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Do you think that diversity should be at the heart of the talent agenda?

Significant research has demonstrates how a diverse workforce can add value by achieving improved financial results, developing new customer relationships and developing new products and services.    This becomes even more significant in such challenging market conditions.

Given these hard facts, organisations in most sectors continue to struggle to find, develop, promote and leverage the value of diverse talent in key positions – whether they are customer facing sales assistants or board level strategists.  

Throughout my 20 year career, I have seen very few instances of active discrimination against individuals.  In previous corporate diversity roles, I saw a strong willingness by senior leadership for things to be different (aka more diverse) to get the best talent for business success. And these people were very concerned that they would be perceived as part of the problem.

So what is going on?

The research into unconscious bias has been instrumental in revealing a root cause of the problem that gives us a better way forward.  We all have unconscious biases.  We hold unconscious views on  a primitive level on who should hold certain job roles and who we prefer to be around. 

How do we overcome this? 

I’m reminded on how I was first taught to interview. I was told that within three seconds I had made up my mind about the candidate. True.  And that this was gut feel and intuition rather than based on fact. True.  My initial gut said this person told me the candidate would or won’t be able to do the job being interviewed for.  I was then taught to put my initial gut reaction to one side and then interview the candidate against the criteria for the competencies required in the role.  It was interesting to track what happened as a result. Sometimes my gut reaction was correct – this person was not the most suitable candidate for the job. However, there were also times when my gut reaction was wrong and the a third of the time, the person was suitable for the job.  This demonstrates a large influx of talent that may be looked over due to unconscious bias.

I apply this principle to unconscious bias where I acknowledge my ‘gut’ preference and then put it to one side as I work to find out abbot the person in front of me and how they can help my organisation succeed.

So my top three tips on how to leverage diversity for business benefit?

  1. Do not make people feel GUILTY for the lack of diversity in the business today, especially senior people.  It’s a sure fire way to get lip service rather than substantial change. So teach people by starting with key stakeholders about the unconscious biases that we all have
  2. Use this as a platform for real business change to achieve greater financial success – diverse individuals create new ideas, new products and fast new market penetration – build a clear business case
  3. Create a level playing field where differences in style such as do I tell you a lot or a little about what I have achieved creating unrepresentative data on what individuals have actually achieved compared to each other.  Use practical approaches to get consistent information to assess individual performance. More on this in my next blog.

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