To build a thriving business, you need a strong team. A group of people who share your values, who are great at what they do, and who can collectively work together to produce something greater than anyone would be able to do on their own.

The age-old way many companies have approached getting the right lineup on their squad, is to reach out to their network. And while that often helps you find people you are familiar and comfortable with, or vetted by people you trust, there is an inherent flaw with this approach.

If often ends up with you hiring people who are a whole heck of a lot like you.

While that may seem like something that can be a benefit to your business, it does have its downsides.

The danger in not having a diverse team

For most companies, their customer base is evolving. If you look at the U.S. for instance, data on the makeup of the population is changing rapidly. These demographic changes have a profound impact on the psychographic and buying behaviors as a result. Here are a few stats to consider in this regard:

  • By 2055 there will not be a single ethnic or racial majority
  • Millennials are the largest generation, and are the most racially diverse of any generation in American history
  • Women were the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households with children
  • The share of American adults who have never been married is at a historical high
  • About one in six American kids lives in a blended family
  • The number of adults living in middle-income populations is shrinking, and hovers at around 50 percent

And if everyone on your team has similar backgrounds and experiences, you put yourself in the very vulnerable position of only being able to effectively connect with and serve customers who have similar backgrounds and experiences as you.

This can result in you alienating, ignoring, or just failing to connect with the very customers who need your products and services and are ready, willing, and able to consume them. No bueno.

If you want to build a business that reaches a broad range of customers, you need a diverse team to help you do it.

Alex Blumberg is the CEO of Gimlet Media, a fast growing digital media company and podcast network. In a recent episode of their show, StartUp, Blumberg talked openly about his company's commitment to diversity, and the challenges they've had in the journey to getting there. Here he is elaborating on how it has played out as they gear up to launch a new show about Black culture:

We've been trying to hire a black editor for a while, and I've been thinking a lot about why we haven't succeeded, what's taking so long. And I think part of it goes back to me, in a certain way. Let me explain. Editor is a key hire at Gimlet. It's a very specialized skill-set. An editor can make the difference between a show succeeding or failing. And for a position like that, as core as that, you want to hire someone that you know, or someone who's been vetted by people you trust. And so you tap your network. But my network? Like the data says about a lot of white people, is pretty overwhelmingly white.

How to proactively diversify your network

If you scan your circle of trusted contacts and find that it is largely homogenous, don't worry. You can still build a rock-star team that will help you effectively expand your impact.

You could hire a recruiting company that specializes in finding top-notch diverse talent. You could make a point of recruiting at forums where droves of candidates with different backgrounds go, such as minority professional organizations, and historically black colleges and universities,

And if you would like to continue your practice of hiring from within your extended network, you can make that work for you too. It just means you have to make it a point to expand your network to people who bring a whole different perspective to life than you do.

Alex Blumberg explained how he's going about doing this:

a big part of diversifying Gimlet at the leadership level is diversifying my own network. And I've been working on it. Been reaching out to people I admire who are doing interesting work. I've been meeting up for coffee, having lunch, forging relationships.

You can build a rock-star team. And you can hire people you know and are comfortable with. But you've got to step outside your comfort zone and put the work to diversify your circle.

Then you'll be well positioned to build a business that is able to serve more customers like none other.

Published on: Jul 6, 2017