Charting a Path for a Truly Diverse Corporate Culture

By Chris Motley posted 03-27-2018 08:45


A map is only useful if you know your current location. 

In the world of building a diverse corporate culture, everyone knows where they want to be on the map, but very few take the time to consider and evaluate their starting point; which is why many diversity and inclusion efforts are only skin deep. 

Diversity is complicated. It’s beautifully messy and wonderfully effective when corralled for a common, united purpose. It’s also much, much more than your team’s melanin. Embracing diversity effectively will require some corporate introspection before making the first move to alter your team. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of mapping your organization’s soft skills and professional values, and the impact this information can have on the way you build diverse student talent pipelines. 

Let’s break it down into three steps:

  1. Establish and quantify a baseline for your identity.
  2. Set your sights on where you want to be.
  3. Make a plan to get there. 

Establish a baseline for your identity

Establishing a baseline often looks like a day-long meeting of key stakeholders to understand what is important to them. This is how the company mission, vision, and values are born. And while, collectively, the stated company values are helpful in guiding corporate decisions, they can also feel too distant from a given business unit to help recruiters and hiring managers identify the true fabric of their team(s). 

So how can you objectively understand key drivers of your teams’ (and team members) performance? 

It’s all about people. A company’s success is absolutely, unequivocally, no-doubt-about-it, 100 percent dependent on the people within the ranks. Until recently, it was commonplace for company executives to deliver a mandate of company values to the team and state, “This is what we value. And this is who we are.” What HR executives around the world are recognizing is this mandate is inherently biased, and oftentimes, misaligned to the actual values that are on display in the everyday life of their employees. 

Those same HR executives are now using surveys to help them understand (through a bias-free and [hopefully] scientifically validated process) the true fabric of their company culture. Surveys – when used correctly – can reveal a great deal of information about the motivations, soft-skills, and personality traits that live within an organization. Smart HR executives deploy the same survey across the entire organization (making it absolutely clear that the results will not generate negative actions for employees, but rather provide opportunities for mobility and enhanced development). We all know how expensive attrition is! 

Effective surveys will generate a compelling story about the types of people that succeed within the company, such as: 

  • the types of people that succeed in specific roles
  • the naturally occurring shared values of team members
  • the most prevalent (or absent) strengths and abilities driving performance
  • the most prevalent caution areas of the team
  • the most prevalent motivators of team members 

The very definition of culture is the combined habits, values, motivators, personality, and strengths in how people prefer to get their work done.

Set your sights on where you want to be

The fastest way to figure out where you want to be is to consider the survey results of your top performers compared to others on a functional basis. This can be determined by a combination of peer reviews and performance metrics. 

You can also consider the aggregate results to understand the naturally occurring areas of strength and caution areas of your corporate culture. 

If there’s a discrepancy between your stated corporate culture and values compared to the unbiased results of your survey, then it’s time to recruit people who can right the ship simply by being who they are. 

Make a plan to get there

Data is only as good as the action you take from it. Here are a few ways to implement the results of a survey that measures soft skills and values:

When it comes to mapping the types of people that succeed within the company...

Internally, you can use this data to inform your strategy for identifying the future leaders within your organization. By identifying common soft skills and values between current company leaders and younger team members, you can confidently grant them opportunities to take on more responsibility within their business units. Hard skills matter in getting the job done, but soft skills enhance the speed and quality of the outcome. 

Externally, your recruiters now possess a competitive jump start on finding viable candidates for your open positions. During the candidate selection process, have your favorite candidates take the same survey. Compare their results to the results of your existing top performers. Take things a step further by experimenting with segmentation. How do they fare against the entire team? Your leadership team? The business unit they are considering? The other candidates you’re considering? 

When it comes to identifying the naturally occurring and shared professional values of the team...

Internally, you can use this data to compare the “stated values” of the company to the “real values” of your team members. Do they align? Are the diametrically opposed? Are there any new values that should be adopted or promoted? From there, you can build a small “values committee” (using a balanced cross-section of team members) to build an intentional action plan around promoting, exemplifying, and rewarding the adoption of these values. 

Externally, your recruiters can integrate these values into their communication strategy and help candidates understand the true culture of the company. Recruiters can also help candidates understand where they fit within the culture of their potential business unit. Candidates could also understand what they have in common with the leadership team and gain deeper insight around their shared values with the company. 

When it comes to mapping the most prevalent (or absent) abilities of the team or business unit...

Internally, you can use this data to assess business unit strengths and gaps. This data often helps leadership teams understand the types of people that are missing from their business unit. They can then work with HR to see if there are people in other business units that could fill the gaps. 

Externally, this gives your recruiters an incredibly clear target: “Find someone with ‘ability X’ (and be sure to consider their values, personality, etc.).” 

When it comes to mapping the most prevalent caution areas of the team...

Internally, you can use this data to direct your 12-month team-building plans. 

Externally, your recruiters can provide transparency around the caution areas that make up the team and the challenges that candidates should expect on day one. 

When it comes to mapping the primary motivators of the team...

Internally, this data is valuable for your leadership team to understand how their business units respond to motivation. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s recognition. Maybe it’s increased responsibility. Knowing this can have a significant impact on company morale and benefit packages. 

Externally, your recruiters can understand what motivates each candidate. Subsequently, they can leverage those motivators and nurture each candidate in a genuinely personal way. 

The bottom line

Building a truly and holistically diverse corporate culture goes well-beyond hiring someone with a different skin tone. Diversity is only achieved with a concerted effort to be inclusive of different socioeconomic backgrounds, parental status, marital status, sexual orientation, political perspective, language, education levels, hobbies, religion, etc. 

The only way we can even scratch the surface on this is by removing bias, and inserting a validated process that can reflect back to us our strengths, values, motivations, personality traits, and caution areas. 

Once we’ve done that for ourselves (individually, and corporately), then we can begin finding other people that possess the strengths, values, motivations, personality traits, and caution areas that can complement and enhance our ability to deliver on the business promises we’ve made to our stakeholders.