Increasing diversity within organisations, particularly among governing boards and senior leadership, is integral to our mission to strengthen our partners and enhance global impact. Organisations with diverse talent foster cultures of innovation, creativity, empathy, and effective decision-making. Their impact is greater when they can internally reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Likewise, a lack of diversity on leadership teams has been shown to perpetuate a cycle of homogeny in both thought and recruitment, which leads to stagnant and insular perspectives in danger of becoming out of touch with the needs of the communities they serve.
How we build diversity into our searches
We have seen diversity’s value first-hand, and that’s why we’re dedicated to supporting efforts within your own organisation to establish a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. We strive to represent diverse identities on all longlists we present. Last year, 58% of our global placements were women, and 60% represented people of colour or those from the Global South.
To ensure inclusive search practices, we:
- Craft job advertisements so that they are applicable to all people. We avoid stereotypically masculine terms, using language that welcomes all applicants by focusing solely on the objective job requirements and key competencies.
- Check for bias embedded in our processes for screening résumés, interviewing applicants, and extending offers. We widen the pool and create a culture of diversity in all stages of the recruitment process.
- Rely on more than direct applicants and referrals from our network. Our search strategies include outreach to passive candidates, because our own research has shown that some, particularly women, are more likely to rule themselves out for a role where they don’t fully meet the requirements in the job advertisement. This is key in significantly increasing the diversity of candidates represented.
- Train our Research team to use search strategies that include identifying candidates through academic, professional or civic associations such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, women in STEM associations, and others.
- Evaluate every candidate consistently and reduce the impact of unconscious bias on decision-making. Candidates are screened and interviewed using the same structured questions to standardise the interview process.
- Are mindful that not all candidates interview as well as others. We provide all candidates at the later interview stage with detailed, guided training to help them prepare for key questions with structured answers and specific examples. This helps level the playing field and quell inhibitions for candidates who may be nervous in interviews.
Insights from our North America Director on Hiring for Cultural Diversity, not Cultural Fit
Hire for Cultural Diversity Not Cultural Fit
By Dan Perez, Director, North America at SRI Executive
Move Beyond Culture Fit
Many global development organizations and NGOs have strong cultures that match their purpose-driven work. As a result, their hiring processes have evolved over time to attract, hire, and integrate people into these cultures. This is a common recruiting practice known as “hiring for culture fit.”
Unfortunately, this practice can have negative consequences for organizations that want to build diverse workforces. Focusing on cultural fit can lead organizations to promote leaders from within rather than hire outside talent with different perspectives. It can lead organizations to hire individuals with known experience instead of an amazing candidate from a different sector. Over time, the culture can become inert instead of adjusting to a changing world.
Many organizations, mostly in the private sector, have started to shift their views on hiring for culture fit. In Harvard Business Review, Netflix former chief Talent officer Patty McCord documented how the company shifted its hiring practices. She wrote, “what most people really mean when they say someone is a good fit culturally is that he or she is someone they’d like to have a beer with. But people with all sorts of personalities can be great at the job you need done.”
Biases in Culture Fit Hiring
It is important to recognize what biases emerge when organizations hire for culture fit.
A major one is the “affinity bias” where a hiring manager interviews someone who shares common traits with them. Maybe they went to the same school or worked in the same organization early in their career. This similarity lends comfort that the person is the right fit for the role independent of other accomplishments or skills. This bias leads organizations to continually hire people like their existing staff rather than hire individuals with different experiences and perspectives.
Another is the “conformity bias” where people conform to the behaviors of the larger organization. This means that hiring managers are less likely to take risks on a candidate that may not conform with the existing organization. They do not want to rock the boat, so they go with the safe hire. This bias prevents organizations from spotting unique talent that fits outside of existing archetypes.
Hire for Cultural Diversity Instead
How can organizations push back against these biases? Rather than hiring for cultural fit, organizations can look to hire for cultural diversity. When you hire for cultural diversity, you look for individuals who can enhance your culture, not just fit within it. When you hire for cultural diversity, you also look for people who align with the organization’s broader goals, not just people with similar professional experiences.
Hiring for cultural diversity can help an organization attract non-traditional talent. Rather than attracting candidates with similar backgrounds, organizations can attract emerging leaders from other sectors that are excited by their mission. They can also attract valuable talent in technology and finance that might not normally consider a development career but are passionate about the mission. It helps create organizations that are diverse in experiences, values, and ideas.
How to Hire for Cultural Diversity
To bring cultural diversity into your organization, there are many potential paths forward including:
- Understand Your Culture: The first step is to understand your existing culture and its values through an organizational culture assessment. This can also help develop a better understanding of the organization’s strengths as well as the perspectives it might lack.
- Integrate Your Culture Assessment with Your Hiring: After you complete your culture assessment, ensure the feedback and next steps are integrated into your hiring plan. If you lack specific skills, experiences, or backgrounds make sure you have a strategy to attract them.
- Interview for Values: Based on your culture assessment, build interview plans that assess candidates based on their alignment with the organization’s values.
- Share Jobs Widely: When you advertise roles, do not just post on the typical job boards. Share your roles through alternative means to attract a more diverse talent pool.
- Diversify And Train Interviewers: Broaden your interview panels beyond the primary hiring manager. Include individuals from different teams and perspectives from across the organization. Ensure everyone involved in the process understands the need to high for cultural diversity. Make sure interviewers understand common unconscious biases and how to mitigate them. Coach them to not recommend people that they “clicked with” but rather those candidates that best demonstrated alignment with the organization’s values.
How SRI Executive Can Help
At SRI Executive, we integrate diversity into all our searches. Organizations that have a diverse talent pool help foster cultures of innovation, creativity, and effective decision-making. We support organizations through training and coaching of senior leaders to be aware of their unconscious biases and understand alternative behaviors for building inclusive teams. We work with organizations to create organizational buy-in for improved behaviors and include better practices in performance evaluations. We also work with organizations to install individuals or functions to support organizations diversity improvements to ensure these values are upheld across the organization. Read more about how we can help your organization with diversity here.
For more information on how we achieve Gender Parity in our placements, get in touch.