More brands are starting to focus more attention on building a diverse team that is representative of the customers they serve. This is good news. Not only will it better equip you to authentically serve a broader group of customers, but data shows that diverse teams outperform their peers from a financial standpoint.

But building a diverse team doesn't automatically guarantee that you will reap the benefits of one. You need to cultivate an environment that makes it ripe for everyone on your team to thrive, especially those who are part of underrepresented groups.

A simple way to start laying the foundation for that inclusive environment where everyone feels like they belong is getting rid of the term diversity hire.

Why the term 'diversity hire' is harmful

There is a negative stigma asociated with it. Whether said out loud or not, people who are perceived to be diversity hires are often treated differently by both their peers and others within the organization. People assume this talent was hired, not because of their merit, but because of their race, ethnicity, gender, or other criteria. Others assume that standards were lowered to make it possible for diverse candidates to meet job requirements. Thus people labled diversity hires are often resented, rather than respected.

These types of beliefs create an uncomfortable and even a toxic work environment for new talent. And in worse cases, they are even paid less because of it, or not given the same opportunities to advance in their careers.

I went to a historically Black college for both undergrad and my MBA. I was recruited on campus by the company I spent the first nine years of career with. They company came to my school specifically to tap into diverse talent. They knew they wanted high quality diverse talent, so they fished where the fish were.

I didn't find out until after I started my job that I was paid less than other people who were recruited from MBA programs. It wasn't a performance issue, as I consistently received stellar performance reviews. But for some reason, those in human resources looked at my degree as less than the other MBAs hired at the same time. 

How to make diverse talent feel like they belong

The benefit of bringing on people with different backgrounds, experiences, ways of thinking, and even ways of viewing the world, are that they bring a varied perspective to the table. Those differences should be leaned into as a form of strength. When you tap into those differences, you set the stage for transforming the way you work, in a manner that leads to better results for both the team and the people you serve.

Thus any time you want to bring in more diverse talent, the goal and messaging internally should focus on how new team members will help your organization be better. 

Don't diversify your team just for the sake of having a more diverse team, hitting a quota, or for public opinion. This doesn't do anyone any good. Bring on new diverse talent with the expectation that they will not give you more of the same of what you already have, but usher you into a more robust and evolved way of being.