Moms, women in tech, girls taking science classes, and even race dominate the diversity conversation. However, I am starting to believe things are going to get a lot worse, and make my job as a marketer more complex.
Stepping away from the debate about women in tech, moms returning to work, girls taking science classes and focusing on something a bit trickier to quantify: value and idea diversity.
Old companies struggle with this already; their workforce is becoming more homogenized. Those who don’t believe in the leadership, can’t fit into the culture or couldn’t make paychecks justify all the disadvantages of working there leave. While I haven’t done enough research to submit a thesis, I am getting closer. I believe the term “people vote with their feet” is a diversity problem.
“Simply saying that you value diversity internally isn’t enough – there’s just no reason for an outside observer to believe you …” – Brett Berson, VP of Platform at First Round Capital
When Culture Fit Trumps Everything Else
Remember back in the day when you would be thrown into a team of kids that you would rather not share your grade? While that seems like a good representation of life, it’s actually more like the culture of the middle school lunch room. People naturally gravitate towards others who are similar. The nerds hide out in the library or computer lab, the popular kids take up the best spots, the jocks, and artists all fill in and that’s the way we seem to like it.
Then we grew up.
Darn, now we have to play nice with everyone, or do we?
The idea that people vote with their feet isn’t a new thought but I like it. It gives a clear picture of someone being able to cross over a line to communicate and identify with that side. What happens when too many people get the “I don’t want to play anymore, I am going to take my ball and go home” syndrome? A lack of diversity or ideas is a deficit that will bite employers and employees in the behind.
Companies want a good culture fit. I have heard from several of my recruiter contacts that they have seen talented individuals passed up based on discrimination of age, race, physical fitness, and other silly reasons for a candidate who was otherwise fantastically qualified. Talent is hungry for the right opportunity; they too want a job that is a good “fit” for their lifestyle, goals personality, and abilities.
Are you rocking superman abs, running marathons, looking fit and have Gaston’s charisma? Then you should apply for this budding hot tech startup on the Eastside of Lake Washington. This company has adopted the jock table. Their values are emphasized to candidates as being “important to who we choose to put in the role”. In other words, basement dwelling, Cheetos loving geek can go ahead and take a gamble but good luck. That is an assumption, however I am sure I am not too far off.
They speak of “living the values” and emphasize how the values are important to their decision on who they want to place in the role. While I know a few excellent candidates who aren’t total couch potatoes they don’t run marathons in their spare hours, swing kettlebells or steer clear of fast food 100% of the time.
That company, like many, is very concerned about a culture fit – which is fair. However, what if one of my friends is perfect for the company’s stage and role? One person who instantly comes to mind could turn their measly 6% conversion rate to 15% while asleep, another could take their failing lead management system and make it automated, friendly and increase conversions within the leads they have already captured. They are all upbeat, friendly, get along with everyone, detail oriented, can create solid executable plans, speak up with new ideas and could easily step into a leadership position.
Here is how that example ends up. My friends will look at the culture, look down at their gut and decide whether or not they want to apply at all. Technical interviews are tough as it is and knowing you are already a pudgy, marked target is another confidence hit. The company continues on working with recruiters to find the perfect “fit” individual; I would recommend looking at Crossfit boxes.
Attracting Diversity: An Investment in the Future
A number of years ago, I felt incredibly called to work with kids. After a little research I found Puget Sound Interfaith Camp. I joined the board, assisted with planning and participated at the camp as a camp counselor.
After watching that video and reflecting on my experience, I feel it might be the time to look at our middle school attitudes and choose to work together despite our differences. Beyond the sake of venture success, we ultimately need to encourage diversity to stay instead of pick up and take its talent, ideas and experience else where.