Dec 3, 2014

There is no denying that diversity in the workplace is good for business, but first and foremost, HR needs to focus on hiring for the top talent.

Is there any reason to think a company can’t have both?

In an economy where the average age of retirement is now 62 years old, our workforce is straddling more generations than ever before. So how can we make sure that we are building companies with cultures that represent and nurture all of our employees?

Last week we hosted an event and got a chance to hear from four of today’s top hiring managers from Lyft, Pandora, Medium and Axcient. They told us how they are navigating the complexities of their dynamic workforce to foster workplace diversity.

Millennial managers

In addition to gender or race, age is another form of diversity that also fundamentally impacts workplace culture. To truly capitalize on Millennial hires, HR managers need to make sure the age-gap between colleagues doesn’t translate into an expectation-gap between junior and senior level staff.

Baby Boomers who find themselves under new, younger management can easily feel subverted. Lisa-Maree Wallace, head of people operations at Lyft, believes the tensions of hierarchy can be ironed out by flattening power dynamics. She suggests having peers nominate manager candidates, and having manager training before and while people become managers.

Meanwhile, before the flashy title and high-paying salaries can go to Millennials’ heads, Wallace gets ahead ¬of the managerial learning curve by ensuring her employees understand the responsibilities that accompany the role.

Work-life balance

“Work-life balance” and “fostering diversity” aren’t often found in the same sentence, but they should be. Companies that support employees in different stages of life automatically foster diversity in the workplace.

Take Google: they extended their maternity leave, which resulted in a huge improvement in retention and engagement of female employees.

To encourage work-life balance so all employees are more engaged, Cris Barrett, vice president of people and places at Axcient, emphasizes flexible work arrangements and allows employees to bring their kids to work or work from home when needed.

Lyft’s Lisa-Marie emphasized her open PTO policy, and said she simply “treats employees as adults, who should be able to take time as needed.”

For both, empowering their employees to make the decisions that are best for their families as well as their careers are vital to ensuring employees at all stages of life have the support they need.

Culture fit

Culture fit” is maybe the top HR buzz phrase for 2014. It is something that both prospective employees and potential employers obsess over when it comes to hiring.

Contrary to common belief, hiring for cultural fit doesn’t preclude diversity. Instead, as Cris Barrett, VP of People & Places at Axcient explains, “When you put your culture out there, people opt in or opt out, rather than just having interviewers screen for culture.”

It is part of a company’s job to make sure their identity is known and understood by customers and employee candidates alike.

The diversity to be found within a single company culture comes from the diversity of its employees’ professional backgrounds. Concentrating on the unique value each candidate can bring companies will ensure the building of well rounded teams.

Ultimately, hiring the right person for the job – matching skills with job requirements, while considering diversity of every kind – should be the aim of any HR department.

Hiring managers can maintain the diversity of their offices by making sure managers of any age are equipped to succeed, ingraining work-life balance into the company, and making sure culture doesn’t exclude strong talent.