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Monday, November 7, 2016

Hiring the Best Talents for Diversity

Despite evidences showing the advantages of having a diverse workplace, there are still those who do not embrace diversity, in practise.

In fact, observe how people in the workplace congregate during office breaks. Most still associate with people similar to them.

And this behavior is likely practised in hiring, too. This is often due to what psychologists and researchers of a study refer to as an affinity biaswhich is a form of unconscious bias – by which we are led to favor people who are like us in ways, such as how they look like, sound like and behave like, among other similar traits. 

Affinity bias, according to the study above, also leads to favoritism and being blind to the faults of people we like, while being more focused on the faults of those we unconsciously dislike.

Unconscious biases do play out too in the hiring process, as numerous studies have shown. For example, when a recruitment panel is made up of the same gender – only males or only females - there is a tendency to hire candidates of the same gender. This tendency leads to overlooking the best candidates. Whereas “mixed gender panels are proven to make different hiring decisions due to the greater diversity of opinions on the panel.”

On the other hand, there are those who caution against hiring for diversity per se, saying it's reverse discrimination.

Reverse discrimination, as defined by Wikipedia, is discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. [...] Reverse discrimination can be defined as the unequal treatment of members of the majority groups resulting from preferential policies, as in college admissions or employment, intended to remedy earlier discrimination against minorities. 

Others see affirmative action as falling under this definition; The Oxford dictionary equates affirmative action with positive discrimination.

Another idea about reverse discrimination is that it is likely a result of hiring decisions based on well-motivated efforts to assist minorities or increase diversity, though leading to the same types of lawsuits and liabilities as are brought against employers who are accused of ill-motivated discrimination.

Perhaps what is actually unaccepatable is NOT diversity itself; rather when hiring is reduced to a mere numbers game, or a quota to fill; thus better-suited candidates are inadvertently left out. Such concern is valid if hiring is only about increasing numbers to create diversity.

Here's an excerpt from the article, The New Rules for a Diverse Workplace:
When businesses use diversity to understand different types of customers, develop products or services that are competitive, and gain insight on future industry trends, they're using diversity initiatives correctly. However, when their diversity program turns into a quota system and hiring managers overlook key talent just to meet a number in a spreadsheet, that's when the bottom falls out.

However, even with these diversity goals, without good inclusive policies integrated into the workplace culture, the company will lose its best talents in the long run. As this previous DiversityWorking article says, “Inclusion [...] is the engine that drives diversity programs to fruition and success.”

Diversity in background (race//ethnicity/culture/experience/) means a diversity of ideas and greater impetus to generate creativity and challenge thinking. Diverse thinking leads to challenging the status quo – thus enabling the company to better adapt to external changes in the business.

Thus, embracing diversity and inclusion makes a great difference in the workplace. Employees perform their utmost best and become more productive. The company performs better financially.

Studies in the recent years have proven that companies with great diversity perform remarkably way much better than their peers.
* McKinsey’s research hows that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same.
* Catalyst research shows that companies with more women on the board statistically outperform their peers over a long period of time.
* Deloitte Australia research shows that inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80% in team-based assessments. 

Here's another rationale for diversity: No diversity; no labor force.
According to Geoff Unwin, chief executive officer of management and IT consulting firm Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, demographics in the West are working against the needs of global corporations. "The rising demand for talent, combined with falling birth rates, is resulting in fierce competitions for the best recruits," says Mr. Unwin, who now dedicates 60% of his time to talent spotting. "And, given that tomorrow's work force will come from the developing parts of the world, a diverse make-up now is crucial to attract that talent in coming years. After all, without them we don't have a business."

How to hire the best for diversity without discrimination?

Blind hiring
An emerging pattern in hiring these days is creating a buzz: blind hiring. It involves hiding any personal information about a job candidates in order to gauge their job suitability based solely on their abilities. It is meant to eliminate biases as well as improve workplace diversity. Names, previous companies worked for, alma maters, –
are not weighted at all before making a decision about a candidate. Opinions about job candidates are solely based on their demonstrated work and skills.

Softwares have also been developed for this purpose of blind hiring, such as a proprietary software that finds candidates based on code they have published online and strips out biographical information before recommending them to employers.

Another software changes the voice of the candidate. Although this process is not welcome by all, as one job candidate - a black woman taking up computer science - shared with NPR, that if companies use blind hiring as a fix to eliminate bias, they might stop actively recruiting people like her.

However, it is early to say at this experimental stage of blind hiring how much bias can be minimized and to what degree diversity will increase. Most of all, will it improve the working climate in the organization?

Blind hiring or not, employers and their recruitment staff do need to become aware of their unconscious biases coming to the fore. A conscious effort is required to change our mindset about people, develop cultural awareness and challenge us to be more appreciative of the differences of others and see these as ingredients for change, creativity and growth.

Do's and Dont's of Hiring the Best for Diversity

* Craft a clear job description listing specific skills, functions and duties required of the job. Make clear to the hiring personnel the objectives of the job, and why the required skills and abilities are necessary and/or relevant.

* Use an inclusive language in the job description and in your job advertisement. Avoid specifying age, race, gender, skin color, and other personal characteristic requirements that may be deemed discriminatory. Make sure you include your company's Diversity Statement to encourage job seekers from different backgrounds to try out for the position.

* Focus on the job candidate's capabilities, more than his/her personal background, during the interview. Ask the applicant to demonstrate work skills in relation to the job. Avoid asking questions that can be regarded as intrusion into their private lives or health background, for that is illegal.

* Since your goal is to attract the best talents from a wide reach of the diverse population, it is important to have a hiring personnel who take your company's Diversity and Inclusion policies to heart, and who can intuitively sense the fitness of a talent based on his/her skills, abilities and potentials. This also includes being able to gauge whether the person has the openness to work with others and engage with their differences.

* See also these Best Practices in preventing race and color discrimination issued by the EEOC

Hiring the best people for your company while building greater diversity is doable, but it takes great effort to overcome the challenges that go with it, plus effective inclusion policies to make diversity working in the company. An inclusive workplace makes diverse people in the organization gel and work well together. An inclusive workplace helps you retain your best people, the most effective advertising you can make to attract the best diverse talents out there.

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