It's no secret that many companies struggle to nurture and promote diversity. As we see time and time again, diversity and its advancement are goals without easy solutions. Rather than be turned off by complexity and difficulty, companies and recruiters must approach diversity like they would any other issue, with determination, curiosity, and creativity. That’s what we’ve done here at Entelo, which is why diversity is one of our core tenets and its advancement is behind one of our flagship products.
Beyond the moral and ethical reasons, there are business considerations for why every company ought to make diversity a priority. Countless studies have shown that diversity initiatives improve morale, corporate culture, employee retention and recruitment, all of which increase a company’s competitive advantage.
A recent McKinsey & Company study found that at American companies “there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent.” That’s huge! By doubling your diversity, you could increase earnings by 8 percent or more.
A lack of diversity and openness also indicates a flawed work environment that drives groupthink and stifles innovation and progress. As written in the Harvard Business Review, “Without diverse leadership, women are 20% less likely than straight white men to win endorsement for their ideas; people of color are 24% less likely; and LGBTs are 21% less likely.” That’s a frightening and depressing thought, and could be why you’re having such a hard time keeping turnover down and margins up. Some of your best and brightest are being marginalized.
This brings us to the one of the most prevalent roadblocks when it comes to implementing diversity initiatives: unconscious bias. What makes unconscious bias such a tough nut to crack is that, well, it’s unconscious. Most people aren’t aware of the biases they hold, which makes for a very complex situation -- you can’t fix what you don’t realize is happening. There are three primary effects of unconscious bias:
- We gravitate towards people like us
- We make decisions based on stereotypes
- We are skeptical of people we perceive as threats
Imagine how many decisions are made every day, not because of logic or evidence, but based on our own preferences? How do we counteract that effects of bias, particularly in hiring? One word: data.
The availability of data and the rise of predictive analytics can greatly help companies reduce and eliminate unconscious bias. Modern computing and social networks give us more information than ever before about a person’s background – including gender, ethnicity, veteran status, etc. While the data isn’t complete or perfect, it eliminates much of the guesswork that organizations and their talent teams have faced in the past.
Another crucial way to improve diversity and combat biases is transparency, accountability and awareness. Training interview teams about unconscious bias and showing them the areas it manifests is a good first step to fairer candidate assessment. Make sure team members know that having unconscious biases doesn't make them a bad person. It's a (regrettable) aspect of human nature, but with openness and awareness can be curbed.
Pinterest is a great example of a company willingly putting their diversity under the microscope. Two years ago, in a post written by co-founder Evan Sharp, Pinterest publicly announced their new diversity initiatives, goals, and even listed their own internal demographic data. This gave everyone inside and outside the company a clear look at how and why Pinterest was putting diversity at the forefront.
One of Pinterest’s ideas was to institute a rule modeled on the NFL’s Rooney Rule that requires NFL franchises to interview one candidate from an underrepresented group every head coach or general manager opening. Since its implementation in 2003, the Rooney Rule has become one of the most famous diversity initiatives in the world and has more than doubled the number of minority head coaches in the NFL. How? Because an interesting thing happened because of the Rooney Rule. Instead of NFL owners and general managers calling their friends and seeing who was interested or available (a classic example of unconscious bias) they began to conduct their searches openly and transparently and look outside of their immediate network. It’s less about the fact that they had to interview one underrepresented candidate and more about the fact that they began looking beyond the usual suspects. The NFL now has more minority head coaches than all of college football, despite having only 25 percent of the head coaching roles.
It makes sense that hiring can come down to the quickest and easiest solutions to source good-enough candidates, but that means you’re missing out people from beyond your typical search pattern and network. Putting a Rooney Rule-like system in place for your entire company challenges your team to think outside the box and identify hard to find candidates from outside the typical pipelines. As the Pittsburgh Steelers saw when they hired a relatively inexperienced and unknown Defensive Coordinator named Mike Tomlin and promptly won the Super Bowl in his first season, the seemingly out of left field hires can make all the difference.
Now is the time to make diversity a priority at your organization. It starts with the commitment and willingness to have honest conversations and invest in concrete, meaningful policies. Diversity can fuel strong, resilient and impactful teams and organizations. The most innovative companies in the world know this. Now, so do you.