Inclusive Hiring to Build Better Teams … Period

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This excerpt from Inclusion Revolution, a new book by Daisy Auger-Domínguez, provides a practical road map for making meaningful progress in workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

People have a hard time hiring people outside of their comfort zone. You can design and implement the most inclusive hiring practices, but if your managers are not willing to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion across the business, you will struggle to attract and retain diverse talent. A diverse team doesn’t happen overnight. Culture change takes time, and representation is only one measure of progress.

We need to start somewhere. To set yourself up for success, you need clarity on metrics (what you’re aiming toward), transparency (how different processes lead to different outcomes), and accountability (who is responsible: The recruiter? The hiring manager? The team leader? The colleague who made the referral? Quick tip: The answer is all of the above).

Academic researchers Siri Chilazi and Iris Bohnet have shown that behavior change requires transformations along two dimensions: the will and the way. It’s not enough to be motivated to be an inclusive leader or to publicly commit to anti-racism if you do not have the knowledge and the skills to act on that ambition. Goals have the potential to transform behaviors because they provide both the will (motivation) and the way (understanding and skills) to change.

When goal setting, how you incentivize and hold people responsible for achieving the desired outcome can be the difference between success and failure. Accountability is key; there is no other route to success. Goals help motivate behavioral change by promoting accountability and transparency; boosting pride, recognition, and competitiveness; and shifting perceptions of desirable outcomes.

Diversity hiring goals should be a part of every employee’s job description and annual performance review and should be factored into compensation and promotion decisions. Meeting the company’s diversity hiring goals should be specifically stressed for middle managers and executives whose outsize positions enable them to change company hiring practices.

In five years, Nike has achieved more than 50% BIPOC representation through inclusive hiring practices like attaching key metrics to hiring and holding leaders accountable for representational growth in their teams. Now, Nike has its sights set on senior leadership positions and has pledged in the next five years to increase representation of women and BIPOC in those roles, tying executive compensation to the success of hitting those targets.

Linking hiring goals with executive compensation — as Accenture, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Mercer, and other companies have done — can be equally successful in engaging the whole company. Even if you’re unable to influence new hires across departments, or you lack the approval for your own hires, you can, as a manager, set your own metrics of success for what you can control. What is the composition of your team and what do you think it should be? When you have an open role on your team, clearly define the opportunity to shift the diversity composition of your business and culture. Be as specific as possible to align your recruitment plans with business needs. Also, think about what other aspects of business you have the ability to “hire” for, whether it’s a product vendor, a freelancer or contingent worker, or speakers at a conference.

Next, communicate these targets broadly. Studies have shown that when you share your goals with others, you are twice as likely to achieve them. When you share them publicly, there are millions of people watching and keeping score.

Joe Biden publicly committed to hiring a female vice president (and he did!). Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian stepped down from the company’s board and, via Twitter, urged his colleagues to fill his seat with a Black candidate. Some parliaments around the world achieve fairer gender representation (at least 50% female) through various reforms such as fining parties every year if they don’t have gender parity, or by using a “zipper” method, where a seat alternates between male and female leaders.

In 2015, April Reign was watching the Academy Award nominations while getting ready for work. “It struck me that there were no people of color nominated, so I picked up my phone and tweeted ‘#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair,’” she told The New York Times. It was the tweet that started a movement. In turn, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acknowledged it had work to do to address its membership, which was 94% white and 77% male. The proof was in the envelope: The 2015 nominations and Best Director snub for Ava DuVernay for Selma reflected a supreme lack of diversity in who had voting power.

But a year later, all 20 acting nominations went to white performers again. This is often the case in corporations where hiring initiatives fluctuate given shifting priorities at the leadership level and where there is a lack of focus on retention. At an emergency meeting, the Oscars’ board of governors launched A2020, a plan to double the number of women and ethnically underrepresented members in four years. They had to hit these goals; the Twitterverse was watching.

And they did. In 2020, the Academy invited 819 new members: 36% were BIPOC and 45% were women. To balance the compositional diversity throughout the organization — not just at the bottom — they also added six new governors, three women and one BIPOC.

Besides mandating unconscious bias training for all governors and making a commitment to building an anti-racist and inclusive organization, the most innovative and transformative new measure was a rule set forth for membership: New members will be eligible for a 10-year membership and must remain active in the film industry in some capacity.

This essentially means that aging white men no longer have membership for life, a practice that has for decades reduced opportunities for non-white men and women seeking access to executive and board positions. If we continue to focus our diversity hiring efforts on entry-level candidates alone, it will be decades before change happens at the senior level. These thoughtfully targeted new measures aimed at tackling bespoke needs of the Academy show that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to diversity hiring. Practices have to be tailored to the organization.

According to a McKinsey report on the Black workplace experience in the U.S. private sector, it will take 95 years for Black employees to reach talent parity (or 12% representation, equal to their current population percentage). You may be asking why companies continue to prioritize investing their capital in semiretired white men instead of hiring racially and ethnically diverse emerging talent. Well, one step is to acknowledge the biases and systems that keep institutions such as the Academy overwhelmingly old, white, and male and create a new system, such as term limits. The Oscars also released new inclusion standards for its Best Picture nominees, whereby a lead actor, subject matter, or percentage of the cast must highlight an underrepresented group. While these standards fall short at transforming an industry whose entire ecosystem is based on sustaining white male power, it’s a start to thread diversity into all layers of business. We can all learn lessons from these tailor-made goals to reach critical mass for all aspects of your work life.

Excerpted from Inclusion Revolution: The Essential Guide to Dismantling Racial Inequity in the Workplace, by Daisy Auger-Domínguez (Seal Press, an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc., 2022).

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