By Tanya Channing, Chief People & Culture Officer, Pipedrive

Statistics show that racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35% (McKinsey). But real diversity is not only about acquiring people with different sex, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, it is also about finding ways to authentically include these individuals into the company culture.

Real change means really changing and being open to redesigning the enterprise for humanity and meritocracy, to get the best from all the talents available.

Doing so is part of an ever-changing business experience that is evolving along with society at large. There may not be just one right way to manage diversity and all that it entails – but by now most workers have probably seen some poor practices if their career has lasted long enough. But mindfulness, empathy, and humanity are not finite resources, and the results of experimentation and improvement can be easily ascertained.

How do I foster, support, and retain diverse teams?

Many companies have made leaps and bounds with their recruitment efforts to reach out to more diverse groups, and this should be roundly applauded. But fostering, supporting, and retaining diverse teams that can grow, learn, and become stronger together, can be a tougher challenge.

Supporting diverse teams involves a much more thoughtful approach to team building. Different perspectives and roles may need to be appreciated for the value they bring – and not everyone may understand why members aren’t as traditional as long-standing colleagues.

Changing practices should be explained with industry and social context to bring colleagues on the journey and understand how and why corporate practices are changing to fit the new normal.

Setting metrics, measuring change, and being unafraid to experiment in a series of managed risks are great behaviours to instil in teams. Listening, and reflecting on feedback, has not traditionally been a hallmark of Western business culture. That is changing. Without understanding and encouraging real feedback, nothing gets better – and no one can be really satisfied living in ignorance. What’s more, feedback and careful planning can create a virtuous cycle that can quickly but subtly snowball into real business change across multiple areas. These include shortening the hiring process, retaining staff for longer, better reviews, better individual, team, and company performance, and profitability. Ideally, businesses can go a step further and add more meaning to their business, by supporting better social outcomes too. This is often found as diversity programmes succeed, and colleagues become more interested in the world around them.

Why the concept of ‘culture fits’ are outdated

Effectively hiring for culture fit means hiring ‘more of the same’. That’s not always a bad thing, for example, all doctors should have the right qualifications. But getting too prescriptive, based on often dubious personality profiling, can be a pseudoscientific approach.

Shared values and required skill sets are key. But consider the following before hiring for a cultural fit… Steve Jobs didn’t behave like the average CEO – but he built an incredible brand out of his philosophy. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and the world’s most successful investor spends much of his days undisturbed, reading and thinking. There are many examples of very successful people who don’t do what everyone else in their industry does – but they get results, and they inspire their tribe around them.

Real diversity aligns with core values and allows different expressions to flourish. It allows experimentation and doesn’t squash creativity as a byproduct of a uniform way of working.

The three key ways companies can truly foster inclusivity, diversity of thought and overall, more innovation

Encourage the business to truly love feedback. I have come to really appreciate the power of radical candour, as popularised in the book by Kim Scott. There’s both a lot of heart and head in the way this feedback is designed to be kind, clear, specific, and sincere. The aim is to directly challenge without being a jerk, and improve trust and collaboration. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but when implemented well it really can improve how teams manage themselves and work together much more closely.

All in all, feedback is key to ensuring that an organisation and its culture is healthy and empathetic. It’s a prerequisite to an inclusive organisation.

Clarity in goals and processes is also non-negotiable. With the right guidance, leaders set the boundaries and the shape of what they want to achieve. They save team time in shaping the problem and offer a launchpad that will eventually result in solutions and successes.

Leaders at all levels really help their teams when they learn to set the right amount of guidance to clarify the challenge and illuminate a way to possible solutions. The trick is to remove routes that will lead to known dead-ends, but allow many legitimate paths to success.

Finally, a level of mixing, sharing, and learning is key. People need to talk and share best practices, ways of working, thinking, and seeing the world. In an age of remote working, this is a real risk of getting lost. Some official scheduling for the organisation will help teams understand each other. However, within teams, there can be levels of planned and spontaneous socialising and learning.

This is where culture can really help. Encourage colleagues to be curious, talkative, and sharing so they can see all parts of the workflow. Let them take opportunities to see how everyone contributes and how different ways of working help different people succeed.

To sum it all up – be open, be transparent, and be willing to talk – a lot. Discussion supports understanding and better goal setting – leading to business success.


About the author

Tanya Channing is the Chief People and Culture Officer at Pipedrive, the sales-first CRM platform used by over 100,000 companies worldwide. Tanya’s role within the company is to foster talent, develop an exciting company culture and help achieve hiring goals. Channing has a successful track record in people leadership, fostering talent, and enriching company culture for more than 20 years. Most recently, Channing worked as Chief HR Officer for the Merchant Services business in Nets, the European Pay Tech Leader. Prior to Nets she was Deputy CHRO, Chief of Staff to CIO and a member of the leadership team that successfully floated Worldpay, Europe’s largest IPO to date. Channing has also held several HR leadership roles at well-known brands such as Burger King and Red Bull.


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