James is the Chief Human Resource Officer at a Company G, a professional services firm. For years he has been committed to increasing the diversity of the employee population at the firm, especially at the mid- and senior-management levels. He is well aware of the beneficial impacts of diversity on multiple measures of company success, from innovation to customer relations to profitability. He has the backing of the CEO and the senior leadership team. He has helped to establish Employee Resource Groups for women, LGBTQ, and members of racial minority groups. He has brought in trainers to increase employees’ awareness of racial and gender bias and stereotyping. Every year he has been tracking the number of new minority hires. And the numbers haven’t budged.
This summer, the sharply increased focus on racial injustice and exclusion has led James to reflect once more on his own attitudes and biases. It has renewed his commitment to make a difference on the diversity front at Company G. But he is very frustrated – what else can he do that will really make a difference?
3 Things to Boost Diverse Hiring Practices
I would advise James do three things. First, keep doing what he has been doing. Senior sponsorship, ERGs, and bias training are important pieces of the puzzle.
Second, take a tip from a recent column in The Wall Street Journal by Dan Ariely (July 18-19, page C5). Ariely recommends a technique he calls “behavioral mapping.” James should imagine that he is Maria, a highly-qualified minority applicant who would be a great hire for Company G. What are the linear steps she would need to take to win a job at Company G?
- Find out there’s an opening
- Learn more about the company and the role
- Believe she has a shot at getting the job
- Network with people who might help her get a foot in the door
- Create an impressive resume that successfully describes her experience and skills
- Fill out an application or notify the recruiter that she is interested
- Make a great impression at the interview
- Successfully negotiate pay, benefits, and other aspects of the role.
I’m sure there are other steps I have missed in this list, but it’s a start. The list will help James to identify where there are structural barriers that keep underrepresented applicants out of the running. Is Company G advertising openings in a place where Maria would look? Does the website make the company look attractive to a wide range of candidates? Is Maria likely to have contacts who know people at Company G? When she comes for her interview, will she get a fair shot if she speaks with an accent? As Ariely put is, “To achieve racial equity, removing structural barriers is just as important as fighting explicit bias.” Or implicit bias, for that matter.
Third, in my experience, real progress on diversity in hiring only happens when the bonuses of senior executive are dependent on meeting explicit diversity targets. Executive bonus structures reflect what the company thinks is important. If the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Information Officer know they won’t make their bonuses unless they increase minority hiring by x% annually – presto! It seems to happen much more quickly.
It’s time for James and other senior leaders to step up and recognize the urgency of this issue. By adding behavioral mapping and contingent executive bonuses to the mix, I bet they can get the job done.
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