The importance of diversity for scaling companies and how to achieve the right balance

The importance of diversity for scaling companies and how to achieve the right balance

Variety is the spice of scale-up life. From contrasting and complementary skill sets to assorted and challenging ideas, having a diverse team helps satisfy scaling companies relentless appetite for growth, but only if implemented in a methodical, data-led way.

That’s because diversity in scaling companies is not the same as ‘diversity in the workplace’. Instead of making hires on the basis of well-trodden diversity characteristics and backgrounds, scaling companies need to focus on accumulating diverse team based competencies that will best fuel their growth.

Why diversity is important for scaling companies

Scaling companies operate in a unique environment of almost constant (r)evolution and transformation: relentlessly trying to get as far as they can, as fast as they can, with the highest degree of quality. As such, they need dynamic and fluid teams that can adapt to continuous and rapid change. Teams that are both fast-moving and highly-productive. Teams that are a collaborative hotbed of ideas. Teams, that by their very nature, are diverse in perspectives.

However, diversity for diversity’s sake – without considering the problem you are actually solving – can be unhelpful. Scaling companies need to learn when to focus on homogeneity and how to gain acceleration and power from diversity; they must respect both in order to grow successfully.

Establishing the shared mindset

It’s common sense that a team works best when they all share a common goal. Be it footballers winning a match or astronauts completing a mission, a team is more likely to succeed when they set their sights on a clearly defined target.

Scaling companies are no different. A team of ‘similarly motivated’ people have mutual purpose and direction, whereas a team of ‘differently motivated’ people struggle to collaborate, trust each other or co-perform. Scaling companies, therefore, must establish what they stand for and what’s important to them and then only hire people who can thrive in their specific start-up environment.

Bespoke diversity based on team dynamics

At the same time, companies must determine what individual abilities – or ‘spikes’ – they need in order to generate the momentum and power as a team. That same football team is made up of the best player in each ‘position’, so companies must create a bespoke diversity plan for team dynamics that highlights the blend of ‘spikes’ needed for each team to succeed.

Luckily, the Talent Stack has devised a model to do just that. Whether for long-term hires or short-term projects, the Competency Stack ensures companies get the right team balance to achieve their missions. For example, a company may use the tool and discover they need a team comprising of:

  • An analyst: the data whizz that weighs up the risks.
  • A visionary: the creative innovator who kickstarts the ideas.
  • A do-er: the action-orientated executioner who revels in structured to-do lists.
  • A binder: the pragmatic communicator who leads collaboration among the group.
  • An optimist: the positive motivator who rallies the team.

Meanwhile, the Talent Stack can also help assess new and existing hires and work out their ‘edge’: the skill they know how to do brilliantly and bring to every role they do (this barometer is especially helpful in start-ups, where expertise can quickly become defunct as a company changes direction).

Diversity only works with equal culture

However, there is a caveat: diversity benefits are only fully enjoyed in companies with a culture of equality. Unfortunately, many startups consider equal culture a ‘given’, believe blokey banter is harmless and think Thursday drinks is a binding activity, when in fact it can be divisive and lead to subconscious bias.

As different people have different ways of expressing their opinions and perspectives, companies that give everyone an equal voice and hold all views in equal regard are better placed to prosper.

Short-term or long-term

Many well known scale-ups like Transferwise and Lyst deploy squads or tribes to deliver projects. Rotation is frequent and whether for long-term hires or short-term projects, companies who work in this way can use the Competency Stack to ensure they get the right team balance to achieve their missions.

Whatever the outcome, planning diversity in this way enables scaling companies to know exactly what shared mindset values and individualised competencies to look for when making a hire or putting an internal team together. In short, it produces high-performing, highly agile teams in companies which need to scale at pace.

Too many companies believe they have an opne culture, but they in fcat suppress the voices of others.

People have different ways of expressing opionins and perpsectives and this diversity must be respected or the benfits of diverse skills sets is for nought. That means constantly think about compnay culture and whether it is equal. Has it become the norm to have drinks on a Thursday or muffins on a Tuesday. Be careful that what you think is bidning is actuall bias. Culture isn’t created overnight and there is no one right way, but if companies don’t think about it, then it will soon become a hindrance to growth.

For example, high-growth companies who hire in specialist expertise to gain traction in a hard-to-crack industry, such as large regulated companies or the NHS, can find themselves handling a very expensive team member who is massively out of their comfort zone when the proposition pivots to b2c and SEO becomes the primary customer acquisition channel.

If they have already identified that individual’s team based strength, this anchor makes a change in role focus more of a hop across a ditch, rather than a leap across a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon.