You’re Probably Addressing Workplace Diversity All Wrong. Here’s What You Should Be Doing Instead by Brad Wayland
These days, it seems as though inclusiveness is the golden goose for human resources, particularly those operating in technology. The problem is that most businesses go about it in entirely the wrong way, falling into toxic traps like hiring quotas and tokenism. This needs to change.
How does that phrase make you feel? If you’re anything like me, not great. For one, it’s dehumanizing, reducing a new employee down to a single label, ignoring everything else about their accomplishments and who they are as a person.
You’re hiring them because of a quality over which they have no control rather than because of what they can do.
You’re no longer hiring Kristin the Data Scientist, who graduated with top marks from Stanford. She’s Kristin the woman. You aren’t hiring Greg the Marketing Director, with over ten years of experience and a master’s in Marketing Science from Columbia. You’re hiring Greg the black man. You’re not hiring Lucas because he graduated from New York University and worked on Wall Street. You’re doing it because he’s gay, and you have a quota to fill.
You get the idea.
“I’m a dream hire for most technology companies,” writes Jori Ford, Senior Director of Content and SEO at peer-to-peer G2 Crowd. “In an industry dominated by white, straight males, a lesbian with both black and Korean heritage checks a lot of boxes. And that’s the problem. In response to the demand for more diverse hiring practices, technology firms have resorted to quotas that ultimately miss the point.”
But isn’t it admirable to seek out men and women who are traditionally underrepresented in your industry?
Yes, but you need to be doing it for the right reasons. Not to fulfil some bogus corporate initiative or make your business look better in the eyes of investors and customers. And not with a focus that begins and ends at hiring and retention.
You should hire someone underrepresented because they might bring a unique perspective to your workplace. You should hire them because discrimination is harmful to everyone, at every level of a business. But most importantly, you should do it if you genuinely believe they’re the best candidate for the job.
There’s another angle to this whole conversation, as well. Simply bringing in a diversity hire will not make your workplace more diverse. Diversity requires that your organization rethink its values and mission. Here’s how:
• Work within your organization to find out what preconceptions your people hold about others, and why. Negative stereotypes do not develop in a vacuum, and challenging them is the first step to fostering greater inclusiveness.
• Look at your employees as people rather than resources, and ensure your colleagues do the same. Empathic leadership, as noted by tech publication CIO, is at the core of inclusiveness.
• Make diversity an ongoing effort rather than a single initiative, and focus on retention as well as hiring. Culture is not something that can be changed overnight, nor can inclusiveness be assured by handing out a few pamphlets.
• For the hiring process, consider implementing a blind evaluation phase. Your hiring department will look exclusively at each candidate’s credentials, without knowing anything else about their identity.
When you hire someone to fulfil a quota or simply for the sake of having a more diverse workplace, you’re putting the cart before the horse. Diversity and inclusiveness aren’t something that can be automated, nor can they be dealt with through spreadsheets. Understanding that is the only way you’ll make your workplace genuinely inclusive.
Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.
Smart Recruit Online offers an award-winning talent attraction software that will streamline and revolutionise your recruitment strategy.
To find out how we can tailor our services to match your recruitment needs, including reducing selection bias, click here.
Job Skills Needed for HR Leaders of the Future by Lars Schmidt.
Human resources originally evolved out of a personnel-based function rooted in administrative and compliance-driven tasks that historically haven’t been perceived as adding value to organisations in the same way that sales, marketing, or engineering do. And if you dissect old-school HR teams, you’ll find many practitioners who’ve spent most of their careers in the field; career paths have tended to be linear, rising from coordinator to manager, ultimately all the way up to the top chief human resources officer (CHRO). This career path meant the function was rarely infused with perspectives and practices from outside the field, and often led to insular ideas on what it means for an HR professional to support the business.
Times are changing. According to a report last year issued by HR Open Source (HROS), the community platform for HR professionals that I co-founded, 68% of current HR professionals have worked in fields outside of human resources. Inevitably, they’re steadily cross-pollinating the HR function with new skills and ideas that organizations should be all too eager to embrace. Still, modern HR requires more than a semantic shift from “human resources” to “people operations.” It requires broader capabilities and job skills than have typically been demanded of HR professionals in the past–allowing them to tackle critical issues ranging from sexual harassment to emerging recruiting technologies, not to mention a business and industry acumen to rival their executive peers.
With those needs in mind, here are a few big-ticket skills that HR leaders will need in order to adapt to the future of work.
Something transformative seems to have happened over the last decade or so. As the field of “employer branding” matured, HR added a rarely used term to describe itself: “creative.” HR is now on the front lines of most company’s branding efforts, telling stories and shaping prospective hires’ perceptions of what it’s like to work in your organization. That’s pushing HR professionals to coordinate with marketing teams, making sure the organization’s people narratives support and align with its consumer branding. As a result, modern HR leaders need to think much more creatively than their predecessors. They should understand social media and digital engagement as well as the types of compelling and authentic messages to attract the right talent.
According to HR tech analyst William Tincup, there are over 24,000 HR software tools on the market today, with recent estimates valuing the market at some $400 billion. Artificial intelligence, bots, blockchain, automation, and technologies are rapidly transforming the HR technology ecosystem. But that’s no guarantee they’ll all be adopted, let alone implemented properly. Indeed, separating hype from substance and finding effective ways to harness emerging technologies in order to execute an effective people strategy is now a vital skill. This is particularly true in small to mid-size organizations where HR leaders often run lean teams without dedicated HR analysts to advise them.
Any effective leader who represents and manages employees needs great communication skills, and HR leaders are no exception. But skill with narratives that can influence and engage people–both inside and outside the organization–will be even more vital in the future. As human resources become an ever more public-facing function, HR leaders will need to be able to articulate an organization’s value propositions as an employer, not just as a company that sells a product or service. And being able to connect with a broad range of audiences through compelling stories is key. It’s what inspires people to rally behind a company’s mission and purpose–and, ultimately, decide to apply to jobs there and stick around once hired.
While hardly a new skill set for HR executives, the complexity of modern business and the expectation that HR leaders will be trusted advisers to the CEO, make deeper business and operational knowledge all the more critical. Effective HR leaders now need a strong grasp of their organisations’ business model and market strategy, industry dynamics and competitive landscape, and how all those components impact human capital–from hiring and performance to diversity and inclusion. What’s more, HR leaders will need to develop adaptable people strategies that can evolve with the business.
So it’s no surprise that one of the most significant shifts in the field over recent years is the focus on data. In the recent HROS report, “people analytics” was the field with the highest increase in expected impact (22%) among HR professionals, 48% of whom said their organizations planned to invest in people-analytics software over the next three years. This means that modern HR leaders have growing access to enormous amounts of data on recruitment, retention, performance, productivity, employee satisfaction, and more. How they gather, evaluate, and ultimately interpret that data to drive their strategy is what’s really important.
This list of emerging job skills for HR leaders is far from comprehensive. Empathy, compassion, emotional intelligence, knowledge of diversity and inclusion issues, coaching, and more are all vital elements of HR’s expanding role. Which traits might be more critical than others may depend on the leader, the company, and its culture. Still, a broad skill set is vital–not just to bring HR out of the back-of-house position where it’s long languished, but to bring entire companies forward into the future, too.
By Lars Schmidt
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