Trust your gut? Maybe not. How to make diversity and inclusion a priority in your leadership career

Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion creates better decision-making and team outcomes. So how can emerging leaders make it a reality in the work they do? Trusting your gut may not be the best option. These tips will help.

This is Part Four of the Women’s Agenda Emerging Leaders Playbook, supported by Charles Sturt University. Find the series so far here.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

It’s the first hires in a team that can really set the agenda and culture going forward.

So even if you’re responsible for hiring just one person, take the opportunity to set a precedent for how you want this culture to evolve. Also think about the ways your team will improve the overall culture of your organisation by prioritising diversity and inclusion.

When it comes to hiring, relying on your gut instinct can be problematic. Your gut may have you gravitating towards people you’d most like to enjoy a drink or a meal with, rather than those who will help you create an innovative and productive team.

Research shows that diverse teams drive performance. In fact, McKinsey & Company’s latest study observes that companies in the top quartiles for diversity are “35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians”.

Diversity comes in many different forms and is not only a matter of gender, race, sexual orientation and those with disabilities. It also extends to age, social background, education and personality. The technical skills a prospective employee has are important, but it’s not the only aspect you should focus on.

Ultimately, diverse teams are more likely to foster inclusivity, which is key. Inclusive teams create a dynamic and productive culture, where everyone feels part of something bigger and more comfortable collaborating.

Plays to lead on diversity and inclusivity:

Trust your gut? Maybe not

If you’re relying on your gut to make hiring decisions, you might also be relying on your own bias. In this instance, trusting your gut is not enough.

Ask colleagues to help you form an interview ‘panels’

Whether your organisation requires panel interviews or not, you should aim to create your own to draw objective feedback on a potential hire. Just make sure the panel is also diverse.

Set your own targets on diversity and inclusion

Your organisation may not have a diversity target, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to. As a leader, you should set targets and aspirations for the kind of diversity you want reflected in your team. Then refer to this vision when you’re looking at recruiting someone new.

You don’t need to have a job opening to start nurturing a prospective team. Start exploring options for connecting with talent in and outside of your workplace. Offer your support to these individuals so that when you’re ready to hire, your pipeline is ready to tap.

Be deliberately inclusive

Unfortunately, inclusion isn’t simply a by-product of diversity. It needs to be constantly monitored and worked on. Consider the everyday measures you can take to be more inclusive. This could be as simple as striking up conversations with new people in your organisation through to making a more concerted effort to mentor.

Capitalise on diversity elsewhere in the business

Look outside your own team; can people from other parts of the business aid creativity and innovation? According to Forbes, this action can bolster “inclusive decision-making” which strengthens efficiency and contributes to the company’s bottom line.

Invest time and resources into your team

As you build your diverse team, ensure you’re continually nurturing those within it. Make the time to regularly check in with your staff, give feedback and listen to any thoughts or concerns they might have. Schedule regular and deliberate catch-ups for honest and open discussions.

Keep persevering

Creating a diverse and inclusive team is not a do-it-once-and-forget achievement. It requires ongoing effort and attention. The best leaders understand this.

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