More and more companies are looking to diversify their leadership teams, in part because doing so has been shown to breed business benefits and innovation; many studies support this conclusion, including one from Harvard Business Review. This continually emerging trend promotes an openness to change. Having said that, on the whole, our executive ranks are still largely comprised of individuals with similar backgrounds, cultures, and worldviews.
To increase the volume of diverse, high-potential prospects in the candidate pool for executive-level roles, I believe that we need to build a diverse leadership pipeline. Perhaps giving opportunities to those who have been historically overlooked is the key to unlocking hidden talents. Perhaps we all need to be more aware of our unconscious biases. Perhaps we need to go one step further and actively encourage female students to pursue typically male-dominated professions and vice-versa. In an ideal world, there would be a plethora of diverse talents to choose from for any industry and any functional role.
What makes a company stand out from its direct competitors? This question can be answered in many ways; my answer is relevance. In my opinion, this is the most effective way for organizations to compete and thrive. According to projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau, “By 2050, minorities will be the majority in America, and the number of residents older than 65 will more than double.” This trajectory will certainly affect the changing workforce, so it’s easy to see how a lack of cultural intelligence could prove to be the downfall of many companies in the future. My personal belief is that the leaders of an organization should represent and reflect its constituents. If companies rethink succession planning, it is important to envision the organization’s future and consider the diverse leadership needed to help the company stay competitive in a rapidly-changing marketplace.
In our retained executive search practice, we like to present a diverse slate of candidates and provide our clients with different options and, at times, encourage them to consider atypical profiles. Of course, all candidates must first pass through our rigorous interview process and meet both the technical and cultural requirements of our client companies. Through a recent analysis of our activities, we learned that 52.5% of executives placed by The fit Team since 2011 are women and/or minorities. This discovery gives me hope that we contribute to moving the needle in a direction that keeps us relevant.
What are you doing in your company to drive diverse leadership and create innovative change?
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