What Business Owners Need to Know About Diversity in Leadership

The full version of this article was originally published by Cincinnati Business Courier and can be found here.

We are halfway through 2020, a year destined to be remembered as a landmark one in history with “change” as the optimal word to describe the experience so far.

Nearly every facet of our lives has been changed by Covid-19. Likewise, protests and civil unrest have our collective consciousness confronting issues that will hopefully bring permanent change for the betterment for all. As a result, business as usual is not an option regardless of industry. The time to embrace change in regard to increasing diversity and inclusion in the work place is not only overdue, but necessary for any organization concerned about its future success.

Hire for a culture add, not a culture fit

I grew up in household passionate about sports, an industry that has clearly benefited from diversity. Football, for example, has a long history of discrimination and bias, from bans on Black players in the 1930s to racial stacking. Super Bowl champions like Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson, however, have proven that they’re more than capable of leading a team to victory and we’re all watching a better game because of it. This took years to achieve and was done by hiring players because they were incredibly talented and the right addition for the team, not fit for a position.

In working with many organizations across a variety of industries, I see companies hiring to fit a culture that already exists instead of one they wish to create. Sometimes this happens because they rely on internal networks to identify potential candidates. Leveraging outside sources can expand that network and help provide an unbiased look at candidates to find the right addition for your team.

In addition to working with hiring firms, companies can reach out to local colleges and universities’ minority student groups and scholarship programs, or forge relationships with local minority-focused organizations. Making the right addition to the team provides room from growth, while a comfortable “fit” often does not.

Don’t forget the ‘I’ in D&I

It’s equally important to examine corporate culture to see what is being done to retain a diverse workforce. If the current model doesn’t adapt, diversity fades when employees do not feel included. Tough conversations likely lie ahead to ensure your culture welcomes the workforce you’re hiring for, a fact I know from my own experience.

If leadership is afraid to have stringent, detailed, uncomfortable conversations to discover any underlying issues and/or concerns to ensure all feel (and are) welcomed, pushes for diversity and inclusion will fall flat. Diversity is not a box to check with a hire or two; you have to monitor and continue to work at it. We regularly work with clients to create plans with discernible steps and methods of evaluation to ensure real efforts toward creating a more diverse workplace have been made.

Not to mention, creating a diverse workforce is the right thing to do.

The full version of this article was originally published by Cincinnati Business Courier and can be found here.

To contact Durran Alexander about hiring for diversity, email him at dalexander@centennialinc.com

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