Enough already with the diversity committees and inclusiveness training!
If you want diversity and inclusion in the workplace, you need to promote and hire differently.
It is really that simple.
I have worked with clients in transforming their company cultures for nearly 30 years. Diversity and inclusion continues to be a stumbling block for many. Why? The fact remains that people hire other people that look, think, and behave like them. It seems that no amount of training or awareness sessions is going to change this reality. Rather, we must decide to deliberately change whom we hire and promote.
Of course, there has been much written about unconscious and implicit bias in the past few years. No need to rehash the differences here. At the end of the day, understanding the reason why we operate with bias is far less important than recognizing that we are biased and we need to change our behavior to fix it. That said, making the appropriate changes in behavior does require concentrated effort.
Take, for instance, Client One. I have been working with Client One on several different strategic initiatives for the past few years. Client One has a diversity and inclusion program. It has hosted training and cultural sensitivity classes over all of the years that I’ve worked with them. It has made diversity hiring a goal. It even went so far as to conduct a survey of staff to measure the degree of bias only to discover the overwhelming majority of respondents (over 80 % of whom are white) saw little or no bias in the workplace.
Yet, Client One’s hiring and retention rates of minority staffers remain about the same. Even more interesting, the numbers suggest that for every new minority hire, one is lost to attrition. It seems that few minority hires decide to stay for very long.
When asked, the leadership team at Client One, points to a variety of factors for this phenomenon. These include location (which may be less attractive to some new hires), the inability to offer promotional opportunities at a fast enough pace to suit high potential workers and a lack of variety in work assignment.
What strikes me about these factors is that none of them refer to the facts that Client One:
- has few minority role models in higher ranks within the organizational structure (a characteristic that may send the message to a minority new hire that there are few opportunities to rise in the organization, if you are a person of color);
- all recent open supervisory and management roles have been filled by internal hires (none of them minorities); and,
- the person responsible for driving diversity and inclusion is 3 levels removed from the president (giving them little direct influence on policy-setting or input on hiring and promotion decisions).
Clearly, Client One is well-meaning, but, truly ineffective in building a more diverse organization.
What To Do
The solution to this dilemma is simple to define, but, is challenging to implement. Put simple, Client One must change its hiring and promotion practices to include more people of color.
Sure, there are implications to confront and several questions that need a definitive answer, including:
- Does this mean that Client One must hire more people of color?
- Does it mean that Client One needs to look outside when filling management positions?
- Does it mean that a hiring manager may not always get the final say in who is chosen to fill an open personnel requisite?
- Should a Diversity Officer sit on the top leadership team?
Yes, to all of the above. However, if Client One is serious about building a more diverse workforce then these are the kinds of changes in behavior that are necessary to make it happen.
It can be done.
In fact, Client One took similar actions when it decided that it needed more women in its workforce and more women leaders among its management ranks. It accomplished both of these goals quite successfully. Today, about 50% of Client One’s workforce is women.
To close, it’s time we all stop talking about diversity and start doing something about it. More study and awareness is not making workplaces more diverse. Rather, making deliberate changes in the way they hire and promote are the only means in which businesses are successfully shifting their workforces.
All that is truly needed, right now, is the will to make change happen.