Diversity shouldn’t be a KPI
I often find myself contemplating the unconscious bias that is still prevalent globally. I’m talking about the fact that humanity tends to cluster together in pods of similarity, you look like me, you sound like me, you believe in the same things as me. As time marches on, the list seems to get longer, creating more segregation, more classification, and more conflict. It doesn’t matter where you are on the planet, bias bubbles exist and you may be on the inside or the outside of that bubble by luck of birth, and completely outside of your control.
As a middle aged (or slightly over as was kindly pointed out to me!), white, Australian male living in 2022, it can be easy to worry about what I say or do as it may upset someone – or – I can choose to be me.
I’m going to go with the latter but before you flame me, let me explain why this relates to the embracing of diversity. From the day I was first entrusted to employ people, I discovered I had a fascination with understanding how this person in front of me would fit into the team. I fixated on how they would enhance, how they would challenge; not by becoming a cog in a well oiled, bigger machine, or joining our illustrious crew – it was about identifying the potential of positive, long-term disruption and I didn’t care about much else. My recommendations generally received a firm no from many of my superiors in the early days – you can’t bring that person into this team/company. Initially I was confused, but in hindsight it was because I wanted to hire a female into completely male team, someone without a degree into a team of tertiary educated people, simply someone that didn’t match the profile that already existed.
Over the last three decades that I’ve had the privilege of hiring people, I can easily say that my biggest successes have been those that are diverse in nature, and by diverse I mean deliberately not caring about age, gender, religion, education, … the list is unbound in my mind. Having this healthy mix of diversity brings different views, different approaches to solving problems, different experiences that would not be taken into account by a homogenised team.
For those of you that have made it this far I’d like to share a few points that have guided me:
1. It can be a challenge to get people to apply for roles due to perceived application bias – i.e.. no point in applying for the job because I won’t even be considered due to ______. Ensure everyone knows you’re looking for the positive disruptor.
2. Do prework with your existing team members – get them excited about being disrupted.
3. Unless you have a very specific gap/role, don’t look for the missing piece of pie that completes the cake – look for someone that adds to the mix and let the team work it out – re-skill, cross-skill, trust them.
4. Be brave – give people a chance. You will get it wrong sometimes.
Do I practice what I preach? Let’s just say that I am happy to be a minority in my own company – but there is still room for more; and for the record, we don’t have diversity targets. We don’t need them.
Photo by cottonbro