It's a well-established fact that we tend to like to hire in our own image. We typically surround ourselves with people we perceive to be "like us." We tend to relate to people who are generally our own age, similar socio-economic background, similar education levels, even same race and gender. However, just because it's familiar and comfortable, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Diversity is a significant source of strength (all alliterations aside) and it's important to understand why hiring, training and retaining people who are NOT like you is so important to your success and that of your department or company.
ONE: Single Point of Failure
Solving complex problems requires innovation, imagination and tenacity. Einstein said "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." How many times have you tried to solve a problem by thinking it through, mulling it over or background processing - only to mention it to a colleague who casually says "Hey, have you tried...?" and instantly gives you a solution or an idea that evolves into the solution? When you think about a problem over and over, you use the same context, the same constructs, the same biases. Similarly, when you hire and work with people who are all pretty much like you are, you're all likely to look at the problem the same way. That's not to say your team won't solve the problem, but different perspectives, different backgrounds, different ways of processing information tend to lead to more options and more innovative results. If you want to stay ahead of your competition, hire a diverse workforce.
TWO: Culture Matters
The culture in which you were raised largely informs who you become and how you think as an adult. Sharing ideas and perspectives with people from other countries, other cultures, other locations, other languages creates new attitudes, new ways of interacting with work and with each other. Ethnic diversity in the U.S. is somewhat regional, but all regions have ethnic and language diversity that can be leveraged through intelligent and thoughtful hiring practices.
THREE: The Best and the Brightest
It's increasingly challenging to hire talented IT staff - the demand is outpacing the supply. When you are trying to fill vacancies, stretch outside your normal boundaries. Think about the actual requirements for the job versus what you've always included in the job posting. We've had tremendous success hiring some really amazing employees because we looked beyond the stereotypical requirements and stretched a bit. We have hired people from other professions and other industries; people who speak other languages and come from other cultures. We are a stronger team as a result. Broadening our criteria (not lowering our standard, but expanding our perspective) has helped us hire the best and the brightest and retain them in a competitive industry.
What's worked in your world?