This Is the Key to High-Performing Teams in 2022 Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are prerequisites for success.

By Zain Jaffer

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's for good reason that the term "diversity" populated almost every headline, boardroom and stakeholder conversation over the past few years. First, most companies were far behind in addressing the diversity and inclusion imperative and needed to take a hard look at the biases preventing them from realizing a diverse team. Second, the incredible value that's unlocked within the organization when diversity is prioritized is certainly something to write home about, cementing diversity as an important part of the corporate conversation.

But like all terms that become a part of common conversation, the word "diversity" has lost some of its meaning. For corporate teams that are dedicated to the task of engineering their recovery, diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the workforce are not only responsibilities, but they're also prerequisites for success. It's therefore important to think beyond the words and consider what D&I looks like when it's embodied in day-to-day actions.

Expanding and understanding the diversity imperative

First, it's worth noting that there are two ways in which diversity can be understood, and both are important to keep in mind when considering a company's culture. Inherent diversity is what the term often brings to mind — considerations like gender, race, religion and economic background. But acquired diversity encompasses other considerations like career experience, educational background and learning styles that deserve equal emphasis in creating an inclusive and robust corporate team.

Next, taking one step further and getting at the "why" of D&I initiatives is another worthy area of focus for company leaders who want to build those kinds of teams. Diversity, inclusion and representation all have important roles in the workforce. A diverse team ensures that problems are managed by creative thinkers who are informed by a myriad of backgrounds and life experiences. Inclusion within that team ensures that everyone feels confident enough to bring those contributions forward. And representation within a company helps attract and retain the kind of talent that can expand the team's diversity and contribute in that way.

Related: Want Your Employees to Stay? Be Accountable to Your DEI Goals

Re-thinking recruiting (back to square one)

With an expanded and corrected understanding of D&I as it really relates to day-to-day function, most company leaders will find themselves back to the drawing board, rethinking their recruiting and onboarding processes. This is a positive sign. There are a number of ways in which recruitment processes can accidentally overlook candidates, narrow the talent pipeline and fail to cater to the needs of different employees. Employers should prioritize three areas as they troubleshoot recruitment: the reach of their listings, the bias left in their systems and the assumptions they make in their onboarding.

The most successful job listings leave no talent behind. Posting only on specific networks can neglect competent applicants that come in from other funnels, and using exclusive criteria — naming a degree requirement rather than a set of competencies — can prevent the right candidates from putting in their applications. Once a job listing has been vetted for those oversights, a flood of applications is the likely result. Next, streamlined tech solutions can help ensure that human bias takes no part in the equation. Resumés can be automatically sorted and prioritized based on specific qualifications, and quantitative interview tests can help all candidates demonstrate their skills against a baseline. Finally, a more personalized approach to onboarding can ensure that every candidate gets what he or she needs. Allowing new hires to seek guidance from higher-level executives, creating regular meetings and check-ins and providing learning materials in multiple formats are all practices that can increase onboarding success.

Related: 4 Ways DEI Can Help Manage Business Risk

Why great teams need great leads

Diversity and inclusion that are achieved at the recruitment stage need to be fostered and rewarded throughout the team experience; this is where great team management comes into play. Strong leaders focus on managing and maximizing the diversity of perspectives, experiences and strengths within their team. Creating environments that are conducive to open brainstorming and conversation is an important first step. Working toward more cross-functionality within teams, where organizational silos are left behind and expertise from multiple departments can come together, is also an important practice. When team members have more agency, they have a higher likelihood of contributing to their fullest capacity. And when those contributions are celebrated, they're more likely to continue. Teams that operate in this way, under the positive influence of a great and open-minded leader, are far more likely to capitalize on the different strengths within their team.

In short, D&I has always been important, but it's more than just a buzzword. The task of recovery requires all hands on deck, and it will be best executed if companies are able to establish and support diverse teams. By expanding the definition of diversity to include its many forms, and by reconsidering internal processes from recruitment to team management, employers will put themselves in the best position to build the kind of company that the future will reward and require.

Related: 7 Ways Leaders Can Level Up Their DEI Workplace Strategy

Wavy Line
Zain Jaffer

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder and President of Zain Ventures

Zain Jaffer is the founder and president of Zain Ventures, a family office that invests in real estate and technology. He is the host of "The PropTech VC," a podcast that engages listeners on the latest trends and conversations in the proptech market. He is also partner at Bluefield Capital.

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