Diversity Hiring and the Startup Manager

If you are reading this, you are most likely in a managerial position at a small company, and you are thinking about diversity and what you can do about it. You are already doing the work of multiple people and you are realizing you are the bottleneck in the company. You decide to hire someone.

You are smart, scrappy and capable and you know a lot of people who are a lot like you – you speak the same language, you have similar backgrounds and experiences. You are also trying to make a risky business succeed so you are trying to make very safe decisions in hiring.

In fact, you only know a few token people in your industry that are visibly different from you – women, minorities, people with disabilities. They are very smart, successful and you have no way of hiring them – they are so good they are out of your league.

Your conscience dictates to try supporting diversity so you set out to cast a wider net for your next candidate – advertise on Monster and Dice and Indeed and LinkedIn and resumes start pouring in.

Interestingly the candidates that have minority-sounding names are not the most qualified candidates – and you can’t risk the success of your company on someone who cannot hit the ground running.

The ones that pass muster look sufficiently different from you that you are afraid to crack a joke in front of them – and then you reject them based on “culture fit” or “potential communication issues”.

At the end you lament the fact that there are no minorities worth hiring in the pipeline and hire the people who resemble you again.

Congratulations – you are the reason there is no diversity in the workplace.

If you are willing to accept this, here is how you can address your issues:

1. YOUR FEAR OF INSUFFICIENT KNOWLEDGE: Think about your own attributes instead of your accomplishments, then try to find the attributes in your next employee. You know you have a good base understanding of technology, and you could pick up new technologies fast – so look for people who demonstrate a good understanding of the basics and who show that they can understand new concepts, instead of past accomplishments.

2. YOUR FEAR OF INSUFFICIENT SELF-LEADERSHIP: Regardless how how egalitarian you think you are, remember that you have almost complete control over your employees livelihood – you get to decide if they can afford to pay rent next month or not. They are not going to have the same “ownership” in the company you do. But they will try their best to meet your expectations – if your expectations are very clear.

3. YOUR FEAR OF WASTED TIME: You, the hiring manager, need to put in the time to support and build an employee. Even if you hire your exact copy, they need communication, feedback, support, guidance, direction, without which they will flounder. So dedicate serious time to support your employees so they can flourish under you.

4. YOUR FEAR OF SPECIAL TREATMENT: Don’t try to make everybody equal. Different people have different needs, and situations change – children, illness, family issues. Commit to supporting special needs as they arise, and your employees will also support your changing needs.

5. YOUR FEAR OF CONFLICTS: Conflicts are normal and common in human life. Competing priorities, missed communication, time constraints should not be considered surprises. Discuss hard things in private, and focus on getting a workable outcome. We are all people first.

Leave a Comment