Three Ground Rules for Hiring Inclusively

April 16, 2019

Hiring with diversity competence can sometimes get confusing and divisive. Setting ground rules with your team will add much-needed structure to your process.

Ground Rule #1

Taking what we discussed in our earlier post about common definitions a step further, the first ground rule is to collectively agree to conduct your search in a way that 1) centers the value of diversity and inclusion, and 2) addresses the harm that unconscious bias could have on your process and goals.

This way, when emotions are heightened because of bias or resistance to diversity initiatives, your team will have a common touchstone to remind them of what was initially agreed upon.

Ground Rule #2

How do you think your fellow team members will react to a new diversity hiring initiative? Will the initiative be met with enthusiasm, or will some express discomfort or uncertainty?

If it’s the latter, that discomfort or uncertainty could fall under the umbrella of a common response to change called diversity resistance.

Diversity resistance can take many forms, such as:

• Refusing to participate in or endorse diversity initiatives or hiring goals
• Ignoring or disengaging from diversity-related conversations
• Requesting excessive or irrelevant data to justify the consideration of a diverse candidate
• Discrediting diversity initiatives without evidence
• Remaining silent in the face of discriminatory actions or policies

If feelings of diversity resistance go unaddressed, the hiring team will not be able to achieve a primary purpose of the search: to hire the best candidate.

People can feel resistant to diversity initiatives for any number of reasons. Some may be unsure about what organizational change will mean for their role or status. Others may fear being stereotyped or mislabeled. Still others may feel discomfort, shame, or guilt about the topics of racism, sexism, and homophobia.

In order to navigate your team’s reactions, a second ground rule is to develop skills for countering diversity resistance. After all, if feelings of diversity resistance go unaddressed, the hiring team will not be able to achieve a primary purpose of the search: to hire the best candidate, i.e., someone who will add value to your team by virtue of their unique perspective and experiences.

If you begin to notice some of the “red flags” of diversity resistance listed above, consider approaching the issue as follows:

Clarify the scope of the diversity initiative. When team members have a clear idea of what exactly the initiative aims to accomplish and how it impacts them, they’ll be less likely to harbor uncertainty that gives way to fear and hesitation.

• Maintain an atmosphere free of shame, blame, and labeling. Remind team members that pointing out how bias could be impacting your selection process is not the same as questioning a team member’s good intent or character.

• Finally, in the face of diversity resistance on the hiring team, restate the extensive research demonstrating the positive impact of diversity on retention, innovation, and company success. To start, keep this stat from a 2018 McKinsey & Co report in your back pocket: Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on their executive teams were 35 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

Ground Rule #3

A third ground rule is to agree to self-monitor for bias and speak up when bias seems to be playing a role in the process. It’s particularly important for hiring team leaders to encourage others to think about the impact of unconscious bias on the selection process. Some questions they can ask their team members include:

• How does unconscious bias impact whom we select?
• What happens to our workplace when we let bias in the selection process go unchecked?
• What can we do to make our team members comfortable enough to speak up when they see bias seeping into the process?

These ground rules can set the mood and tone of your whole search, leaving you better prepared to handle the common roadblocks to hiring inclusively.

Do you want a more diverse workforce?
Learn about ground rules for hiring with our course, Skills for Searches and Hiring.

This post is part of a series addressed to HR and other hiring managers about integrating diversity competence into each step of the employment lifecycle, from recruitment and hiring, to creating an inclusive workplace, to evaluating and cultivating leaders who will take inclusive excellence at your enterprise to the next level.