Close The Damn Window

John Whitaker Diversity, Hiring Bias, HR, John Whitaker

Is your company still talking about Diversity as a Human Resources objective?

We love to talk it, and we try to walk it; we promote it, and we love to include it in our mission statements and job postings. We tout diversity in our recruiting messages, on our website, and always manage to use images on our collateral material to represent the rainbow of employees we have. How long has HR been beating this drum?

It seems to me that people are tired of hearing about it…”diversity” has been the roll-your-eyes topic in meeting rooms for quite some time. We’ve literally branded diversity as a word that indicates “problem” (as in, “why else would we bring it up?”); when your Human Resources business partner attends your staff meeting to discuss diversity, the message is generally received as “This is who you must hire.” How’s that working out?

We know why it falls in the lap of Human Resources, as the term also has very litigious meaning (therein lies the root of the “problem” brand). Diversity recruiting initiatives are part and parcel of any staffing department. The “diversity” we seek is usually limited to the categories of race and gender, so in many ways we’ve also minimized the meaning of true diversity, which can include so many different components outside of age, gender, creed or color.

What's not to like about diversity?

Seriously, what’s NOT to like about diversity?

But that’s the job we’re given—hit the number, keep us compliant, check that box. In 25 years, I fully expect “diversity” to still be a key objective (and problem) for HR, just as it is today.

Maybe your company has it figured out; if so, mazal tov.

But for many of us, we’re doomed to continue down the road to aligning “diversity” to quotas and problems because the process is broken. We’re challenged to increase diversity by reaching out to candidates who fit the categories we are seeking. You can call that diversity; I choose to call it CYA.

We shouldn’t be reaching, we should be “pulling.” And that requires change from the inside out. Senior Corporate Leadership (not Human Resources) needs to take responsibility for this initiative, and that requires a radical shift in the company mojo. If the company culture doesn’t change, how can you expect the employee make-up to change? The law of attraction is in play here, as we continue to attract the kind of employee we already represent. This is why we are still talking about how to increase our diversity—it’s like trying to cool a room but not closing the window.

Until your company has an authentic environment of embracing, promoting, and valuing diversity—or, more importantly, until it represents and appeals to diverse candidates—that room just ain’t cooling down.

Next time you find yourself in that meeting room and the issue of diversity initiatives is once again thrown onto your shoulders, tell them for me: “Close the damn window, then worry about the temperature.”