Boyden Executive Search

The final installment of our series on the transforming Chief Human Resources Officer role focuses on the challenges of organizational diversity.

Skills vs. Background

Overall, HR decision makers believe diversity is critical to an organization’s success. More than nine in 10 (93%) HR executives say it is important for companies to diversify their talent pool and hire people from different backgrounds. Just under two-thirds (64%) say it is very important.

HR executives are similarly aligned when it comes to the importance of diverse skill sets in the workplace. Almost all (97%) of HR decision makers say it is important for companies to diversify their talent pool and hire people from diverse industries with different skill sets, and just under two-thirds (63%) say it is very important.

When asked to consider what is more important when it comes to creating diverse organizations, the majority (70%) of HR decision makers believe it’s most important to have diverse opinions, approaches and methodologies, regardless of background. Only 30% feel it is important to have diverse teams in terms of background.

However, not everyone agrees that diversity of skills trumps diversity of background. For Carolyn Isaacs, Former Global Transition Director and Global HR Services Director, Diageo, both play a critical role in driving businesses forward. “Diversity of background and diversity of thinking add the most value. Holistically, yes, across the total business you need a variety of skills. But at a more local level, having people from different backgrounds can really make a huge difference when it comes to working together,” says Isaacs.

Marco Ryan, Executive VP and Chief Digital Officer, Wärtsilä, echoes Isaac’s thinking, noting, “High-performing teams happen when each employee brings a specific set of skills to balance a team and provide expert insight into whatever problem or project they’re working on. We need that deep ‘vertical’ expertise. But you also need an individual to be able to grow horizontally in terms of being able to work in different cultures and environments and with increased uncertainty.”

Diversity of skill sets is viewed as more important in creating a diverse organization.

Respondents indicated a similar level of importance in hiring people from diverse backgrounds (64%) and hiring those with diverse skill sets (63%), but when asked to choose between the two, 70% selected diversity of skill sets as more important in creating a diverse organization.

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