- Posted by alpina_admin
- On 16th May 2017
- 0 Comments
- Diversity, Hiring, Unconscious Bias
The situation may well be familiar. Your leadership team gathers to discuss diversity within the business, whilst apparently failing to notice the fact that the group around the table is largely white, middle-class and middle-aged. Yes, there may be the occasional ‘other’ person who doesn’t fall within this primary demographic but the reality is that most businesses are still way behind in the diversity stakes.
And you cannot afford to ignore the topic. In fact, the subject of cultural diversity is probably one that you feel strongly about. Some of the biggest brands in the world are also furrowing their brows and trying to work out how to create a more representative workforce, that matches their own customer groups and the broader population.
So is it a problem?
The short answer is yes. Every business leader knows the statistics around the value of diversity; better creativity, better productivity, better innovation and higher sales. Simply put, customers like to see firms that represent the world around them. Women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, the LGBT community… whichever group you look at, the fact is that they want to be able to engage with brands that look like them.
But isn’t the problem external? After all, you KNOW you aren’t biased in any way. In fact, you’ll go out of your way to find the absolute best people for the job.. And yet…
Assumptions can be dangerous
The problem isn’t the candidate pool. Research has proven that it is just as diverse as the wider population. And this is where things get dangerous. Because if we believe that the problem is somehow a recruitment pipeline issue, then we run the risk of patting ourselves on the back, telling ourselves that we are doing ‘everything we can’ and hoping that we can get someone in at board level soon that just neatly ticks a number of boxes all in one fell swoop…
Bad news. You are the problem
The real blocker to your diverse workforce is you. Unconscious bias is a proven phenomenon and a hugely significant one in many businesses. It means that subconscious views and extraneous factors are endlessly affecting the hiring decisions that we make. On the surface, you may believe that you are fair and diverse. Under the surface, however, an entire lifetime of conditioning is at play.
What this means
In a nutshell, you keep recruiting people that ‘look like you’. Why? Because you approve of them. If you are a white male, then you will notice candidates who are also white males and prioritise them. The hard truth is that you simply won’t notice candidates who look different. Because this activity is happening on a very deep, subconscious level, you probably aren’t even aware that it is happening.
Good news. You can fix it
If the problem is big enough for Google to earmark $150 million to tackle diversity then you know it’s time to get serious. Don’t worry, you don’t need $150 million to throw at the problem, but you do need to take action in a concerted way.
Firstly, acknowledge the problem. Look around you, see where you are not yet representative of the audiences that you serve and your customer groups. Then, begin to talk about the problem. Open up debate on the issue – at all levels and across all functions. Listen to what people have to say.
Consider bringing in an HR consultant with diversity expertise, and ask them to review your business and recommend improvements.
Alternatively, take the DIY approach and measure success by your pool of incoming recruits. An initial key step is to remove names from CVs and assign them all with a number instead. This removes the unconscious bias associated with names and ensures that the best people for the job get through to interview stage. At interview, consider bringing in external HR assistance or a specialist recruiter for an objective viewpoint that isn’t biased.
You should start to see lower staff turnover, fewer HR issues and a more innovative, creative workplace thanks to the richer pool of experience and background within it. This, in turn, will lead to competitive advantage when nurtured over time. Engagement will rise too. Nike enjoyed a 6 percent increase in staff engagement for every 10 percent increase in diversity. Don’t forget the PR benefits either.
So if you are looking around your office right now and absorbing the reality of your unconscious bias, the question is this: what measures will YOU implement to change your hiring culture?
This article was written by Daiva Naravaite, COO, AlpinaSearch. If you’d welcome advice on attracting and retaining a diverse team of A-Players at your growth technology venture, head over to www.alpinasearch.com/clients