Connecting...

Building diversity in leadership for the future

by Kristan De Sousa

Building diversity in Leadership

The way Australian businesses identify and assess their existing and future leadership talent must change. Creative, agile and diversified experience were all identified as essential traits for leaders in our recently commissioned and researched, Future of Leadership Report.

In this, the second article in our leadership series, we delve further into the results from our research to examine the growing belief and principles that support the case for diversity in the workforce. Including but not limited to gender or race, our research reveals additional context around “diversity” in leadership that extends to individual thinking and experience. Read the first article now.

Dimensions of diversity

Workplace diversity isn’t a new concept. Nowadays, providing an environment that nurtures equality and fairness for multiple cultures, gender, multigenerational, people with disabilities and LGBTI employees is an essential part of corporate culture. The Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends research shows that 78 percent of respondents now believe diversity and inclusion is a competitive advantage (39 percent say it is a “significant” competitive advantage).

Extending and applying the idea of inclusion beyond the corporate world today, our research revealed 21% of participants surveyed believe diversity has an important role to play in finding, building and promoting future leaders within their companies compared to only 8% today. As a desirable trait, ‘diversified experience’ sat in the top ten important characteristics together with ‘creativity’ for leaders of the future, indicating a significant shift in thinking regarding what people are experiencing right now in the workplace compared to what they desire in their leaders in the future.

Very interesting. Considering new, extended dimensions of diversity in relation to talent sourcing is certainly a game changer when we think about the future leadership crisis facing corporate Australia. Bringing a new lens to the talent diversity picture, has the potential to move thinking and recruiting beyond the purely physical differences of candidate to the real-world, experiential differences individuals bring to the table.

Identifying and shaping individual potential

“I'm looking for leaders who can show diversity of experience in industry, because to me that's a signal of actually learning ability. In key leadership positions they can move between different altitudes of that horizontal and vertical depth.” Preeti Bajaj, Schneider Electric

To meet a new era of tech-charged business challenges and culture-shifting leadership expectations, our approach and methodology in the recruitment of future leaders, sees our consultants looking for two things:

  1. The knowledge a candidate presents in a specialist field.
  2. Their potential to effectively apply these skills in an alternate discipline or field matching our clients’ open role.

We refer to these prospects as a “T-shaped” talent, a term first used by McKinsey & Company then promoted by Tim Brown CEO of design and innovation firm IDEO, to describe a set of diverse experiences they wanted to recruit.

We like to explain the theory of “T-shaped” in simple, logical terms for our clients. The downward line of the “T” represents a candidate’s proven depth of knowledge that will add value to strategic business decisions, while the cross line of the “T” relates to a person’s disposition and character towards collaborating across multiple business units. It’s a useful way to consider the opportunity on the recruitment table.

Using this approach, we’ve had a client recently fill a logistics sales role with talent from a fashion retail supply chain management background. By seeing the potential out-of-industry experience could contribute within a future business context, this client is now reaping the benefits of a new hire with the skills to adapt and grow within their increasingly complex commercial environment. A win-win.

A diverse range of benefits

Building, communicating and reinforcing a holistic culture of diversity in the workplace that celebrates, develops and attracts leaders of the future may feel like a daunting task, but we challenge corporate Australia to consider two of the foreseeable competitive advantages:

  • Creativity and innovation – ranking in The Future of Leadership Report at number one as the most important trait for future leaders. Businesses who welcome different viewpoints and life experiences now, can nurture a truly innovative and collaborative workplace and help shape great leaders for tomorrow.
  • An increase in productivity – business who encourage experienced people from a wide range of backgrounds to innovate and solve problems collectively, can inspire levels of creativity and motivation within their teams that exceed existing business expectations and outcomes.

Accenture’s Women In Technology group demonstrates the positive outcomes, employing a diverse experience outlook can achieve. This panel of women are encouraged to share the different types of roles they’ve been able to move into during their careers while juggling increased family priorities - positions less client-facing or less travel intensive – helping Accenture to outwardly promote these options to attract and retain more female talent.

The findings around “diversity in experience” in The Future of Leadership Report confirm (from the employee's’ perspective) the hands-on, the real life hiring dilemmas our clients’ are facing right now when trying to find future talent using their historical recruitment moulds that simply tick an “inclusive” box. As specialists in executive recruitment we cannot emphasise enough the effective difference expanding thinking outside your business-as-usual-process box can make to uncovering T shaped talent to breath new experience into your organisation. The time is now.


Get in touch with Kristan on 07 3338 5792 if you would like to discuss talent management strategies.