Career Tips 04/10/2017 by "Sarino Pettinato"

Processes for Building and Retaining a Diverse Team


By now most Australian companies are aware of the benefits of having a truly diverse team and how it impacts productivity, performance, team morale and the bottom line.

study from management consultancy – McKinsey & Co, revealed that gender diverse companies are more likely to outperform others by 15%, and ethnically diverse are 25% more likely to outperform. Just these two aspects alone, show the great improvements an organisation can make by strategically creating a broad and diverse team.

So how does a manager build and grow a diverse team?

1. Shout it Out

Ensure your company’s diversity policy is in the spotlight. Ensure that it’s easily accessible for all your team to be aware of it, become familiar with it and live its values. Schedule quarterly open discussions about how it is being implemented, and importantly, how it’s being measured.

If you make your diversity goals a shared focus, this will enable your team to become invested in the program professionally and personally. Their input will usually result in real practical initiatives to alleviate areas of concern and encourage behaviours that actively support your respective diversity program.

For example, Facebook is taking a real lead on ensuring its diversity strategy is highly visible. In 2015, Facebook reported that 68% of its employees were male, and in technology-related roles, males made up 84% of its workforce. Realising it had a diversity problem, it created a training program to manage unconscious bias and they’re encouraging other companies to get on board, by putting the training and videos online for everyone to access.

2. Make Changes Big & Small

You should ensure that you review and continuously assess your hiring processes from top to bottom. It’s not enough to keep hiring a diverse team of people, you have to keep checking it to see if its having a positive impact. Like a garden, you need to nurture it carefully to have it flourish.

So while a diversity strategy is a large undertaking, its implementation is often a series of small changes in hiring, language and behaviours.  We notice the small, nuanced changes in day to day work that can make for larger positive, on-going changes for some time to come.

For example, Buffer, the social network management site, increased the number of women developers applying for technical roles when they simply cut the word “hacker” out of its job descriptions.

3.    Check-in on Your Culture & Behaviours

Implement “no-interruption rules” for your meetings to make sure all ideas from any member of the team can be heard.  This will provide an environment that encourages people to speak out, have engaging conversations and positive outcomes. Again, minute behavioural changes have impact.

This one sounds obvious, but treat your current diverse team well. Some teams members may not feel they can bring their “full selves” to work. Don’t be ok that they are quiet about it. Talk to them about sharing their knowledge. That is why we need diversity in the first place –  to share knowledge and different insights.

Ensure your diverse team members are cared for and included. Appreciate their contributions, and where applicable, assign them to highly visible projects and include them in all meetings. Make sure there is a career path for them. While this should apply to all team members, particular attention has to be paid to your current focus team members so that any potential old cultures and perceptions can change.

4.    Flexible work arrangements

Most organisations in Australia have implemented some kind of flexible working arrangement with their staff. This stems from the idea that not all of us have a partner at home looking after a household, while the traditional 9-5 hours can be maintained by the “working partner”. Flexible working arrangements acknowledges and respects the needs of parents, carers and people with a range of different needs and circumstances. Not all staff need this, but many of them want it too.

5.    Socialising & Groups

Remove ‘forced’ social meetings. Socialising is important for colleagues to bond and form good working partnerships and friendship groups, but it has to be on terms that suit a wide range of individuals within the team. Drinks after work can intimidate a range of people who are suddenly deemed “not fun” because they don’t drink. Get creative. Have other types of social meetings to discuss great things that have happened at work, or find something the team love to do as a group and encourage inclusive behaviour. We don’t all have to be best buddies but just need to form good working relationships.

6.    Mentoring

Mentoring is a great way to build strong work relationships within an organisation and to understand each other’s needs and pain points. Mentoring can also instigate unlikely friendships and connections when we start to realise, “we are all in this together”.