4 ways to get a diverse workforce without breaking a sweat
17 February 2016 |
Masimba Sagwete | About a 5 minute read
All AND Digital squad members take the HBDI assessment when they join and this is a personality test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It’s designed to measure the degree of preference each person has in their thinking patterns across four quadrants – analytical, sequential, interpersonal and imaginative.
When we averaged out the results for Glacier – our most recent squad – their personalities sat squarely in the middle of the four quadrants. Most surprisingly of all, this wasn’t designed into the recruitment process. We don’t actively pursue diversity but some of the things we do at least contributed to this outcome.
1. Hire in groups
The example given in Rory Sutherland’s column for The Spectator is around buying a car; if you had a £25,000 to buy one, you might get a Ford Focus but you wouldn’t buy 4 Ford Focuses if you had £100,000. Similarly, if you hire people one at a time, you’re unlikely to go for someone who’s dramatically weak in any one area. Instead, you might play it safe and end up with average, unexceptional people. Hiring in groups allows you to hire people with complementary strengths and this is what happens when we hire whole squads for each bootcamp
2. Panel interviews
Our internal team share the task of interviewing each squad. If it were left to the squad lead to choose each person on their team, there’s a risk that they would hire 12 people who are exactly like them. Our interviews are built around technical competence and cultural fit. So not only do we get a diverse set of opinions, but the panel asses everyone using the same criteria. Hiring for cultural fit is something we borrowed from Netflix and according to their former chief talent officer:
Our values are well defined and are not only a key part of the recruitment process, but they are also a central part of how our performance is assessed in our quarterly bonus missions.
3. Objective testing
To tackle technical competence, we’re lucky enough to be in an industry where objective, task-based tests are expected. We have a less extreme version of the the GCHQ puzzle or the Google puzzle billboard and all of our developers take the same test against set criteria. This is a great way to ensure our interviews are focussed on each person’s ability to do their job before anything else.
4. People analytics
We use the HBDI assessment to help our teams work well together but taken to its nth degree, it could be used as a screening tool. People analytics is a reasonably new idea and it’s also a product sold by our fellow London-based startup Saberr. With no other information apart from a personality survey, they have managed to predict things like staff attrition including the time window during which it would happen and the results of an innovation competition with each team ranked 100% in order. People analytics moves the focus from the individual to the group and how they interact.
The best thing about our policies and processes is that they were set up for reasons other than encouraging diversity. John Kay summed up this sort of scenario very well both in his article for the Financial Times and the book it led to; Obliquity: Why our goals are best achieved indirectly
We celebrate our diversity but it is neither a goal nor a badge of honour; it makes business sense. A diversity of people breeds a diversity of ideas much like agglomeration economics as found in cities like London or the meeting and mating of ideas as Matt Riley describes in his TED talk ‘When ideas have sex’
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