Diverse teams drive results — and the business case for building them is now stronger than ever. In 2020, a McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than those in the fourth quartile. The case for ethnic and cultural diversity was even more compelling in terms of profitability, at 36 percent.
Despite its ethical and material benefits, there is still so much room for improvement in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, especially within tech. This issue is important to me as a manager but also to the Opendoor business at large.
Building a diverse workforce isn’t always easy, even for those who have the best intentions. A number of reasons contribute to this difficulty: identifying and addressing unconscious bias, a lack of access to diversity, equity, and inclusion tools and resources, and poor education on the topic.
As a manager, I’ve had more than two decades of experience in hiring employees across areas of expertise. Here, I’ve compiled some of the most important things I’ve learned along the way, particularly in terms of recruiting, to help leaders, managers and colleagues embrace and champion all voices when building teams.
7 Tips for Building an Inclusive Team
- Acknowledge unconscious bias.
- Look at your organizational structure.
- Consider flexible work locations.
- Perfect the job posting.
- Leverage your inclusive groups.
- Set up bias-resistant screening.
- Be wary of small-sample negative bias.
1. Acknowledge Unconscious Bias
We are all susceptible to unconscious bias, so the first step on this journey is to acknowledge you have them so you can keep them in check. Unconscious biases often cause us to be more comfortable with those most like ourselves, so start reflecting on past hiring decisions — from interns to senior-level team members — and consider if you’ve favored candidates like yourself without even noticing. Then, add this extra layer of mindfulness to future interviews to challenge yourself to address those biases head-on.
2. Look at Your Organizational Structure
Thinking about your organizational structure opens up the possibility for better inclusion and can be an easy way to diversify your team. For example, if you’re building out a marketing capability, consider the following: Does the person really need to have a certain degree, or could you consider candidates with equivalent experience and transferable skills via non-traditional backgrounds?
Aim to hire diverse employees at all levels, including early career hires. In the past, I’ve built operations teams with a mix of experience, looking for passion and intelligence first, then training them on the job. Does your organization allow for that kind of hiring process? Check with Human Resources to be sure.
3. Consider Flexible Work Locations
When making hiring decisions, consider whether or not you need employees in-office. Flexibility with work location naturally fosters diversity. Allowing employees to work from home opens up your roles to a wider group of applicants. Consider those who are disabled, the neurodiverse, those who can’t afford to live near your office, or parents who have to do school pickups; these folks can all benefit from such flexibility.
4. Perfect the Job Posting
How you describe a role in the listing is so important. Hiring a diverse team is hard when you don’t receive a diverse applicant pool. At my last company, when we were trying to hire junior-level operations generalists, we posted the role with the title “marketing process manager,” and most of the applicants identified as male. We took the same job description and reposted it with the title “marketing analyst,” and most of the applicants for the new posting identified as female. To get gender diversity in the applicant set, we left both job postings running and pooled the candidates. Try advertising different versions of the job title or job description. After all, even the description benefits and company culture can have an impact on whether a potential applicant would feel included in the company.
5. Leverage Your Inclusive Groups
Lisa Kao from the People of Color Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Opendoor encourages leaders to take advantage of the teams already in place when you’re recruiting. She told me in a one-on-one interview: “Having ERGs host recruiting panels or events and making it a key part of the recruiting process lets recruits know this is a valued part of the company and will hopefully attract greater diversity.”
6. Set Up Bias-Resistant Screening
Next, focus on making sure biases don’t become part of the resume screening and interview process. We tend to form opinions quickly, so you have to make sure that you’re making judgements based on the right criteria without getting distracted by bias.
Where possible, I review resumes in an applicant tracking system (ATS) because I can be more systematic. You can often use these tools to sort through resumes and avoid looking at things like names, education, and even extracurricular activities, all of which can cause you to form irrelevant opinions about a candidate.
You can also configure applicant tracking systems to inform you if the candidate has a certain type of degree, without needing to scan the resume, which may introduce bias about where that degree is from. For instance, whether the degree is from a university whose name you recognize in the U.S. or an international school could sway your judgment even though it’s not really an important factor.
7. Be Wary of Small-Sample Negative Bias
Kao also suggests that hiring managers “be wary of negative bias assigned to those who are not like you. For some, it can be to attach bias or stereotypes to an entire population based on very limited experiences.” Consider candidates based on their work qualifications and passion and not from a place of familiarity with existing characteristics. Each individual’s experience is different, and hiring managers mustn’t assign stereotypes that can limit prospective employees’ potential.
Building Diversity Takes Work
All of this work is just a start. Building teams in the tech sector that are reflective of our communities, customers and partners is a lengthy journey. I’m happy to see how far things have progressed, but making a permanent change will take real work. Be deliberate and acknowledge your biases to set yourself on the right path to building an inclusive team.