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Corporate diversity doesn't stop at appearances. According to talent expert Patty McCord, diversity means building a company full of people with different ideas, perspectives and skills to not only solve problems faster, but in new ways.

In her writing and speaking about the HR industry, McCord points to a tendency people have to hold on to the “dream job scenario" of decades past. But as she highlights, the times have changed. It's time for people (recruiters and recruited, alike) to embrace a transient job market. Once called 'job-hoppers', McCord says people who work for companies for less than three years before moving on to new jobs are simply the norm today.

As the former chief talent officer at Netflix—she's the mastermind behind the company's famous "Culture Doc"—principal at Patty McCord Consulting and advisor to Warby Parker, Hubspot and many more, she has deep insights into workplace trends. We sat down with McCord for her take on the current realities and perceptions of recruitment and retention.

What does today's job market look like, and how is it different from, say, 10 years ago?

I think there's a lot more opportunity now for qualified candidates. It's a buyer's market, if you will, so that people have a lot more options in the way they work, who they work for and how they work if they have the qualifications to do the jobs.

"We can be more honest about the fact that there isn't lifetime employment in any company."

I think that what's significantly different, at least from my perspective, is that we can be more honest about the fact that there isn't lifetime employment in any company.

How does recruiting and retention differ between big companies and startups?

I often hear HR people at both large companies and startups continuing to give credence to the myths that we have about employment.

We still perpetuate this idea that work can be your family, HR is going to take care of you, retention and tenure matters and companies want to hold on to people. And when I challenge HR professionals about whether or not that's still true, everyone admits that it's not, but they usually don't have the language to talk about it.

How would you advise executives and HR professionals to talk about work culture?

Reid Hoffman did a book recently that talked about tours of duty. I think talking about work culture differently involves conversations about how careers and employment have a 50/50 relationship. Individuals should seek opportunities where they can do their best work, and where their best work is important to whoever they work for.

"Individuals should seek opportunities where they can do their best work, and where their best work is important to whoever they work for."

The same goes for companies. When they focus on tenure and retention, then they encourage people to remain in jobs that they may not be great at anymore.

Now that time spent at a company is off the table, what red flags should HR be looking for when they attempt to recruit and retain talent?

They need to understand when they interview people what the reasons are for people changing jobs. Did they work at companies that made a significant impact? Were those companies well run? And secondly, as people changed jobs, what did they learn? You want to look for an employee who not only ticks off all the skill boxes, but who's shown a proclivity for learning something new in every role they've ever had.

What advice do you have for HR professionals who are just launching their talent programs?

I think the most important thing that any of us can do, both startup founders and HR, is to define really clearly what the company's about, what it's trying to accomplish and what the timeframe is for rolling out the program. If you have clarity around those things first, then you can work backwards and put together the right program to hire the best candidates.

Can you describe your ideal job candidate?

There isn't one specific thing or formula that leads to an ideal candidate. Recruiters should look for people who are not only qualified to help solve problems, but who are genuinely motivated to help solve problems—not people who are motivated by a higher salary or the presence of, say, a kegerator.

"You want a company full of many different people who can solve many different problems in many different ways."

You want a company full of many different people who can solve many different problems in many different ways; it's not just diversity of how people look and act—that's important, too—but diversity of opinion and approach.

This interviewed has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photo: Twenty20