Invite Diverse Talent to Own Its Destiny (and a Piece of the Company)

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mooreToday, in almost every sector, the race for talent is unprecedented. Executives — those responsible for providing customer and shareholder value — are looking for every opportunity to better position their organizations for success. Companies that attract, retain, and promote the best talent understand the business value of a workforce that reflects the customers.— and businesses — they are working to engage.

Trends show that highly coveted banking and finance jobs on Wall Street are now being abandoned by the Ivy elites for the high-risks and high-rewards of Silicon Valley. In addition, in 2015 thus far, more than 40 percent of new entrepreneurs are people of color, and women currently make up 29 percent of America’s small business owners. So what does this all mean?

Changing demographics have created a shift in wealth and spending power both nationally and globally. As access to technology and education — historically barriers to success — increases for women and people of color, the focus is shifting from climbing the corporate ladder to building and selling the ladder outright. Generational differences, driven by factors like Moore’s Law (the observation that processing power for computers will double every two years), show that many people feel empowered by technology to create and own — and be rewarded for it. As some companies overlook the opportunity to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit that many of today’s best and brightest individuals with nontraditional backgrounds bring to the table, members of the new minority majority are opting to start their own businesses instead of working for one.

So what does a company do to stay competitive in this race for talent?

Companies should be willing to create environments that welcome employees with entrepreneurial mindsets, and they should create the opportunity for individuals to become “intrepreneurs.”

Encourage Intrepreneurship
Intrepreneurs are people who are empowered by their company to take direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation. Companies like Google are legendary for fostering intrepreneurship. Look no further than their newly minted CEO, Sundar Pichai, who joined the company in 2004 — long before they reached great-place-to-work status. Sundar’s job? Create things. Google’s idea of hiring smart people and setting them free to turn their ideas into products has proven profitable and is worthy of emulation.

Be Leadership-Driven
A commitment to diversity and inclusion must come directly from the top. The company’s board and CEO must set goals and a vision that leverage diversity and inclusion across the company. This means having a dedicated executive, usually a chief diversity officer, to develop a diversity and inclusion strategy that is part of the company’s business goals, and a legitimate budget and staff to execute the strategy.

Take Action and Edit Along the Way
Authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton write in their book The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action that most companies suffer from a “knowing-doing” problem, which is an inability to convert what they know into action. Most leaders equate success with making the fewest mistakes, but this thinking can often lead to inaction. Successful companies embrace the fact that there is no “right way” to do anything and that action is often more valuable than unexecuted plans. Attracting the right talent usually requires a multifaceted strategy, and companies shouldn’t become overwhelmed with change overload. Start with the low-hanging fruit and build off of the small victories.

Be Uncomfortable
To achieve innovation, companies should get comfortable being uncomfortable. Studies show that heterogeneous teams usually start out much more slowly than homogeneous ones. That’s why it’s so easy for managers to go with their gut and select someone who has something in common with them. These selections, which are not usually competency-based, lead to early successes but rarely net innovations. On the other hand, leaders who make competency-based selections to help round out team gaps sometimes experience a lag in progress early on because differences have to be introduced and understood. Once the team dynamic is achieved, the composition pays off, because different perspectives will view the same problem differently. This approach can lead to new, unrealized solutions.

Smart companies create environments where employees are empowered to take risks, make mistakes, and be authentic.— all competencies of successful entrepreneurs. According to the Harvard Business Review, these are also the key competencies of CEOs.

Diverse talent is talent. Everyone wants to be empowered and recognized for the work that they do. Let’s create an environment that invites customer-reflective talent to come and create the world’s next innovation.●

Jerrell Moore is the vice president of diversity and inclusion for Time Warner Cable. He oversees the creation and deployment of the company’s diversity strategy in all aspects of the business, including talent acquisition and retention, leadership development, employee engagement, purchasing, and branding in the community.