Are we ready to build a diverse team?

As more and more companies strive to harness the power of diversity, we need to ask ourselves a fundamental question: Are we ready?

We understand the potential of a cognitively diverse team and how it can open up new avenues that we may not have explored before. It is not surprising that companies are eager to tap into this talent and seek a competitive advantage. This is even more crucial for companies that are just starting their journey. For a startup, every competitive advantage is valuable as they strive to make an impact.

When considering building a diverse workforce, we often perceive it as a talent acquisition problem. We might think that widening the net would bring in a more varied set of people through the door, achieving our goal. But in reality, it is not that simple. In order to realise the power of diversity, companies need to ask themselves a simple question: What are we going to do once this diverse group of people walks through the door?

If we succeed in attracting a diverse workforce, they might come from various ethnic, economic, social, and educational backgrounds. Our team would bring a different sense of identity, pride, priorities, styles, and expectations. This might not be familiar to us. In fact, it is likely that it won’t be familiar.

To harness these skills, the organisation needs to engage in deep reflection on what it truly stands for. For example, what do the founders say about the company? Why was it formed? How do the longest-serving people define the culture? Why did they choose to stay? What is it about this company that they found and couldn't find elsewhere? What have been the significant highs and lows of the journey so far? What has consistently remained the same throughout its existence?

By answering these simple questions, a company can create a story that connects all who embarked on the journey and all who will follow. This story becomes the identity of the company, allowing people to connect with the message and find their own way to contribute to it.

If a person from a minority background enters the workforce, many instances can make them feel like an outsider. To make them feel a part of the story, this person needs to understand how their story is now intertwined with that of the business. If the groundwork is not done, companies risk doing more harm than good in their aim to be more diverse. Teams often feel like they have been hired merely as part of a checkbox exercise, instead of being truly embraced into the company's culture.

Once we have built the story, we need to understand the unique perspective of our diverse workforce. One way to achieve this is by inviting people to share their personal journey with the team. What are the values they hold close to their hearts? What does their contribution to the team mean to them? Who are they, both inside and outside of work? What motivates them, and how does it relate to the team they belong to? What are the commonalities within that team?

We must realise that this beautiful necklace is crafted by stringing one bead with another. Together, hand in hand, we create an endless story of our lives and how we contribute to the lives of others: our friends and families, the teams we work with, and the organisations that truly understand us and make our contributions meaningful. Without understanding who we truly are, we are unable to form a real bond with people who may come from backgrounds different from ours.

So, let’s start integrating people by learning about who we are and what we stand for.