Hiring Differently & Seeing the Results
Global Chief Diversity Officer
- May 10, 2023
Between 2020 and 2021, there was a dramatic shift in hiring. The easing of pandemic restrictions and a boom in the economy meant that many companies quickly transitioned from layoffs in a recession to filling endless open positions.
But, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the rise of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, there was a clear direction for organizations—hire more diverse voices to reflect wider audiences. The trickle-down effect of hiring more diverse voices comes with managing and retaining a more diverse workforce.
I recently presented to a group of executives, and I led with the assertion that diverse teams – as opposed to homogenous ones – have a higher potential for conflict and distrust. If a team is poorly managed, increased diversity can negatively impact the team, organization, and even employee creativity. The group was surprised at the brazenness of this statement, as we have all come to know that diverse teams are more innovative and can solve complex problems in a shorter time frame than homogenous teams. But it is not enough to only hire diverse teams. It is critical to have leaders who understand the different lenses from which people experience the world and who can communicate and influence in a way that relates to everyone so you can gain the full benefits of diversity.
In theory, consensus, collaboration, and decision-making are easier with homogenous teams. When we share a frame of reference based on identity and experience, it’s easier to find common ground. However, the lack of conflict fosters ingroup bias because you challenge ideas less, yet have more confidence in judgments that may be inaccurate. When team members significantly differ from one another, collaboration is harder. There is less understanding and less shared experience, individuals challenge assumptions more, and differing viewpoints lead to heightened conflict. Collaboration and ideation require more effort from diverse teams. That increased effort and challenging of viewpoints leads to better work.
So how do we fill the room with leaders who can manage conflict and view challenging ideas as a template for collaboration to reap all the benefits of diversity? We hire emotionally and culturally intelligent leaders.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are self-aware and have the ability to process without impulsively acting out of emotion, allowing them to respond thoughtfully and empathetically in the moment. These leaders are:
- welcome positive and constructive feedback
- take accountability for their part in an outcome
- interpret the varied needs of employees and adjust their approach to address unique needs
- read social cues to properly address issues that may not be overtly apparent
Culturally intelligent leaders are not threatened by differences. They embrace them. They see diversity as a competitive differentiator and leverage that difference to improve the overall strength of their team. These leaders:
- manage conflict in healthy ways
- maintain harmony within teams that reflect various dimensions of diversity
- ensure there is safety within their team and allow others to express themselves in ways that are different
- ensure employees are heard, understood, and valued
It requires a shift in priorities to hire and develop employees that not only possess technical skills, but also embody emotional and cultural intelligence to foster safety and trust across diverse teams. This is critical in creating an environment that inspires creativity and innovation.
Marketing is changing for the better. As the industry shifts, who leads us on this journey becomes of the utmost importance to ensure that diverse teams build the connection that’s required to ensure creative work is ingenious, appropriately nuanced, and culturally real.
In looking at some of our best and most innovative work at GMR, we understand that the healthy conflict we experience with diverse teams is exactly why we have seen stronger work. Increasingly, our teams are diverse across a myriad of dimensions – from location to religion to race to gender identity and more – and this drives how we show up and interact with each other. As a company with a diverse workforce and global footprint, it’s critical that our leaders possess the ability to manage teams across differences and to navigate the dynamics of diverse teams effectively, so we reap the benefits of that diversity.