovation.

If you are not intentionally seeking a wide range of personalities, backgrounds and skill sets, then you are greatly reducing the opportunities for your company to innovate. Instead of fostering an environment of challenging dialogue, you’re creating an echo chamber.


The collective skills needed to fulfill your mission

We’ve seen many companies make a major shift in their talent management strategy where those hiring are not thinking in terms of roles and positions, but rather the collective skills required to achieve their company mission.

To source those collective skills, you need different people doing different things in different ways. You need people who are highly empathetic and have great soft skills. They are essential for communication and building relationships. You also need people who are less inclined to be driven or affected by emotion, for they can be more effective in negotiations. You need people to dream about what is impossible, and you need people who are relentlessly practical.

As one of three founders of my company, I can tell you: Each of us is extremely different. My strengths are a bit weird in that I have a fascination with HR and a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence. My co-founders’ strengths are in technology and business development, respectively. This has been key to the growth of our business over the past 10 years. None of us sees problems from the same angle. And none of us could have achieved what we have without the other two.

The goal of talent management should be to seek diversity, not because it looks good but because it brings business advantages. Be mindful of selecting talent based on similarities and instead seek the differences. It’s natural to want to work with those we like and who we resonate with. But hiring by comfort could put your business at risk. Hiring for diverse skills could very well give your company a tremendous advantage.   

Alexandre Pachulski is a co-founder of Talentsoft and serves as its chief product officer, designing innovative software and incorporating HR know-how into strategic HR decision support. He has authored several books on HR and has a blog dedicated to talent management. Pachulski holds a doctorate in IT with a thesis on the identification of key competencies within a company.


Top 5 things to look for when building a diverse team:

1. Avoid clones.

2. Look for A-players.

3. Integrate people with uncommon hobbies and interests.

4. Choose individuals with unique thinking processes.

5. Make sure you share the same vision.

Categories: Human Resources, Startup