Recruiting a Diverse Team Starts with You


Embracing diversity and recruiting a diverse team is a smart business practice. There have been numerous studies, articles, and commentary on the subject, both McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group, have published findings on the benefits of diversity.  Hiring and working with a diverse group of people is a good thing.

This article is not intended to convince you to dive into the pool of diversity. Instead, let’s talk about the swim lessons you’ll need before getting your toes wet and jumping in with diversity.

As Allison Wyatt commented in an article with Edsurge: “Diversity, equity and inclusion aren’t short-term projects. Instead, they’re constant processes of improvement and self-reflection.”

We know diversity is important to you. Most employers (85%) report increasing diversity is a priority, most recruiters (57%) say they have strategies in place that focus on attracting diverse candidates, and yet less than half of employers (47%) have programs in place to attract diverse teams.

So let’s figure this out. Increasing your diversity equation begins way before you actually recruit your team. It starts with you.

How do you define diversity?

Ideal. explains workplace diversity as a reflection of the “makeup of greater society.” They continue by breaking down diversity into two main categories:

Inherent diversity: demographic characteristics like race, sex, and age.

Acquired diversity: factors such as education, experience, values, skills, and knowledge.

The intent of creating and building a diverse workplace is to “understand, accept, and value differences between people of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities and sexual orientations, as well as differences in personalities, skill sets, experiences, and knowledge bases.”

The first step in diversity work is the ability to understand the makeup of our own personal and professional networks. One study found helping individuals visualize their current exposure to ethnoracially diverse individuals helped address areas of implicit bias later.

Taking the first step into the diversity pool includes determining how you will recognize diversity both personally and through your organization.

Recognize your own biases (both conscious and unconscious).

As humans, we all have certain biases. Admitting we have them is the first step to reducing their power over our decision making. There are nine different identified types of implicit bias. Understanding how implicit bias impacts our decisions, particularly when building a team, dramatically affects our ability to create both diverse and inclusive teams.

Harvard’s FAS Recruiting For Diversity offers the following examples of bias:

  • Tuning out those with foreign or regional accents.
  • Feeling uncomfortable around people with disabilities.
  • Making assumptions about graduates of religious schools, Historically Black Colleges, or women’s colleges, or about scholarship in women’s or minority studies.
  • Belief that a younger person will be quicker or more creative than an older person.

Reducing the impact of both known and unknown (implicit) biases is first knowing they exist. Project Implicit from Harvard offers tools to help uncover any implicit biases you may have (pssst… we all have them).

Evaluate your current team.

Thinking about your current team’s dynamics and level of diversity will help you determine where your hiring efforts should be focused on. Also, taking time to prepare your team to onboard new members if diversity is a new focus for you may require some prep work.

Atlassian has created the Balanced Teams Diversity Test to help you gauge team belonging through a diversity lens. At Atlassian, they realized that having a sense of belonging was the next step in building diverse teams and reducing turnover. Using the data from the Balanced Teams Diversity Test, helped them identify where they could best devote their recruitment energies.

Amber Boyle, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at VMware commented about the tool, “It’s hard to develop actionable insights around D&I data without looking at the functional and team levels. [This tool] helps you easily identify gaps to develop meaningful business-led interventions.”

Time to test the waters. Dive into the diversity pool. Next Steps:

Discover Diversity. Try the Find Out How Diverse Is Your Universe Activity.

Uncover Implicit Biases. Visit Project Implicit

How Balanced is Your Team? Use the Balanced Teams Diversity Test to help guide your diversity course.