The key to a happy, high-performing and diverse company lies in how you recruit your team. It is much more challenging to address performance management issues than it is to hire well from the start. Don't just take my word for it – the correlation between company success and diversity has now been proven. As McKinsey & Company reports:
- Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
My foolproof formula for building a successful team is called "The 4 INs." The first three "INs" help you identify a fantastic employee. The fourth "IN" brings diversity to your team. Once you've found your dream team, follow step 5 for sealing the deal and ensuring they thrive in their jobs.
You are going to look for the 4 INs when you first meet with a potential new hire. While you can check them out on LinkedIn, don't focus on their work details during the meeting. At this meeting, your goal is to build trust and focus on the things that matter most to them and to you.
Here's what you want to know.
Ask them "Why are you here?" When they answer, look them right in the eye and ask them why again. Get the why behind the why. Go deeper.
Don't settle for a cliche, like "I want to help people." Ask candidates, "Why do you want to help people?" If they can't go deep into why they are sitting across from you, or it is clearly an empty, rehearsed response, then they're not ready to work for you.
You are looking for are people who know your company's values and can articulate how they align with their own. My company, Emmetros, is dedicated to making it easier for people with cognitive impairment, such as memory loss and confusion, to live with a greater sense of independence and dignity. I am looking for a candidate to say things like "My mother has dementia, and when I read about your company, I just knew I had to find a way to help you succeed." Or "I want to be a role model for my daughter, and working here will allow me to do that."
When it's from the heart, you just know. No matter if you are at a large corporation or a small one, your employees will be more committed to sticking it out when times are tough if their values align with those of your company.
People with integrity are like gold, because they can be trusted to deliver. Their words (what they say they will do and what they say they believe in) align with their actions. They do hard things when it is the right thing to do. Ask them to tell you about the accomplishments they are most proud of, both inside and outside of work.
You are looking to see if these people are the difference-makers in their homes, in their communities, in their volunteer organizations, and at work. Look for examples like, "I started a volunteer organization that helps families with children who have special needs," or "Even though it wasn't part of my role, I stepped forward to lead a campaign that had the highest numbers in the country," or even simply, "I am the person in my family that makes sure that everyone is okay – it's just how I operate." With examples like these, you know these are the people others have trusted and relied upon over the years. These statements indicate that you will be able to rely on them, too.
In this case, INsight refers to personal insight. Does this person know their greatest strengths and weaknesses? Are they self-aware?
People who know themselves know where they add the most value and where they add the least value. Leading people who are self-aware and insightful is easy, because they will tell you exactly how they can best serve you and help the company accomplish its goals. Be direct and honest about what the company requires and ask them to talk about why they are the right person to accomplish these goals.
You will know that a person isn't a great fit if they simply list their experience according to the nice-to-haves on the job description. You will know that you have a great fit when they say something like, "If what you are looking for is a communications leader who can develop strategy and manage complex projects with initially unclear objectives, I'm a perfect fit for this role. If you are looking for someone to write inspirational presentations for you, I've tried it, but I'm just not great at it. I am great at hiring that type of person though."
Being armed with the personal insights of your entire team ensures that you are giving people work they can excel at. The candidate you are looking for has no problem from day one telling you what they will do their best work on, and what they won't, saving you time and money while also keeping them motivated and loving their jobs.
Deeply good INtentions, INtegrity and personal INsight are what I see as the must-haves for a high-performing team, especially a high-performing leadership team. But there is a fourth "IN" that I look for that will help you to build a diverse team. You want to know what makes them INteresting.
This is where you find out how they are different from the other people on your team – especially from you.
You could ask, "What would surprise me to know about you?" or "What are you interested in or passionate about outside of work?" If you're really stuck, just go for it and ask, "What makes you interesting?"
Do they spend one weekend a month helping to run Girl Scout camps? Did they finish a Ph.D. in data science while raising three children? Did they grow up in boarding schools on another continent and only see their family two weeks of each year? As they answer, if you find yourself deeply fascinated, shaking your head and saying, "Wow! Tell me more," then you are one step closer to building your vibrant team.
Now, if candidates have sailed through these four INs and have the skills you are looking for, it is very important that you follow this next step.
5. Make a Commitment to them
Let the candidate know that if you make them an offer and they accept it, that you will commit to keeping those things that they are passionate about outside of work at the top of your priority list, because their value, in large part, is dependent on those things staying at the top of that list.
If you commit to the success of the whole person and follow through, you will find it easier to hire people who bring diverse perspectives to your workplace – people who are different from you and who bring something unique to every discussion. This is truly the value of having a diverse organization. When the people contributing to every decision can say things that get everyone else in the room thinking, "Hey, I never thought about it that way before," then you've got a winning team.
When you only consider a person's career aspirations and focus only on helping them thrive in their roles, you are going to only attract and retain people who have chosen to put their work above all else. As a result, you will be missing out on entire groups of fascinating difference-makers.
To hire a passionate, diverse team, find out what matters most in their lives, believe in them and commit to helping them succeed in all of the areas that matter to them. It sounds complicated, but it's not. Pretty soon, you will find that other interesting difference-makers will be knocking on your door asking to work with you.