How NOT to solve the diversity problem.

By October 18, 2017Company, Uncategorized
Diversity

Diversity is a huge issue, in Silicon Valley and beyond.  Organizations recognize the massive benefit of increasing diversity, not just of race and ethnicity, but also of socio-economic background, experiences, etc.  And, like other challenges, organizations often seek the silver bullet solution. In fact, many of the companies claiming to offer these solutions were discussed in “How Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem Created a New Industry” in Fast Company.

Improving diversity is so important, and while these may be silver bullets for the PR problem, they do not drive real, sustainable diversity.

 

The solutions being promoted are not new or unique, but rather rely on the same tools that companies have used / attempted to use for years for hiring in general: video interviews, assessments, proprietary algorithms that attempt to find matches… In the real world, these tools don’t work. The problems range from flawed assessments (thank you ETS for teaching me the difference between validity and reliability) to the massive cost and time requirement to understand the competencies required for each specific hire (e.g. the competencies for something as straightforward as an entry level accountant in Chicago’s tech team at a Big Four firm may be materially different than what is needed for the exact same “role” next month, in NY, or on a different team). With the massive number of applicants companies receive for each open role, companies have been trying to make these tools work for years. The result: 80% of attrition is caused by a bad hiring decision (bad fit, wrong skills, and a rushed process).

Furthermore, unless these tools are used after an initial screen by an applicant tracking system (which often uses GPA and school to filter people out, neither of which support diversity, nor are reasonable predictors of career success), implementing video screening, assessment, and ePortfolios actually creates more work for HR departments. Given that most resumes get reviewed in under ten seconds (pick your favorite metric on this), is it realistic to expect already busy individuals to watch even a 30 second video interview or review a comprehensive ePortfolio for several hundred applicants (which is necessary given the aforementioned flaws with the screening tools)?

All that said, if companies want to spend more money and more time on these efforts and it does improve diversity, great. However, this may actually hinder real diversity efforts. Specifically, as companies focus on checking the proverbial box, fit may be ignored leading to more attrition of individuals from diverse backgrounds. What is even scarier is the negative impact this will have on increasing diversity in senior roles in the future as poor fit hinders the informal mentoring that is so valuable, and attrition limits the opportunity for career advancement and professional development.

Increasing diversity is vital.  At Parker Dewey, we believe companies can support both (i) authentic, sustainable diversity efforts and (ii) business goals through project-based work that is often either not getting done, or is being done by those for whom it is not the best use of time. This allows organizations to identify and evaluate talent from a broad base of backgrounds, experiences, colleges, majors, etc. Not only does this help companies addresses their immediate needs, it also allows both companies and individuals to evaluate the fit.  And it is through finding the right fit that organizations can drive real, sustainable, authentic diversity.

 

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