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THE BEAM // Fall 2018


Moving from intentions to action

At LymanDoran, we know we’re in a unique position to help reduce disparities in executive positions and improve equity through the search process. As a Firm, our philosophy on this topic has been consistent since our founding, and yet, for years we found our good intentions didn’t translate into results. After taking a hard look at ourselves, our culture and our practices, we charted a path forward and began to take action.

We are proud to say that our focused efforts are yielding diverse candidate pools of top-tier talent, with 48% of our placements in the last year being women and/or people of color. Those results are 37% higher than the national average of women and people of color currently in executive positions (Source: Women in the Workplace).

We continually review our search practices to ensure they are as inclusive as possible, provide equitable access to leadership opportunities and mitigate bias. We have also benefited from the shared learnings of many of our client partners, who have generously provided input and guidance as we’ve honed our approach. After reflecting on our journey, we’ve put together the following list of best practices for you to consider as you work to bring diverse talent into your organizations.

Focus on Cultural Contribution

When assessing potential candidates, focus on cultural contribution instead of cultural fit. In the workplace, there are plenty of reasons to challenge our inherent preference for homogeny. Too much similarity leads to group-think, tunnel vision, stagnation…not exactly a recipe for innovation. Hiring for “fit” often leads to hiring people just like ourselves, but hiring for cultural contribution creates an opportunity to bring in new thinking and diverse talent.

Target Affinity Groups

When you’re actively seeking out candidates for a position, don’t rely solely on your own network. Instead, target affinity groups that represent traditionally marginalized groups like the National Black MBA Association and Association of Latino Professionals For America. Take the time to research what national and local groups are active in your area and market the role with those organizations to expand your reach and provide equitable access to the opportunity.

Create a Diverse Pool

Many of us are familiar with the Rooney Rule, a policy the NFL enacted in 2003 in an attempt to increase diversity. The rule requires teams to interview at least one person of color for head coaching jobs. But what you may not know is that creating a candidate pool with only one diverse candidate makes it nearly impossible for that person to get the job. According to a recent study published in Harvard Business Review, having only one minority candidate actually highlights her/his differences and can lead to inferences of incompetence. If you’re serious about wanting to create a more diverse team, be sure your candidate pool includes at least two women or people of color.

Expand Your Network

When you think about expanding your network, focus on building relationships with people unlike yourself. Oftentimes executives from traditionally marginalized backgrounds get tapped a lot. If you’re one of those people who simply reaches out to them for a favor instead of building a relationship, you become a transaction. Work on building these relationships before you have a search so your network is in place when you need it.

Work with DEI-Focused Search Firm

If you choose to work with a search firm, make sure they share your company’s values around diversity, equity and inclusion. Before the search even begins, ensure they have a demonstrated history of creating diverse candidate pools and ask them about their specific tactics for achieving their internal DEI goals.

As is the case with any initiatives, these DEI tactics will only be successful if your company’s leadership is committed. Have open conversations about what diversity, equity and inclusion means in your organization and set internal goals as a team.  Creating a diverse workforce doesn’t happen on its own and it won’t happen overnight, but by incorporating these suggestions into your hiring practices, we’re proof you can make measurable progress in the right direction.


Wouldn’t you use a crystal ball if you had one?

You wouldn’t buy a house without getting an inspection, and in the same way, you shouldn’t hire an executive leader without getting her/him assessed. At LymanDoran, we are strong proponents of psychological assessment and believe it provides important perspective in the hiring process, particularly when the Industrial/Organizational psychologist invests the time to understand the unique context of each search and when s/he approaches the engagement with a dual purpose of selection support and executive development.

However, not all assessment is created equal. When it comes to assessment, here are some best practices to follow.

  • Be sure to work with a provider who is a PhD. While a number of the assessment tools offer courses for certification, the synthesis of the data is the most critical part of the assessment. You want to be sure that your provider can interpret the data and accurately speak to any role that disparate impact could be playing in the assessment results.
  • Work with your assessment provider to choose the right tools and methods to ensure a comprehensive picture of the candidate. This should include using validated tools that can go beyond tests like StrengthsFinder and Myers Briggs.
  • It is illegal to use assessment as a single data point for making a selection decision. If something in the assessment raises a concern, use additional interviews and references to further probe and build a body of data to vet the potential issue.
  • Use the information you learn from the assessment to inform your onboarding plan as well as your hiring decision. The insights you gain from the results can help you support the new leader’s transition and help her/him be successful right from the start.
  • Make sure you use assessment consistently with all of your executive hires. If you work with the same provider, s/he can understand your team holistically and provide insights for team development as well as individual development.

Often, we work with clients who are unfamiliar with the assessment process and skeptical of the value that it provides. Even after the extensive vetting that we do of our candidates, in our experience, the additional data assessment provides has proven an effective means of reducing risk in the selection process.

Just like a home inspection report, the assessment findings help you as a hiring manager better understand the inner-workings of your investment. The assessment process often provides insight into a leader’s motivations, communication style and potential pitfalls, allowing you to create an onboarding plan to best support the new leader’s transition and set them up for long-term success.

Join us in welcoming Nora Klaphake

We are excited to announce that Nora Klaphake has joined the LymanDoran team! Nora brings significant recruiting, talent development, human capital management and executive advising experience to LymanDoran. In her prior positions, she led searches for vice presidents and other senior leadership positions on the client side. She brings this firsthand knowledge of the client perspective to every search she works on at LymanDoran. Prior to joining LymanDoran, Nora served as the Chief of Staff to the President at Hamilton College and as the Director of Recruiting & Professional Development at the Maslon law firm. Nora has a BA from Hamline University and a JD from the University of Minnesota Law School where she serves on the Board of Advisors. She lives in downtown Minneapolis.