The research is very clear: more diverse sales teams do better. According to an article written by sociologist Cedric Herring and published in The American Sociological Review, companies with the highest levels of diversity brought in 10-15 times as much revenue as compared to companies with the lowest levels of diversity. Diverse companies tend to have greater revenues, market share, and customers.
Research from McKinsey suggests that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to generate revenue that’s above the median for the industry. Companies with strong gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform industry medians.
A more diverse sales team is better able to think outside of the box, solve complex problems, and ultimately generate revenue. But while savvy sales leaders recognize the value of a diverse team, sometimes actually recruiting a diverse team is challenging. To address the problem, try implementing these actionable tips for recruiting a diverse and inclusive sales team:
1. Define your company’s vision for a diverse team and analyze where you are.
For your first step, you need to define what kinds of diversity are most important to you. Think broadly. Do you want to focus on race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability, and/or socioeconomic status?
Next, you need to figure out how you want to measure diversity. What categories do you want to use, and what are your methods for gauging diversity?
Once you’ve figured that out, you’re ready to assess how diverse your current team is. From there you can define your diversity goals. Be as specific as you can by creating metrics that you want to reach. You can then track your progress against your goals, just like any other sales initiative.
2. Develop a system for tracking diversity on your team over time.
Now that you know where you are currently and where you want to go, you need to create a system for tracking changes in your workplace over time. Your ATS is a very useful tool for this, especially if you want to measure the diversity of your team against the diversity of your applicant pool.
You should be checking in on your progress at regular intervals, such as a quarterly or biannual basis. Schedule it on your leadership team’s calendar and develop a protocol for how you will be reporting the data and using diversity data to create a plan of action.
3. Identify where your job candidates are coming from with an eye towards diversity.
If you have a strong recruitment pipeline, you’re already recruiting candidates on multiple channels. To diversify your team, you should figure out how diverse candidates are finding you. By focusing more of your recruitment energies on those channels, you can diversify your applicant pool. You can also ask other recruiters in your space where they find diverse candidates.
The importance of filling the top of your recruitment funnel with diverse candidates can’t be overstated. Once you have that part down, you won’t have any more situations where you narrow the pool down to your favorite four candidates only to realize then that they all fit the same basic profile.
4. Scrutinize your job ads.
The language you’re using in your job ads may be subconsciously turning off diverse candidates. Look at them closely to make sure that you’re using language that is inclusive. For example, words such as “assertive” or “aggressive” may lead some women to believe that the job isn’t right for them even though they might be great fits. Try to rephrase things in a manner that will be more welcoming to the candidates you want to target. If you’re not sure about your ad, run it past a diverse group of current team members.
You may also want to consider including language that states your company’s commitment to anti-discrimination laws.
5. Establish diversity and inclusion on core company values on your website.
The strongest candidates will check out your company’s website before applying for a job, so make sure that the site reflects your desire for a diverse workforce. Pay attention to both the text and images you use.
If your company is part of the Women in Sales initiative, mention it on your Jobs page. That’s also a good place for links to any content you’ve produced on diversity and inclusion. Make sure that it’s prominently displayed.
6. Experiment with blind recruitment practices.
Science tells us that most people are susceptible to unconscious biases even when they try to be fair and objective. (Just try taking one of the Implicit Bias Tests developed by leading social psychologists.)
To combat this, try using “blind” hiring practices such as hiding personal information on resumes so that reviewers won’t let any unconscious bias steep in. Hiding applicants’ names can help reduce biases on the basis of race and gender. You can also try hiding information such as where applicants attended college in order to increase the diversity of your applicant pool to include people who attended non-elite institutions.
It’s not likely that you will hire someone without meeting them personally. But by using blind recruitment practices early in the process, you can make sure you’re not eliminating qualified diverse candidates in the initial weeding-out stages.
7. Create workplace policies that are consistent with attracting and retaining a diverse workforce.
Diverse candidates will want to work at your company—and stay there—when they see that your company is a friendly place to work. To that end, make sure your policies support employees. For example, many employees appreciate the opportunity to work from home on occasion. Robust policies against sexual harassment and other forms of workplace bullying are also important.
By implementing employee-friendly policies, your company will attract diverse and qualified people.
Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce is an ongoing project, not a one-time item that can be checked off and then forgotten about. By following best practices and being conscientious, you can reap the benefits of a diverse team.