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How to build a diverse team

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Featuring advice from our Organisational Psychologist, we explain why making the effort to recruit with an open mind will always pay off.

You could be forgiven for thinking that “diversity” has become a management buzzword, but here at Growth Lending we spend a lot of time and effort in ensuring that we attract candidates from across society.

It goes without saying that unlawful, unethical, unwarranted discrimination against any minority group is wrong, but beyond our societal responsibilities, there are three key reasons for attracting and welcoming as wide a group as possible.

When your organisation reflects the world around it, you benefit from the greatest number of viewpoints and experiences when developing your products and/or services; you speak to the widest audience possible when selling these; and you access the broadest, richest pool of talent available, enabling you to maximise the performance of your team.

What is a diverse team?

Employing a diverse team ensures that your workforce is inclusive of different backgrounds and origins. Gender, socioeconomic and cultural factors come into play, as well as many others like sexual orientation and ethnicity.

What are the benefits of team diversity?

Creating a diverse team within your organisation can result in the following:

  • More varied skill sets
  • Increased creativity and innovation
  • Enhanced problem-solving and decision making
  • Improved company reputation
  • Strengthened team morale
  • Heightened employee engagement

What does diversity encompass?

Simply put, when we fail to embrace team diversity, we put unnecessary limits on our product and business development and raise unnecessary barriers to success. With diversity, we open ourselves up to different cultural sensitivities and insights and ensure that our market is as broad and deep as possible.

There are different frameworks for understanding diversity, including the UK’s Equality Act 2010. This tells us that we cannot discriminate against anyone on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership (in employment only), pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

At the Growth Lending Group, we add anything related to snobbishness to this list. We have achieved a mix of social classes and backgrounds by ensuring that we don’t discriminate on the grounds of people’s class, the type of school they attended, their hobbies or their accent. Some people think this is covered by understanding unconscious bias, but it is more reliable to face down any potential discrimination directly.

This can seem frightening to some owners of small businesses who have unfounded fears about paying a workforce that cannot deliver, but a helpful way to look at it is to say that you can only discriminate against someone on the grounds of their ability to do the job. You don’t have to hire someone who cannot drive on medical grounds as a long-distance lorry driver or consider someone with an NVQ in nursery nursing for a role as a professor of astrophysics.

You cannot, however, discount someone because you can’t pronounce their name, or look past them because you don’t like the way they spend their home life. Here’s a tip: avoid checking a potential employee’s social media, to prevent any unconscious biases from creeping in.

How we recruited from a deeper talent pool

A carefully considered recruitment strategy has enabled us to attract a diverse workforce to Growth Lending. Here are five of the key initiatives we use.

1. Give people time

The first consideration, and the most important, is to build time into the recruitment process. When we recruit in a hurry, we get a slew of candidates from predominant groups.

Candidates from minority groups often learn to be wary: if they have experienced discrimination in previous jobs, they will choose their future roles more carefully, often needing to know much more about an organisation’s culture. To avoid missing out on these candidates, it is important to allow them enough time to get to know how we work.

2. Host attraction events

Sometimes a quick recruitment process is unavoidable, so to counter this, we run a series of events where people can get to know us, even before we have confirmed roles. We choose venues and times that appeal to everyone and we ensure that all of our guests get involved. A breakfast in an accessible location, attended by a range of team members, is an example of an event that doesn’t preclude any minority group.

3. Publish authentic job descriptions

Our job descriptions are narratives that build an accurate picture of the relevant role and the milestones we expect a successful candidate to reach. We avoid bullet points, which might dissuade less bullish candidates from applying, and we ensure that our phrasing reflects the language we use internally.

Rather than posting clickbait on LinkedIn, we publish a full job description and describe how our growth has created the vacancy. We highlight our family-friendly policies and, wherever we can, state that working from home and/or part-time hours are a possibility.

4. Sign up to charters and initiatives

We are signatories of the government’s Women in Finance charter, which asks financial services firms to commit to four key actions, such as setting targets for gender equality in their senior teams. We have already achieved all of these, but we know it is important to show what we’re doing and to ensure that we are held to account as time passes and expectations improve.

The organisations that set up such charters provide us with access to valuable resources and create a network that enables us to learn from others’ success.

5. Share your successes

When you have a minority characteristic, it is much easier to join a firm that accepts and celebrates someone like you. It is wrong to force people to become role models, but if they are willing to put their head above the parapet or to present key information on the community they represent, this provides a great opportunity to attract others.

Such initiatives need money and/or time, but encouraging diversity is a worthwhile investment to make.