It can be very tempting to stay in the safe zone, especially during turbulent times. But more often than not, you’re trading in long-term success and innovation for short-term comfort.
This is often true on a personal level, but almost always on an organisational one. It pays to take calculated risks, and to constantly push forward. Of course, to do this you need to make sure you have the very best people. And all too often, I see recruitment pipelines which completely miss whole potential pools of applicants.
So how can you avoid this? And how does recruiting widely help futureproof your organisation?
The dangers of groupthink
It feels natural to suggest that a team where everyone agrees with each other is a successful team. But in fact, the opposite is often true. So long as the team knows how to have healthy conflict, it can be energising and challenging to have some disagreements.
Hearing many different perspectives and freely exploring ideas is a great way to drive innovation. In Rebel Ideas, Matthew Syed goes into depth about how important cognitive diversity is in ensuring an organisation stays competitive. As he points out, having a room full of people with the same background, the same knowledge and experiences, can lead down the dangerous path of groupthink.
Sure, everyone in that room might be perfectly qualified. But if they’re all going to miss the same opportunities and dangers, they’re not a very effective team. Though the stakes may not be as high as some of Syed’s example cases – such as the homogenous team of CIA analysts who dismissed the threat of Osama bin Laden – this can still have a very damaging impact on your organisation in the long term.
So, ensuring different perspectives are represented is important. But how do you start to recruit from a wider pool?
I’ve written before about the practical steps you can take to improve your recruitment strategy. To sum up, you need to ensure you:
Make it clear you’re an equal employer;
Search for the talent, rather than expecting it to find you;
Remain transparent about company data on D&I;
Give time and money to training and mentoring schemes.
One specific area I’ve been thinking about recently is educational background. This is often overlooked when we discuss diversity, equality and inclusion, but it’s so important to consider. Ask yourself whether you default to asking for an undergraduate degree on job postings. If so… why is that?
I asked my LinkedIn network whether their degree related to their job, and 41% said there was no direct link, while 14% took a non-degree route to get where they are today. Many respondents said that the benefit of their degree was mostly in the soft skills – so why not just directly ask about that when recruiting, rather than assuming a degree is the best way to know if someone has those skills?
As one respondent, Nelson H Aquino (VP, Sales & Marketing LATAM and International Work at Ariat International), eloquently put it: “with the rising and stratospheric cost of university, this is certainly a consideration for new entrants. As part of a previous generation, I thought of college attendance as a necessity. Perhaps it is no longer so.”
Making it safe to speak up
Of course, simply recruiting diverse employees doesn’t mean your company will see the benefit. You need to make sure those employees are entering an environment where they can give their best.
As Google found out through Project Aristotle, the one thing uniting their most successful teams was a sense of psychological safety. To really unlock the potential of your workforce, you need to ensure they feel able to share their ideas without fear of being embarrassed, ignored or punished.
This is the kind of thing that takes time – but it’s worth it. By creating an inclusive, psychologically safe culture you’re building a foundation strong enough to support the future of your organisation, no matter how many challenges it faces along the way.