Leadership

Hire a diverse project team without compromising on the best candidates


To many people, the focus on diversity is synonymous with the hiring of inferior quality for the sake of meeting quotas. But companies have found that there is long-term business value associated with a diverse workforce. Why is diversity awareness needed to begin with? Let's assume your project team has an opening. You want to hire the best candidate available, right? In many cases there is a clear "best" candidate based on experience and skill level. However, if there are many such people to choose from, the hiring manager may rate a candidate's qualifications using his own background as a measuring stick. After all, if a project manager has a certain background and ended up in the position he is in today, wouldn't it make sense to him to look for those same traits in another person? Wouldn't he tend to pick a person that physically looks like him as well?

Project managers also want to make sure they hire someone that will get along with the rest of the team. Again, if there are multiple candidates with close qualifications, the project team may choose a candidate who is "more like themselves."

If teams are left on their own, these two sets of natural biases tend to result in a like group of people hiring a similar candidate. In some organizations and on some projects, this results in a bias against workers of the opposite sex. In other businesses, there's a bias based on culture and race.

Companies, especially large ones, have tried to formalize and standardize the recruiting and hiring process in a way that allows each candidate to be judged based on the same set of criteria. The goal of a standardized process is usually not to hire diverse workers. The goal is to remove as many of the subconscious biases as possible and to ensure that the most qualified candidate is hired.

Diversity awareness lets you:

  • Make better decisions. People from the same types of backgrounds can have a tendency to think alike and this can affect the decisions that people make. Project managers need a diverse set of opinions to make the best technical decisions, to communicate more effectively with all of your clients, and to design and build the most creative solutions.
  • Hire better people. Ultimately there is value in being able to hire the best person, regardless of the person's background. In many cases, organizations that do not value diversity end up not hiring a group of people that all look and act the same. They will tell you that they are always hiring the "best." But is it really true that the best people all look and act the same as each other?
  • Running better projects. You have to be experienced managing diverse people to excel in today's global marketplace. Can your project team really develop software that is used around the world, for instance, with an entire team that all comes from the same background? Can a project manager manage a worldwide distributed team if he has never managed people that are different from him? Can you service your diverse customer community effectively without a diverse project team?

The bottom line is that there is value in having a diverse workforce and a diverse project team. If this was an artificial feel-good idea, it would not be so important to so many companies. However, companies have found that valuing diversity results in hiring better people and provides real business benefit.

6 comments
Inkling
Inkling

Hiring someone for the sake of being diverse has to be one of the most asinine things I have ever heard of in my entire life. Any time you are hiring, you should be filling a need...other than just a warm body that is. 99.999% of what you need out of that hire should be predetermined. The second you take race, sex, political/religious affiliation, sexual orientation...into account, you are doing nothing but limiting your options.

chris_g2
chris_g2

Sorry, but should "In many cases, organizations that do not value diversity end up not hiring a group of people that all look and act the same. They will tell you that they are always hiring the ???best.??? But is it really true that the best people all look and act the same as each other?" actually read "...end up hiring a group of people..." [ie drop the 'not']?

patrick
patrick

I do work in a diverse environment; different cultures, skin colors, religions, and languages. Of all these differences; only language is a true problem for us. Lack of proficiency in written and spoken english (our language of business) might make us stop considering a candidate.

meryllogue
meryllogue

I would agree that a lack of English skills, both written and spoken, would make me think twice about a candidate. That applies equally (more?) to a speaker of English as the native language. I see examples (even on TR comments) that are written so poorly that I can barely--and occassionally not at all--understand them. In my last company, some techs were such bad writers that I would have to send their emails back and ask them to call me so I could understand their request or issue. And I'm talking about techs who were born and raised right here in the US of A!

patrick
patrick

And I managed not to make my point clearly. Many very good technical people are very, very bad at writing. I routinely rewrite emails and documents to make them understandable. My point was that language skills are an issue with me while creed, color, sexual orientation aren't.

meryllogue
meryllogue

I was agreeing with your point. You expressed it well in your first post. The ability to communicate is key in business. While race, color, gender, sexual orientation... all of that... is a non-issue, how well they can communicate can be a deal-breaker. Accents we have to accommodate; it is a more and more diverse world. But simply being unable to communicate, especially in written format where we have the ability to go back and rewrite and edit (which I, too, do a LOT), is not acceptable. (Ugh... I just fixed 3 typos....

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