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Combating a Bias for "People Like Me"

We’ve made the case for years that companies should put effort into improving the diversity and inclusion in their workforces, from top to bottom. And we’ve made that case based on business reasons, not simply out of a sense to do good and be fair. Businesses benefit from including a diverse range of perspectives, experiences and insights in their companies.

In an article for Forbes, Josh Bersin cites data from a number of sources to bolster this point:

  • McKinsey's research shows that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same.

  • Catalyst research shows that companies with more women on the board statistically outperform their peers over a long period of time.

  • Deloitte Australia research shows that inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80% in team-based assessments.

Yet, despite the benefits of diversity and inclusion, and growing efforts among businesses across the country to make improvements in this area, there is still a long way to go. Much of the impact on diversity in organizations can be traced back to the people doing the hiring. In fact, they may be the root cause for a lack of diversity in many organizations!

In an article for HR Dive, Valerie Bolden-Barrett cites a new report by Namely, an HR platform, that indicates that there is a strong tendency for people to hire people who are like themselves. In fact, she writes: “80% of men in the study have male bosses, while more than 50% of women report to other women.”

The problem here is two-fold. First, there is a lack of diversity in many companies among the people doing the hiring. Second, those people doing the hiring have a preference for those like them – those that look like them and have similar backgrounds and experiences. Unless something is done to address these issues, the progress towards greater diversity will be slower than it needs to be. We can already see this in a number of fields. “Men dominate the energy, construction, sporting goods and technology industries, while women make up the majority of workers in the insurance, public relations, fashion​ and non-profit industries,” writes Bolden-Barrett.

A two-pronged problem should be addressed with a two-pronged solution. At the same time companies work to diversify the pool of people (managers and HR professionals) making hiring decisions, they should also be educating the existing pool on the tendency of people to hire those like them. Just as with any unconscious bias challenge, the first step is simply making people aware of that bias in the first place.

What steps are you doing to ensure that your HR professionals, recruiters and hiring managers are being inclusive in their selection, hiring and promotion decisions?

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Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has inclusion training solutions and strategic consulting that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.

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