In recent years, cultural shifts have put a spotlight on the lack of diversity in leadership teams. As a result, some local governments have attempted reforms through legislation and policy changes that require inclusivity.
While there is much debate around this topic, the push for more diverse workplaces — especially in leadership roles — isn’t going away. So, whether because of personal conviction, company guidelines, or government mandate, many businesses will need to learn how to successfully navigate hiring a diverse team.
Pursuing diversity in the hiring process can be complex. Based on our experience and observations, we’ve found that a bottom-up approach may be the most effective long-term strategy.
Reconsider the Traditional Approach
The traditional approach to hiring diverse leaders prioritizes underrepresented groups in the screening process. This can help you meet diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals in your organization. But it comes with a trade-off: a smaller pool of candidates.
Most companies keep a list of must-haves for potential employees in leadership positions. If you have 10 items on your wish list, you already need to be prepared for a long search. If number 11 is that the candidate is from an underrepresented group, then your pool of potentials shrinks even further. In today’s constrained job market, you may never find your ideal leader.
In a tight market, it’s unlikely you’ll find any candidate who meets all your requirements. You can broaden your search by prioritizing your must-haves and shifting some to preferences. Maybe a candidate has compensating skills that can make up for the missing pieces, or you plan to invest in developing the skills they lack. This keeps you from screening out candidates who could add tremendous value to your team.
It can be risky to deprioritize certain skills and experience, especially at higher levels. Prioritizing the traits you need in a leadership position is a delicate balance. But it’s one you can achieve by committing to investing in the person you choose to hire.
Take the Long View With a Bottom-Up Approach
If you embrace the need to invest in your leadership hires, take it one step further. The bottom-up approach to ensuring DEI in the workplace focuses on training up diverse leaders from the junior level.
You may not be able to take risks with your CFO, but you can with your staff-level roles. Junior positions don’t require a long list of must-have traits and experience. Instead, you can begin to develop the exact skills they need to become business leaders in the future.
This is a long-haul solution, but it’s seamless and simple. It’s much easier to find right-fit candidates at the beginning of their careers — including diverse candidates. More junior candidates may also be more willing to move for work than experienced professionals, which means you can tap into talent across the country.
Prioritizing diverse recruiting at the junior level resolves the issue of underrepresentation for future generations as well. This method tackles inequality closer to the source, and shows true commitment to a long-term solution.
Approaching DEI With Other Leaders
When hiring for a leadership role, encourage decision makers to view candidates holistically. Diverse traits are characteristics like any other. Prioritize the traits you’re looking for, and be willing to bend to find the right fit for the position.
If diversity is your top priority, own and celebrate that — but be prepared. You could face a long search to find the right candidate, and your other priorities could get bumped off the list entirely.
Don’t forget to look at the pool of talent already in your company. Training a leader from within is an investment worth pursuing, though it may take time before you start to see returns.
If you need to fill a position in the interim, BVOH Search & Consulting can set you up with a skilled consultant right away. Start your search today.
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