Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. How do you make progress on diversity hiring when hiring is on hold?
—San Francisco-area operating executive
Dear operating executive,
This is a great question. There’s room and reason for all of us to become better at building workplaces that support and celebrate diversity. The sooner you can address this as a company, the better—and you don’t have to wait until you are hiring. In fact, right now is an excellent time to reassess, implement new practices, and set you up for building a more diverse and inclusive company.
While hiring is on hold, you can look within your company to ensure that you have a culture that values inclusion and belonging.
- Examine your culture. The fact is, diversity isn’t something you can just hire your way out of. To truly make the workplace more inclusive, evaluate your methods of mentorship and promotion.
- Support a culture that celebrates inclusion. Embracing diversity requires means that you may need to change the way you work to accommodate a broad range of people. Employ policies that are equitable for both men and women.
- Look for unconscious biases that may come up through all phases of the employee life cycle. Particular areas to evaluate and make sure they are inclusive include the evaluation process, promotions, and succession planning.
- Consider developing a task force internally, made up of anyone who is committed to seeing your business become more diverse. Listen earnestly to their suggestions. And give them the latitude to speak and write about their findings—it may be uncomfortable but building transparency about your company’s interest in improvement will help to win over your next generation of employees.
Some steps you can take right now, which will be helpful in the long run.
- Reconsider how you define diversity. Have your eyes open to the many ways we can think about what diversity means. Gender and racial and ethnic diversity may be visible, but you should also be thinking about other kinds of diversity such as educational background, geography, economics, family status, disability, sexual preference, gender expression/identity, political inclination, religious affiliation, age, and neuro-diversity.
- Think about the company you want to build—not just the one to two spots that you will need or might open. Taking a step back, what are you really looking for in someone who will contribute to your company? We often get caught in the short-term need to add someone with a functional skill, like project management. But we need to also consider how each person adds to the overall diversity of approaches and experiences that will help guide the team through growth and challenges.
- Diversify your network and build ties. Do most of the people in your network look like you or have similar backgrounds? You want to have more people who are not like you. The performance of your business will be better if you are more diverse because a diverse company is more representative of society as a whole. It better understands its customers, its community, and its purpose. Start building out a wider circle. Seek out people who are different from you to build a more diverse network on LinkedIn. Consider starting an internship program with all-female or historically black universities. Adopt a school in an at-risk neighborhood, and send them supplies, bring students into the office, and commit to the school’s improvement.