diversity, because diversity in and of itself is interesting. But [you must create] an environment
of inclusive behaviors where people genuinely feel
and believe and see it demonstrated that the way
that they think, the way that they act, the way
that they approach problems, their background
and who they are [is valued],” Smith says.
Ultimately, teams with cognitive diversity produce better results, he continues, “because you’ve
had more people weigh in and those people have
each analyzed a problem through a diferent lens.”
INCLUSIVITY IN HIRING C reating an inclusive environment that em- braces a wide range of thinking styles starts with self-awareness, Grenawalt says. Cockroach Labs, which has 50 employees, hired a
vendor to lead an unconscious bias workshop for
its employees. “What it did is really make people
aware that this is something that we have to work
toward. … It’s actually something that we have to
embed into not only our structure and our processes, but into our culture,” she says.
Grenawalt also got rid of resumes and instituted
exercise-based interviewing in its place. “Let’s stop
giving [hiring managers] that crutch of being able
to recruit their own image,” Grenawalt says. “In-
stead, let’s challenge them to really speak to the
candidates and learn from the candidates if they
have the applicable skills.”
The company’s HR team still uses resumes to
make sure job seekers have the required qualif-
cations, but hiring managers don’t see the docu-
ments. Once the recruiters narrow the pool and
conduct initial phone calls, candidates are given
a take-home activity to assess their skills and
uncover diferent approaches to problem-solv-
ing. Those who do well are invited in for a day
of four exercise-based interviews and lunch with
When hiring HR staf, Grenawalt asks candidates to imagine they are kicking of the search
for a software developer, absent initial input from
a hiring manager. The HR job seekers must put
together a recruiting strategy and pull three
strong candidate profiles before conducting
in-person interviews. Grenawalt goes through
this information onsite with the candidates, putting herself in the role of the hiring manager.
“It’s a direct refection of what they’ve not only
done in their current job, but what they’re going
to be doing day-to-day at Cockroach,” she says.
Company leaders are transparent about their
intention to incorporate familiarity and fairness
into the process. “We would rather have some-
body feel like they’re coming into the interview
… prepared to show their skill set rather than not
feeling prepared,” Grenawalt says.
At Ultra Testing, a technology services com-
pany based in New York City, a majority of the 50
employees who work across 16 states are on the
autism spectrum. “Our mission as a company is to
prove that neurodiversity, including autism, can
be a competitive advantage in business,” says CEO
Rajesh Anandan. “We aim to do that by being the
best in our business in the quality assurance and
quality services industry.”
He is quick to point out that this is a spectrum,
which means not everyone acts in the same man-
ner even if they tend to share similar characteris-
tics to varying degrees. “We have colleagues who
have very diferent learning styles and models for
and ways of processing information,” he explains.
Leaders at Ultra have developed a set of specifc
attributes needed for each position. From there,
they give candidates a multistep assessment that
gauges cognitive abilities, aspects of personality
such as curiosity and behavioral traits like coachability. The process includes questionnaires, essays and tests, along with interviews. The last step
is a week of simulated work.
What it doesn’t include, however, is resumes or
subjective interviewing. Previous work experience
6 WAYS TO PROMOTE COGNITIVE DIVERSITY
1 Hold an unconscious bias workshop, which will help employees uncover their own preconceptions,
including the tendency to hire people they connect with or
have commonalities with.
2 Stop providing resumes to hiring managers. Implement exercise-based interviews and allow
candidates to prepare ahead of time.
3 Use a cognitive ability assessment to discover variations in how current employees think.
4 Conduct tests in the hiring process to find employees who think in different ways from the current team.
5 Create and champion processes that encourage people to ask questions and speak up, both to
co-workers and executives.