Thinking Out-of-the-Box to Solve Diversity Problems

You won’t hire more diversity candidates by “sensitivity” training. This is another outdated HR idea comparable to competency models, behavioral interviewing and the use of like/dislike personality tests to predict fit.

The fact that Google fired someone for writing some ill-advised manifesto makes no sense either. The dumb manifesto and the dumb firing and the dumb solution indicates that there’s a bigger issue at play. Why not figure out why the person wrote the memo to begin with and then put him on a project team with a lot of diverse talent to find a true solution?

Google and every other company that wants to hire more diverse talent need to recognize that when you have a strategic problem you need to first figure out the root cause of the problem and develop a new strategy before implementing a bunch of old-fashioned programs with new names. To me, if HR wants to be strategic they first have to begin thinking strategically.

I have an early background in overhauling processes and systems to better control product design and manufacturing costs. When I became a recruiter it was obvious that hiring was the most inefficient of all business processes. Twenty years ago I had this graphic drawn for one of my first training courses.

Sadly, little has changed. Here’s my top 10 list of pervasive problems with some obvious solutions.

  1. The wrong talent strategy leads to the wrong process. A surplus of talent strategy designed to weed out the weak won't work when a surplus of talent doesn’t exist. In a scarcity of talent situation you need to attract the best in.
  2. Skills-based job descriptions are useless. The best people get promoted for none of the stuff written on the job descriptions. When I take a search assignment I ask the hiring manager what the person needs to do to be considered successful. This results in a performance-based job description describing the 5-6 key performance objectives for the job. Then I find people who are motivated and competent to do this work. This is how you open up the pool to more diverse and high potential candidates and people with non-traditional backgrounds.
  3. The assessment process is flawed. You don’t assess competency, fit and motivation by box-checking skills, giving personality tests and conducting behavioral interviewing. You assess competency by having the candidate prove they have done comparable work under comparable conditions of complexity and stress.
  4. The best people want more money. The best people always want more money than the budget. The only way they’ll take less is if they see the job as a true career move. A career move is a minimum 30% non-monetary increase consisting of a bigger job, more satisfying work, a job with more impact and faster upside potential. Proving this is why you need a skilled recruiter and a fully-engaged hiring manager.
  5. Everyone is biased, especially hiring managers. You can’t train people to be objective. You need to systematize it out. I have 12 bias eliminating tips that help minimize interviewer bias, but the best ones are conducting more well-organized panel interviews, assigning people narrower interviewing roles, and using crowd sharing to complete our Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard.
  6. We should listen to Maslow and Harvard Prof Todd Rose. When people are screened out based on the skills, eliminated from consideration based on their compensation needs and accept offers that are at best ill-defined lateral transfers, success is problematic. Check out Rose’s The End of Average for more on this critical idea.
  7. The legal justification for “tradition” is an excuse for not changing. I asked the top labor attorney from the number one law firm in the U.S. his opinion on all of the above. I included his whitepaper in my latest book. Here’s his point on diversity: Focusing on “Year 1 and Beyond” criteria may open the door to more mi­nority, military, and disabled candidates who have a less “traditional” mix of experiences, thereby supporting affirmative action or diversity efforts.
  8. Being more efficient doing the wrong things masks activity for progress. Being faster at weeding out the people you’re not going to hire based on some AI algorithm might seem state-of-the-art, but it’s actually based on outdated thinking. As part of the redesign effort, replace the “Apply” button with a “Let’s have a conversation” button. Rather than submitting a resume, have interested prospects submit a short write-up of a major accomplishment most comparable to an important job need.
  9. HR is too risk averse. In HR there are too many followers and not enough leaders. Being different is the key to hiring stronger people. Playing it safe and waiting for some “authority” to give the okay is a recipe for being too late.
  10. Minimizing hiring errors is not the same as hiring stronger people. Any structured interview will eliminate some emotional mistakes and those caused by a hurried or superficial process. In fact, a causal factor analysis will prove that this is the reason behavioral interviewing can be statically justified as effective. To hire stronger people you must implement steps 1-9.

For the last 20 or so years I’ve begun all training sessions and talks by asking, “Have you won the war for talent yet?” No one answers “Yes.” The reasons why are listed above. What I can’t figure out is why HR and talent leaders are unwilling to change.