A few years ago, one of my corporate clients staged an evening event for the recruitment companies they used to attract and hire diverse employees. They had a panel of high profile leaders who each spoke passionately about the business case for attracting and hiring diverse talent and urged the recruiters to find them diverse candidates.
The evening was going well and on schedule until we reached Q & A when one of the recruiters raised his hand and said “I have been listening to your case for action and it is all very well, but when we present “diverse” candidates to your hiring managers we are told either directly or in code that they want a white male. We get paid on deliverables and do you really think we are going to look for diverse candidates when we know your managers don’t want to hire them.” The room erupted in a sea of nodding heads and acquiescent muttering and you could feel the air come out of the balloon as the panel members realized the significance of the comment.
It is not enough for the leaders to be saying the right thing; we also need to convince our peers and subordinates of the benefits of inclusion and demonstrate by our behavior that we are sincere. We need to approach inclusion the way we would approach any business imperative, such as a Lean Six Sigma program.
I heard someone recently saying that if you accept a 99.9% accuracy rate that would be like accepting two unsafe landings a day at Chicago O’Hare (or your local airport) and the Post Office losing 15,000 pieces of mail a day. How does affinity bias show up in your workplace and for you?