How to build the team of your dreams

Sim Riordan suggests ways to create an inclusive and diverse work environment

As commercial leader at talent assessment specialists SHL, Sim Riordan takes great pride in curating diverse teams that work well together.

Focus on your mission 

Your shared passion and mission are the glue that brings your company together. By focusing on your mission, you give your people permission to bring their best, most authentic selves to work, encouraging them to be more creative, collaborative and curious. This focus frees and broadens the way you think about who else could join your party and enrich your culture. 

Embrace diversity

In teams where there are different perspectives, your ability to spot and tackle opportunity and risk will multiply. This is well-proven in the world of performance psychology. Most leaders have started to realise that homogenous teams can amplify prejudice, lead to blind spots, limit ideas, and sometimes even result in toxic or dangerous outcomes. Diverse and inclusive leadership is the future, so integrating this into how you manage your people and your business is critical. 

Be open and honest  

No matter where you are on this journey, it's essential to be honest about what is driving your transformation. Let new hires know that they may represent the first step in your journey – it helps build trust and encourages them to opt in to being part of the process. Showing your new hire their working environment can help, too. In previous jobs, I was OK with being the only minority in the room, but only when it was explicitly called out. Knowing this upfront and being able to talk about it, rather than finding it out on day one, was important to me. 

Talk to your team 

Transformation needs to be communicated and understood – if not, there's the possibility that people will feel uncomfortable and resist. Have a conversation to explain why there's a drive for more diversity, and how this will help realise your company mission. And think dynamically about how you can involve people in the plans and support them to get on board. I find sharing learning experiences with my team helps them to question and explore new ideas in a safe environment. TED Talks and podcasts are great for this. 

Consider team dynamics 

These can make or break a workplace – especially with smaller teams in a lean office environment. I always use SHL's personality profiling tool, which takes a scientific look at how a person’s preferred way of working influences how they actually work. For example, if someone enjoys talking about their achievements, this may be great in a client pitch but will go down badly with more modest teammates. You can refer back to this personality insight to help to diffuse any misunderstandings and support your people to develop deeper self-awareness. 


If there's a particular individual with whom your hire will need to collaborate, get them to have a coffee with the candidates you're considering and let them be part of making the decision. Seek out advice from other leaders when possible, too – a deeper perspective can help you make a more informed decision. I find that even just explaining the scenario to an outsider helps me weigh up my options more clearly. 

Get ahead of your bias  

Everyone has bias; and not recognising yours in advance will result in missing out on key talent. Or worse still, building skewed teams. Are you hiring in your own likeness? Are you making unconscious assumptions? Are you warming to that person because their background feels familiar and comfortable to you? 

Strive for objectivity  

Rather than rely on gut feel when hiring, aim for more objective decisions. To do this, define what you are looking for and use science-based tools and methodologies like competency-based interviewing to support you. Research shows that something as subtle as the name on a CV affects how likely an applicant is to be considered. Women of child-bearing age, and applicants with 'non-British' names are often sidelined by preconceived judgments – often through unconscious micro-decisions.  

Sim Riordan is a commercial leader at SHL