A small window into diversity and inclusion recruitment efforts…
When we set out to fill a position, we create the detailed description and include everything that we feel would set this role apart, adding value to the organization. In the process, we make sure to list skill requirements, experience preferences and education minimums; which mostly serve to fulfill competitive salary range requirements. Then, we set about reviewing applications and scheduling interviews with interested parties who meet these qualifications.
If we’re fortunate, there are more than enough applicants to choose from. They are well able to perform the responsibilities laid out in the carefully crafted position description, so we should be golden – right? Oftentimes, this is where objectivity is set aside and implicit bias kicks in. All of a sudden, we feel the need to narrow the candidate pool by skimming through the crème de la crème and looking for “the best organizational culture fit”. We look for clues in writing style or background, in educational institution choices or hobbies. The “best organizational culture fit” could mean different things to different employers… but in general, it ends up being someone who thinks like us and our team members; someone who will most likely act consistently in ways that we deem appropriate. After-all, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out like-minded individuals or surrounding yourself with kindred spirits – right? In the end we are so proud! We’ve hit all the diverse candidate boxes in our recruitment efforts, and our new hire may even represent a minority group. On-boarding takes place and the first month or two passes before we realize that somehow, we’ve ended up with an employee who fits neatly into the organizational culture box created and maintained by leadership.
So… here’s the question: Where’s the rub? You know, the challenge – the change agency potential? Without differences of thought, we are kidding ourselves to think that these laundered methods for obtaining diverse and inclusive organizations will ever succeed in promoting or developing the positive and sustainable freshness we desire. Maybe we really don’t want change as much as we would like to think. If that’s the case, we shouldn’t wonder why we are stuck in a cycle of insanity – doing the same things repeatedly, while wholeheartedly expecting different results.
In her book, “Educated”, Author Tara Westover shares insights and perceptions on the purpose of education…
“We think about education as a stepping-stone into a higher socio-economic class, into a better job. And it does do those things. But I don’t think that’s what it really is. I experienced it (education) as getting access to different ideas and perspectives and using them to construct my own mind.”
This is an amazing read – so by all means… take a deep dive. For the purpose of this topic, however, I want to draw your attention to the last part of the quote and focus on the experience of education (being one of many requirements in our position description). Taking on this view, you an see how education plays a role in creating diversity. Paraphrasing, the author states that education is seen as a means of accessing ideas and perspectives not currently held, so that we can make up our own minds. Education in its many forms (to include life’s experiences) provides us the tools needed to think more broadly, to explore possibilities and to make up our own minds. That doesn’t mean we aren’t team players, but it does mean that we shouldn’t be pressured to conform without meaningful conversation.
Leading Edge: The next time you read an exemplary cover letter outlining what an employee would like to help you accomplish or hear an enlightened plan for project growth and development from a candidate during an interview, don’t be quick to dismiss it because it may challenge existing norms or upset current team members. Candidates are increasingly setting themselves apart; boldly outlining the differences they would bring to the organization if presented with an opportunity to do so. Value lies in having a diverse pool of perspectives; not just a diverse group of people.
When we deprive our organizations of those who may not always agree with the status quo or the latest idea, we are choosing to ignore the potential for adopting value adds – like fresh consumer insight or brand expansion possibilities. In effect we run the risk of forfeiting new levels of success.
I know all too well… Hiring within an established comfort level is easy and safe; and can accommodate a certain level of diversity and inclusion. And if you want to hire people who will always agree with you; have at it. Besides, there’s always risk involved in stepping beyond the organizational norm.
We can stop kidding ourselves if we’re ready take the risk and to lead. If you’re still reading, I challenge you to retrain yourself and your recruitment team (since the application screening process may well be out of your hands) – to look for the what you haven’t seen and listen for what you haven’t heard. There’s always something to learn – and learning can be just as invigorating to an organization as it is to the individual. If we aren’t learning, we aren’t growing. And if we aren’t growing… our competitors are winning.