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How to Successfully Integrate Diversity into Your Team

Adi Assaf

Have a good look at your team, can you really say that they’re as diverse as you’d want them to be?

If you can’t make up your mind, ask these questions:

- Can you say that your team members came from different social-economic backgrounds?

- What’s the age difference between them?

- Are they diverse in terms of appearance and color?

- Do you know the men to women ratio?

- How many of them are religious? What religion is the most dominant? How many are atheists?

- Do you have people on your team with different sexual orientation?

As you can see, we humans come in many shapes and colors, and weaving these shapes and colors together creates beautiful social tapestries.

In my previous post, I talked about how diverse teams are stronger, happier, and way more productive (enter the link from the previous post in the text with the blue color). The physical, spiritual or even social differences between them, provides an opportunity for each and every team member to develop their observational, social and intellectual skills.

Yes, diversifying your team means growth, but if diverse teams are so awesome, why most teams tend to stick to the same structure?

You must build diverse teams, they don’t just happen

Unfortunately, truly diverse teams are rarely organic, and that’s a shame because everyone can gain so much from providing equal opportunity employment, with teammates that are happy to work together regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, age or race.

If you happen to bump into a diverse team, you’re looking at someone’s handy work. Someone engineered it from the bottom up, and probably experimented quite a bit before they were able to find the specific mix that works.

So how do you go about diversifying your team?


#1 Make an active effort to diversify your team

Let me tell you this, it’s easier said than done.

Excepting diverse employees means that you’re going to pass on great candidates because you have a different goal. Here’s a warning, it’s easy to cave in and go with `good candidates’ who are just there, lining up for that job opening, I can’t emphasize this enough.

To avoid this `temptation’, keep yourself focused.

a. Be specific in your recruitment campaign, stating that you’re looking to diversify your team. This will help you avoid non-relevant CVs and a lot of inbox clutter.

b. In addition to your ongoing campaigns, you can ask your team members for leads on potential candidates who match the profile, this can be an excellent engagement opportunity for your team members and can really bring them all together.

c. Target outsourcing professionals who specialize in diversifying teams and ask them to pick for you only candidates who match your criteria.


#2 Design a workspace to accommodate diverse needs

Different employees have different needs.

For instance:

- Religious employees might need a place to pray, or they might have specific requirements from your workspace, like a dedicated kitchen area.

- Older employees might need to go to more the doctor more.

- Moms might need flexible schedules etc.

I know, up until now diversity hires look not that cost-effective, but as I mentioned above, this will all come back to you. Answering to their needs shows that you respect them and looking out for their best interest.


#3 Talk to your team about their new colleagues

As awesome as your existing team is, you’ll have to set new ground rules to accommodate the new employee needs, and this might include tweaking the office culture.

You already know this, change is always difficult, so for it to go smoothly, you’ll have to talk to your employees and see where they stand in regards to your effort to diversify the team.

This presents a fantastic opportunity to explore your team’s perspective, you’ll have to discover:

- Who can you count on to make the transition easy?

- Who might cause problems while it’s happening?

- If this move is having a positive/exciting effect on your team, or if it’s causing turmoil, which might send you back to the drawing board?

In any case, giving them a feeling that they are a part of the change is always a positive thing, your existing team will appreciate the fact that you’re considering their opinions.


#4 Actively work on helping your new hires to adjust

Every employee I ever talked to feels the same way on their first day, like they’ve just landed on another planet, so just imagine how your new hires feel.

You I know how a new employee should feel, and the same applies to diversity hires. They need to feel protected, comfortable and eventually happy, and it’s up to you (as much as it’s up to your new hires, and your team) to make them feel a part of the company.

Having said that, I have a word of advice.

Don’t focus or even celebrate what’s different about their looks or customs, e.g., celebrating in an office party one of your new hires holidays won’t help in making them feel a part of anything.

Instead, focus on making them feel a part of the ongoing team efforts you already have in place. Give them a role, and say that you needed them to handle it because they have the required set of skills.


#5 Adapt your retention plan to support diversity hires

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, in tech, employee’s turnover is just under 2–3 years. When it comes to diverse teams, if not retained correctly, this number can either plummet, or go up, depending on your diversity retention plan.

If you really want to know if your retention plan is up to par, ask yourself what are you currently doing to retain your employees?

- Are you running extracurricular social activities?

- Do employees mention on social media that their company is `cool’ (a good indicator that you’re doing something right in the company culture department).

- Are you concerned about your employee’s development as professionals? Do you invest in their training? Growth?

There’s a lot you can do to retain your diversity hires effectively, and what’s great about them is that you don’t have to do any crazy changes in your retention plan.

The formula is simple:


Take your diverse employee’s needs + Make sure that they’re well integrated into your existing retention plans = you’re doing right by them and they are going to take your team up!