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Power your team with diversity

Posted by: Matt

I recently spent some time watching my daughter go through preseason trials for her local football team. The team that she was grouped with for the final match of the afternoon represented a diverse range of kids with a common love for the beautiful game. The’y hadn’t played together before or even met. Most were relative newcomers to the area and some were new to New Zealand. But in a short space of time they managed to bring together their collective experience, styles and ideas to build a game plan. They proceeded to play their opposition of the field. It made me stop to consider how much richer sports teams and teams in general can be when they tap into the power that can be found in diversity.

Diversity in the workplace isn’t about ethnic or gender-based quota filling, it’s about drawing on the widest possible range of experiences in order to build a creative, productive team. By hiring talent with varying perspectives, your team and company will be richer, both culturally and financially.

Research has shown that diversity improves performance and job satisfaction, particularly among teams whose core focus is the implementation of ideas (rather than the generation of ideas). When you are trying to action, say, a new marketing strategy, it may feel comfortable to be surrounded by like minded thinkers who share your expectations and observations. But this comfort zone is the enemy of true innovation. In a team with a wide range of lived experience, any given idea will come up against constructive criticism – a necessary condition of first-rate solution development. Diversity of ideas fosters creative friction which, though potentially painful in the short term, delivers manifold benefits to the overall success of the business and the well-being of the workforce.

One of the most obvious advantages of a diverse, dynamic team is the ability to consider the needs of a wider range of demographics. Greater representation, whether in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, background, or outlook, expands the market viability of any business.

But how to build this culture of innovation during the hiring process and beyond? We’ve identified four key steps your business should take to build a diverse team – and get the most out of them.

Establish a Clear Vision

By having a clear vision of what your organization is striving for, you give your employees something to rally around. Writing a short, punchy, memorable mission statement – two sentences at most – is a good start. It should express your vision clearly enough that potential new recruits can understand what you’re all about before joining the team.

Establishing a company-wide vision – early and firmly – will serve as a ‘North Star’ during those inevitable moments when group dynamics start generating more heat than light. Remember, friction = good, fraction = bad. When innovation becomes so wildly creative that it threatens to derail a project, a gentle reaffirmation of the ultimate mission will get things back on track.

Embrace Conflict

Don’t brace yourself for conflict – embrace it. A necessary byproduct of diverse organizations is an increased likelihood of disagreements. Groupthink is easy, but conflict produces better results. Learn to manage conflict in a constructive way by understanding the participation styles and character quirks of each team member, and how those differences play out within the group dynamic. Encourage your team members to embrace conflict as the antidote to narrow, conformist thinking. As long as everyone keeps their head and respects each others’ differences, the benefits of diverse perspectives far outweigh the drawbacks.

Encourage Participation

Diversity of opinion is only valuable if each voice is heard. Team members should feel equally comfortable expressing their opinion and giving divergent viewpoints a fair shake. An advocacy mindset defines objectives as problems to be solved, not decisions to be made.

Evaluate and Recalibrate

Another key requirement for promoting and maintaining diversity is a constant quest to give and receive feedback. Honest feedback is essential for growth, and each task or project should be followed by a debriefing session that allows for open, objective reflection on what did and didn’t work. In addition to the direct lessons drawn from feedback sessions, they establish and reaffirm  a positive dynamic within the team – a reminder that everyone is working towards the same ultimate goals: innovation through diversity.

So anyway,  here’s to celebrating the start of a new local football season and  I hope everyone enjoys being part of the rich experience

Matt is a Director of The Talent Hive and leads the Engineering recruitment practice within the business. Originally from the UK he’s been living in New Zealand for 15 years. Matt is a retired ‘amateur’ athlete who has given up chasing great marathon times for chasing his children around the sports field, a far more worthy (if not exhausting) pursuit.

At The Talent Hive we specialise in connecting  Engineering & IT professionals with the right career opportunities. We encourage collaboration, socialising your success and sharing industry insight and expertise. Start the journey, connect with The Talent Hive today


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