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The Biggest Diversity Hiring Myth

It's no secret that diversity and inclusion have become one of the most important areas for employers and talent organizations to focus on and invest in today. While DEI&B (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) has always been a recurring and vital element of recruitment, its growing popularity among practitioners and pundits can be directly related to societal upheaval — and national reckoning — around racial injustice and institutional unfairness.

Recruiting, on the other hand, is going through its reckoning. And with good reason. The problem is that, despite the continued scrutiny of our talent acquisition processes, platforms, and policies in order to mitigate (or at the very least, rein in) workplace discrimination, and despite our continued investment in systems and personnel to support these long-overdue efforts, numerous studies and surveys suggest that these initiatives have yet to produce any meaningful change or immediate impact in terms of quantifiable hiring outcomes.

The Fallacy of Diversity Data

Since there is a paucity of data establishing causation between D&I hiring and positive business results, the term "virtue signaling" has entered the mainstream vernacular in the last year, which, unfortunately, maybe the most progress we've made in getting meaningful outcomes from diversity efforts.

Either that, or we've lost my capacity to the source - trust us, we've looked everywhere for quantitative proof to back up the massive increase in D&I spending. But practically anything that comes close reveals, at best, correlation rather than causality.

On a procedural level, widely quoted figures like "businesses with more diverse boards' stock price surpass their competitors' stock price by 60%" are what they'd call "circumstantial proof." While headlines like "New Stanford study finds gender-diverse hiring boosts stock performance" are codified as institutional knowledge within the diversity industrial complex, they omit material information like "it remains unknown how, and why, investors react to gender diversity," according to the same widely cited study.

A False Narrative

The parts appear relatively convincing when presented logically and in the context of a larger story, but as any Dick Wolfe fan knows, even the most impressive circumstantial cases leave room for reasonable doubt.

This is not meant to belittle these projects' intentionsor to cast doubt on what appear to be genuine and non-cynical endeavors by corporations to critically analyze, reassess, and renew their D&I strategy.

Almost any way you crunch the figures, the data shows that hiring and growing a diverse staff remains a major barrier for even the most inclusive and progressive companies. And the stakes for success are unimaginably enormous.

However, diversity and inclusion have long been important components of human capital strategy, and diversity has been a major pillar of federal labor law and the focus of practically all associated compliance activities since the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in 1972.

The fact that the status quo persists in talent acquisition, despite years of effort and billions of dollars invested in various hiring initiatives in the interim, should be cause for great concern. The common perception is that businesses haven't done enough to attract and nurture diverse talent. This is generally untrue.

The Wrong Solutions

If you're reading this, you've probably been led to believe that fixing diversity hiring can be as simple as redacting identifiable information from resumes, using more gender-neutral wording in job descriptions, or leveraging existing people initiatives like ERGs or community-outreach initiatives in employer branding, promoting internal job opportunities, and generating more diverse referrals.

It's just that such efforts have had little impact because, at least in the area of talent acquisition, we're focusing on producing solutions that don't address the root cause of diverse hiring practices.

If companies were truly committed to creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce, they would likely recognize that continuing to use pre-employment background, reference, or credit checks — 94 percent of employers use at least one of these screening mechanisms — effectively eliminates a significant percentage of potentially diverse candidates.

Women are still paid less for the same job than their male counterparts; historically underrepresented minorities are still underrepresented in the workforce, and the majority of diverse workers who do get hired report feeling unsafe or unfairly treated because of their protected characteristics.

Not to mention the fact that I'm still writing articles about diversity and inclusion in recruiting after all these years. We discovered out how to use the block chain for authenticating before we figured out how to create representative employee demographics, for whatever reason. Of course, this is standard procedure in the recruiting industry.

Fix the Fundamentals

The truth is that "in-vogue strategies" like unconscious bias training, redacted resumes, and building diverse talent communities, which so many companies tout as "solutions" to a long-standing problem, actually add a lot of unnecessary complexity to an issue that is already one of the most complexes in TA and business today. Simplicity, not ambiguity, should be the first step in resolving D&I hiring issues.

We don't need to spend more money or add more technologies to our stack to make a significant difference in terms of diversity. We must do the exact opposite; namely, eliminate other sources of spending that detract from the return on our DEI&B investments.

These include some drastic departures from standard practices, such as the abolition of pre-employment drug screening or the requirement that all applicants undergo credit checks. These are not only a pain in the neck for recruiters, but they also have a disproportionate impact on underrepresented and diverse groups.

Instead of attempting to remove bias (which has never been demonstrated to be viable), perhaps we could recognize that bias has an impact on diversity and inclusion long before prospects or applications join our recruiting procedures.

Let's face it: basic qualifications that aren't job criteria are a far greater impediment to diversity hiring than any particular manager's or interviewers unconscious or otherwise active biases. Similarly, if a job posting contains perks like flexible working hours or childcare payments, it's irrelevant if the wording used to describe such perks is gender-neutral in terms of recruiting female candidates.

And maybe, just maybe, the secret to attaining equality and equity in hiring is to focus first on mending the foundations, rather than trying to cure what's broken with diversity and inclusion. You can't fight the system, as anyone who's ever used one knows, but you can find innovative methods to get around it when it's broken.

After all, that's why we invented source. Outsource your recruiting process with us and relax. We will hire the best for you.


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