In the July-August 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review, authors of three articles tackle the topic of diversity in the workplace. Find our Key Takeaways and Top Five Do’s to integrate with or update the diversity pillar of your business’ current Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.
An abundant number of studies have shown that “a diverse workforce measurably improves decision-making, problem-solving, creativity, innovation and flexibility” (Burrell, 2016). Given the large resources dedicated toward diversity programs, organizations seem to be embracing these findings.
However, many companies have been using approaches developed in the 1960s, and are failing to measure whether or not those diversity programs work. Unfortunately, findings by researchers dedicated to measuring the effectiveness of diversity programs indicate certain approaches are not only not working (“[diversity training programs] largely don’t change attitudes, let alone behavior” (Bohnet, 2016), but are working against the very outcomes sought.
For example, mandatory diversity training programs are even associated with backlash, i.e. activation of bias. With the failure of diversity programs to produce desired results, the following should be of no surprise: “Black men have barely gained ground in corporate management since 1985. White women haven’t progressed since 2000. It isn’t that there aren’t enough educated women and minorities out there—both groups have made huge educations gains over the past two generations” (Dobbin, 2016).
In order to address lackluster approaches, companies should seek out diversity programs that researchers have found to be most effective in positively impacting workforce diversity. “Interventions such as targeted college recruitment, mentoring programs, self-managed teams and task forces have boosted diversity in business” (Dobbin, 2016). Designing your organization’s processes to avoid biased decision-making in the first place will also lead to better outcomes. These methods, and other “do’s” below as culled from the HBR authors’ insights, can help your organization make strides toward a diverse workforce.
Top Five Dos
- Collect and study your organization’s diversity-related data. This will allow you to make informed decisions about the areas where you need improvement.
- Define success for and measure the impact of your diversity program(s). Rigor in this area should match that of any other.
- Ease up on the control tactics on your managers. It’s more effective to engage managers in solving the problem, increase their on-the-job contact with female and minority workers, and promote social accountability—the desire to look fair-minded (Dobbin, 2016).
- Re-design your processes to prevent biased choices in the first place, an approach known as choice architecture. For example, use structured interviews where every candidate is given the same question and strike self-evaluations from performance appraisals (which tend to benefit certain demographic groups). Behavioral design can be effective in mitigating bias.
- Challenge perceptions of merit. If those making the hiring, promoting and compensation decisions in an organization fail to understand the research tying good fortune to good success, it can have negative implications for underrepresented demographic groups.
Bohnet, I. (2016, July-August). Designing a Bias-Free Organization. 63-67. (G. Morse, Interviewer) Harvard Business Review.
Burrell, L. (2016, July-August). We Just Can’t Handle Diversity: A Research Roundup. Harvard Business Review, pp. 71-74.
Dobbin, F. (2016, July-August). Why Diversity Programs Fail And What Works Better. Harvard Business Review, pp. 53-60.