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The Power of Creating Diverse Networks

The Power of Creating Diverse Networks
Richard Bolles, the author of ‘What Colour is Your Parachute’, was very influential in changing the approach candidates took to seeking new job opportunities. Using his inverted pyramid, he demonstrated how most organisations prefer to hire people they already know, or through colleagues who can vouch for them. For them, it is a low-risk option because they don’t have to take a chance on the unknown. His message to job applicants was, “If you want a job, use your networks”.

Networking is, therefore, an efficient way to recruit new staff. But what implications does this method have on attracting diverse applicants? In today’s fast-changing business world, diversity is the key to unlocking creativity and innovation. So, does hiring solely from within their networks prevent organisations from accessing the variety of thought they need to stay ahead of the curve?

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

As much as organisations design adverts to have a greater focus on diversity and inclusion, it is a relatively pointless exercise if most candidates are recruited through networking.

In her book, ‘Superhubs’, Sandra Navidi explores how the financial elite and their networks rule the world. Through the lens of her own experiences and interactions with corporate leaders, she paints a picture of a global economy ruled by a small group of men (and they are almost exclusively white males) who command the movement of the global economy, influencing governments, moving stock prices, and making trillions for themselves in the process.

They do this through a water-tight “old boys’ network”. As their power increases, so does their ability to exclude others from their network, as more and more people want to be connected to them.

As the book reveals, individuals who share a common employment history and education background, gender and social status often relay privileged information directly, which can provide an important advantage in identifying and exploiting business opportunities. Knowing each other’s history and reputation enables them to make better judgement calls. Moreover, working with a known entity reduces costs and hiring risks.

Who you know becomes even more prevalent as you move up to the Executive Suite. I have seen this often in my time as an executive recruiter, as decision-makers naturally look to reputation and familiarity when choosing who to appoint to their teams. In the Wellington public sector, hiring managers (understandably) tend to seek out potential candidates that meet their idea of the right fit for their team, however this can often lead to them missing out on diverse thinking and experiences. It is human nature to stick to what is familiar. It is efficient, risk-mitigating, and, frankly, a lot more comfortable recruiting people you are familiar with.

The Importance of Diversity

On the other hand, hiring for diversity has distinct advantages. It increases creative thinking and reduces risk-taking as more diverse options are considered. These are the skills that are needed in today’s world. Yet when you look at the world today, you see countries and economies becoming more polarised and focused on quick, short-term results, often to their detriment. What we need is long-term thinking, innovation and the ability to work across borders, rather than reinforce them.

Diversity could not be more important, and the best place to start looking for diversity is within your own networks.

Sandra Navidi challenges everyone to develop diverse and inclusive networks, saying, “Since we are all nodes who drive the system with our individual actions and the resulting cause-and-effect feedback loops, we must all actively contribute to change. Hopefully, in a concerted effort, we will succeed in changing the monopolistic structure of networks to create a more diverse, equitable and sustainable system that benefits all.”

If you’d like to know more about increasing diversity within your team or want support with your next recruitment drive, get in touch with me today.

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