For a More Diverse Workforce, Hire Based on Merit

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Many factors go into creating a strong workforce, and diversity of perspective is a key one.

According to David Rock and Heidi Grant,  a more diverse team is a smarter team — and a more successful team. As they write in the Harvard Business Review, “A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry mean.”

According to Rock and Grant, diverse teams have several winning attributes going for them. They tend to be more fact-focused, they tend to process those facts more carefully, and they tend to be more innovative in their approaches.

Mike Myatt, writing for Forbes, says more diverse teams are also better reflections of the real world. As a result, they can better respond to the needs of a variety of customers and market segments. Myatt also notes that more diverse teams are more amenable to robust, civil debate, which allows the team to avoid ideological blind spots and arrive at more informed decisions.

With the benefits of diversity in mind, we have to ask: Why are so many tech companies falling short? Even the most diverse tech companies are nowhere near equal.

At Voxbone, we’ve challenged ourselves not to be one of those companies. We’ve poured much effort into creating a diverse company culture, and we’ve expanded our concept of diversity beyond gender and ethnicity to include culture, religion, and nationality.

As a result, we’ve made significant strides in creating a more diverse workforce. For example, 35 percent of our employees are women, which is in line with the average for US tech companies (34 percent) and better than the UK average (17 percent).

Key to reaching this level of diversity was our decision to not impose a strict hiring policy on our HR department. Instead, we’ve been able to achieve competitive diversity levels simply by hiring the best people while still being conscious of the gender balance in our teams and our organization overall.

3 Lessons on Building a More Diverse Workforce

Here are a few of the tips and lessons we’ve picked up along the way. Hopefully, they will help your company find similar success in building a more diverse workforce:

1. Motherhood Isn’t a Disruption

Don’t be afraid to hire women who are at the age where they may wish to start a family. In this day and age, women can pursue their desires to start families and still contribute to the workforce with relatively minimal interruption, provided your organization offers the proper support. By understanding that motherhood is not a disruption, we’ve been able to cultivate a family-friendly workplace that appeals to a more diverse segment of candidates and makes existing employees feel more fulfilled.

2. Encourage Women and Men to Find Work/Life Balance Equally

By investing energy and resources into creating a flexible workplace, you can build a work environment that allows employees of any gender to find the work/life balance they need while still hitting ambitious professional targets.

We’ve found that workplace flexibility initiatives are most successful when they start at the top. If employees see the leaders of the company taking advantage of flexible work arrangements, they will follow suit.

3. Establish Core Values to Guide Your Hiring

Hiring solely on the basis of race or gender is by definition prejudicial, and it is unlikely to lead to the best hires for your company.

Instead, work with the executive team to establish a set of core values that guide your hiring. Then, assess all candidates through the lens of those values. Doing so will ensure that you’re making hires who are great fits for the company, regardless of their demographic characteristics.

Diversity Hiring Is Merit Hiring defines diversity hiring as “hiring based on merit with special care taken to ensure procedures are free from biases related to a candidate’s age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics that are unrelated to their job performance.”

So, when organizational leaders wonder how to create more diverse workforces, the answer is simpler than they think: Hiring qualified and motivated employees without bias will naturally lead to a more diverse workforce.

For many, this answer may feel unsatisfying, but the fact is a hiring policy that turns qualified people away in the name of diversity can only damage your company. Hiring based on merit is the best place to start, and it is how you can remain ahead of the diversity curve.

Anne-Valérie Heuschen is vice president of corporate affairs at Voxbone. Connect with Anne-Valérie on LinkedIn and follow Voxbone on Twitter.

By Anne-Valérie Heuschen