As an HR leader, you’re accustomed to the constant buzz surrounding the benefits of diversity and inclusion strategies. However, diversity is much more than checking a box, meeting a quota or fulfilling a requirement; it is a strategic business initiative that allows your company to improve innovation, increase revenue and optimize operations to serve your customers. But what if you were told the next step in creating diversity within your workplace wasn’t something you could glean from a resume or checking a box? Consider ‘Thought diversity’ as your next diversity initiative.
Thought diversity is a newcomer to the diversity and inclusion arena. “Diversity of thought—the idea of more-than-one-way— is key to understanding the potential of diversity and inclusion as an organizational resource”1. Thought diversification blurs the lines of traditional diversity definitions because it places the entire focus on the candidate’s mind, influenced by the individual’s experiences, culture, background and personality. This aspect of diversity isn’t rooted in opinions, however, but thought processes and problem-solving capabilities, among other things. To build a team of thought diversity, you need to hire for it. Hiring “with debate in mind”2 means deliberately gathering dissenting minds of all backgrounds and with varying opinions in hopes to find insight amongst their differences.
Thought diversity harnesses the power of individual thinking, and the benefits are undeniable. Deloitte University Press recently published an article entitled Diversity’s New Frontier. Their research found that hiring with thought diversity in mind has three main benefits:
- Wards off groupthink and prevent subject matter expert arrogance
- Increases the rate at which new insights are uncovered
- Helps organizations quickly determine the right employees to tackle time-sensitive projects
Recruiting with thought diversity in mind fosters organizational improvement in several ways. Thought diversity will bring a variety of creative ideas to the table leading to new product innovation, improved processes, and increased quality. It allows teams to pivot quickly and address your organization’s most pressing issues. Rather than relying on the same employees to do the same work, introducing team members who can attack the problem from a different perspective will encourage innovation, create efficiencies and prove invaluable to your bottom line. Hiring with thought diversity in mind directly impacts your organization’s revenue - innovative thinkers get the job done faster, better and differently than the competition.
Promoting diversity of thought is a process that begins with bringing talent into your organization that is, perhaps, unconventional. What does this mean? To start, consider the questions you ask candidates in interviews. Of a group of interviewees, does one candidate achieve the answer the hiring manager is looking for, but with a different thought process? This should perk the hiring manager’s ears up. This does not mean searching for candidates who reinvent the wheel, but rather make the wheel work for them in a different way than other candidates do. Having a team that demonstrates a variety of thought processes is the key to achieving innovation, revenue and optimization across your organization.
Encourage hiring of candidates with thought diversity across all levels of the organization – from entry level to executives. Teams can and should be in harmony with one another when it comes to goals and milestones, but that does not mean they shouldn’t have different perspectives. Agreement can lead to monotony, and the conflict resolution and compromise that occurs when great minds work together solves problems much more dynamically than a resounding, but likely monotone, “yes.” Thought diversity challenges recruiters and hiring managers to search for talent in a new way, in addition to existing diversity recruiting efforts.
Instituting thought diversity into your recruiting and talent development processes is a three-pronged approach. First, refer back to the interview example mentioned above. Take care to investigate candidate’s thought processes and how they arrived at the answers they give. Second, ask candidates to articulate how they reached that conclusion or answer. Last, create two-way mentor programs so that different thinkers can learn from each other and share perspective. Two-way mentor programs transcend generational differences, so don’t be afraid to pair newcomers with seasoned employees.
As diversity and inclusion become a habitual routine in organizations’ talent acquisition and management strategies, diversity of thought is just one of the many aspects to consider. An essential element to a well-rounded workforce, thought diversity transcends traditional elements of diversity, placing emphasis instead on the experiences and thought processes of workers. For more information on other trends affecting HR in 2016, click here.