To become more diverse, developing the organisational competence in appointing ‘step up’ candidates is critical.
Almost all organisations want to make diverse appointments. But these same organisations are not necessarily willing to compromise on experience, in favour of appointing a ‘step up’ candidate – a factor which would dramatically reduce the barrier to making a diverse appointment.
Having observed this over the past several years, there are two critical changes organisationsbcould make to bring down these barriers and significantly impact the success of ‘step up’ hires.
Critical change 1:
Moving from a want to a need; better defining diversity
While almost everyone is under pressure from stakeholders to promote diversity, we have observed that few executives who are looking to make an appointment can compellingly articulate what, beyond symbolic diversity, they are looking for. The desire for diversity is therefore quite superficial:“we just want someone who could do the job, but looks different from the normal person we hire”.
Beyond “nice to have”
A typical conclusion they come to is that the diverse candidate will be appointed so long as they’re the best person for the job – which is often defined as the person with the most relevant experience, or the person who is most ‘ready now’. The problem is that these criteria exclude many diverse candidates who would otherwise be excellent hires.
In this case, the want for a diverse person is really a “nice to have” – that is (regrettably) superseded by other considerations.
Be clear about the benefits of diversity
To go beyond this kind of thinking, your organisation needs to be clear about the benefits that hiring a diverse candidate will bring. By articulating these benefits, of which cognitive diversity will be one (see grey box) – and genuinely believing in them – the ‘step up’ candidate becomes a real possibility. These benefits should be made explicit in the hiring brief.
The benefits of a cognitively diverse team
- Enhanced creativity
- Stronger powers of innovation
- Fewer blind spots
- Better decision-making quality
We believe that the new marker of a great leader will be their ability to unlock cognitive diversity.
The practical step starts with the CEO and Executive Team being very clear about what the organisation is hoping to achieve by embracing diversity. What specifically are they looking for that’s different? What does the current organisation do that diverse hires will help change?
If the overarching strategy that emerges flows through the organisation – so that hiring managers, perhaps prompted by the HR team, have invested the time in answering these questions and have found a serious case for hiring a diverse candidate – there will be a fundamental shift in mindset. Diversity is now a need rather than merely a want. This dramatically changes the way you approach the entire hiring process. Now you’re not just open to the ‘step up’, but excited by it.