Companies can grow dramatically and increase their market share when they bring together people who are different from each other and provide opportunities for them to share their varied experiences and bring their unique perspectives to problem solving and new product development.
To foster innovation, you must think with a diversity-of-thought mindset. As a leader, one of your jobs is to access and mine diversity of thought throughout your team.
To ensure your company hires talented people who offer a diversity of ideas, consider these seven strategies:
1. Send recruiting teams to colleges that historically have large numbers of women, people with disabilities and people from different cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds.
2. Expand your recruiters’ perspective. They may be conscious of recruiting people across the diversity spectrum, but are they looking for people who are the "exact right fit,” meaning people who think exactly like you? Or are they listening and looking for people with new ideas, who are creative problem solvers and innovators?
3. Train recruiters to interview people who don’t look like they do, who don’t buy their clothes where they do. Have them go beyond the suit, shoes and haircut to recruit employees who can bring diversity of thought with them. A CEO of a facilities management company wanted to hire more female managers. Instead of recruiting from his industry, he started attending meetings of women in real estate.
"I wanted to find women who would bring different experiences so that we could get fresh ideas," he told me. "I looked for women who understood property management from the client’s perspective and who would challenge the way we’ve always worked. As a result, we have several women in decision-making positions and we’ve been able to better serve our clients.”
4. Have a diverse panel – from different universities, of different religions, age groups, genders, sexual orientation – conduct interviews so that you can get other perspectives.
5. Start recruiting early, as early as middle school. Make sure your company is represented at career days and recruiters are prepared to discuss the benefits of working for your organization and in your industry. Talk to teachers and students to find out if someone has an interest in a subject related to your industry.
A client recently told me a story about going to a high school and meeting a student who didn’t have the highest grades, who didn’t appear at first glance to be a potential candidate for his organization. However in talking to one of the science teachers, he discovered that the young man was brilliant in physics and math. He was so impressed with the young man, the client established a mentoring relationship with him, would like him to be an intern while in college, and, ultimately, hire him.
6. Reach out to student groups on mainstream campuses and ask them to suggest the best candidates or include notices about your organization in their newsletters, LinkedIn groups or other social media. Post links to articles about your company on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Student peers may be aware of the talents of others not in the limelight. Develop relationships with diversity related organizations, including Black Student Union, Native American Student Organization, Asian-American Student Union, MEChA, LGBT organizations and others, and sponsor events with them.
7. Spend time yourself listening and getting to know potential recruits. Ask them for their insights and observations about your organization and what they would change or do differently.
Cultivate diversity of thought and let it shine or your company and the people in it will wilt and fall behind. The choice is yours. Hire creatively.
Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.