I recently worked for a company where you could tell who worked in what area just by looking at them. All the pretty blonde interns from the same sorority worked in sales with the other pretty blonde 30 somethings who started in the same place. Not only did our entire sales department look like a setting from the Stepford Wives, but it was racist.
One of our associate feedback surveys delivered comments about this department being “young, pretty, and white.” I worked in HR at the time. I remember watching our HR department start spinning their wheels, stunned that someone could notice how startlingly white this are of the business could be.
After some preliminary digging into the cause of the white out in our Sales Department, it became clear that we had a problem. Why did our hiring managers keep choosing the same person?
They Are Hiring Clones Of Themselves
Remember the episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte is looking to hire her replacement at the gallery? She is on a mission to hire herself but 10 years younger. Not only did this decision rule out the possibility of introducing new talents to the art gallery. But it meant that she was looking to hire a young and white person, excluding talent of varied ages and races.
Your business will fail if you only hire the same person over and over. Here is how:
- You are missing out on varied skill sets that could be beneficial to your business. Failing to diversify your talent is like having a stock portfolio with only startup tech companies. It may be working for you now, but if another Apple shows up and shakes the industry, your portfolio is screwed. You have to diversify to protect your assets in finance, so why wouldn’t you diversify your talent?
- You are rolling the dice with a lawsuit (that you will lose). Age and race are protected classes. If you are looking for young and white people, you are discriminating. All it takes is one person you reject with flimsy reasoning to sue you. Not only would the legal costs harm you financially, but the cost to your brand reputation may cause irreparable damage.
- You will only be able to attract and retain the same type of clients. Think of the retail industry. Let’s say you are able to attract a lot of business from young and fashionable clothing brands because those are the types of people you hire. Your clients can relate to you. But now you are missing out on clothing brands for plus sizes, or more mature consumers. You could attract more diverse clients if you have a workforce that can relate to them.
Policies Don’t Support Diversity
I am a Lebanese-American who was raised a muslim. Meaning, I fasted every Ramadan and couldn’t eat or drink anything when the sun was out. So, as soon as sunset rolled around, my body was ready to eat and drink ALL THE THINGS. Luckily I worked for a company that was respectful and allowed me to take a break at sunset throughout the month of Ramadan. We could be swamped with work, or in the middle of a late meeting. But right at Sunset, my leader would say “Sarah- dinnertime!” And I would run out of there so fast and stick my face in the water fountain for 10 straight minutes.
I loved that job. If I weren’t such an ambitious person, I might have stayed there forever. This is largely because they were not only accommodating to my needs, but completely supportive and understanding. Islamophobia is rampant in this country and I was grateful to have a safe haven in my workplace.
You need to create a work environment where diverse people feel comfortable and safe. This is more than a legal requirement, it is a human one. Make reasonable accommodations to support your people no matter the background.
Recruiting In The Same Places
One of the reasons the Sales Department was able to hire clones of themselves so easily is that we recruited from the same place, every time. Miami University was our career fair bread and butter. Don’t get me wrong, this is an excellent university and at least we were recruiting within Ohio. But this school has a very specific predominant demographic:
The irony is that the company I worked for was based in Columbus, Ohio. Home of the Buckeyes. But we almost never recruited from Ohio State University. If we did, we would have had a greater chance at attracting a more diverse workforce.
Step out of your recruiting comfort zone and try actively searching for diversity. Go to career fairs schools with a varied population. Join community associations and events that promote diversity. This will expand your pool of talent and help build your workforce.
Typically your hiring managers are not outright racist on purpose. Most people are not seeking out to discriminate. But this doesn’t mean that society hasn’t subtly conditioned your leaders to have a bias that they might not even know they have.
For instance, did your hiring leader decide this person wasn’t fit to work with clients because her name was too weird? Or her handshake was too soft? These are biases that can contribute to racial discrimination. Asian women are taught not to have a firm handshake. And black people often have unique names. This has nothing to do with their actual ability to do the job and everything to do with your bias. When hiring for a certain role, hire for the skill set regardless of names, handshakes, or any other unchecked bias you may have.
Are your hiring managers continually passing on diverse recruits? This may be because:
- They are hiring talent just like themselves
- Your policies do not support diversity or make reasonable accommodations
- They are recruiting from the same hegemonic talent pool
- They aren’t aware of their own biases
Encourage your leaders to expand beyond these common errors and begin building a diverse workforce today! Your business will gain a wide variety of skillsets and talent and you will be able to attract more clients.
Are your hiring managers making your company racist? Let us know in the comments!