SalesLoft’s CEO, Kyle Porter, ended our company-wide breakfast in February by bringing up diversity. All around the room you could hear the puckering of buttholes. It was an awkward moment of beauty. He had identified a problem and had not formulated a strategy on how to address it. Rather he was being vulnerable and asking for help and admitting he did not have all the answers. It was a hard thing to do, but it was the right thing to do and it got people engaged and thinking about the issue.

This is not a unique experience, business leaders everywhere struggle with how to approach diversity. Shrewd business people want a diverse workforce. A diverse workforce is more innovative, creative, recruits better, and retains its employees longer. Oh and they outperform everyone else.

The discomfort in talking about diversity is palpable at most companies. No one person is an authority on diversity. It is antithetical to the concept itself. Many leaders charge forward recklessly relying on their own intuition on how to approach diversity rather than seeking diversity of opinion on the matter. An approach ripe with irony and a recipe for bad tactics.

Employees are fearful of bad tactics — hiring & promotion quotas, certifying sensitivity training, make believe diversity, and overtly direct policies. When businesses try to target diversity directly they miss the mark and they miss it hard.

Better Off Ted showing everyone how to appreciate diversity

If your business has a strategic goal to be more diverse, setting the right target and metrics is crucial. This is what most companies fuck up.

If diversity is the goal then inclusion is the target.

Inclusion is what to focus on if you want to build a diverse workforce. It is a topic that gets a lot less time and intention than it deserves.

In hiring this can take the form of talking about your bias before talking about candidates. Not creating artificial timelines for offline exercises. Being flexible with scheduling onsite interviews.

Looking at benefits holistically. Dependent care accounts for families. Equal benefits for domestic partners. Offices near public transportation. Flexible working hours and holidays. Allowing remote work. Pay transparency across protected classes. Support minority networking groups — Pride groups, women who code, black girls code. Focus charity efforts on diverse groups.

Industry leaders need to be honest about diversity even when it means being honest about what they might consider their present failures. Apple and Github both are bringing real data to the table to show where they are succeeding and failing. Github takes it a step further also analyzing diversity in leadership.

Every leader should strive to think, act, and behave more inclusively.

Invite criticism and debate and let people hold you accountable.

What else? What are some more thoughts on how to build a diverse workforce?

Founder of Deft

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