The Global Recruiter Interview – Being the Difference
Abe Doctor, Partner at TritonExec, asks if the quest to demonstrate diversity has gone too far.
One reason why many organisations feel compelled to publicly demonstrate their diversity is because it’s just not ingrained deeply enough within their culture and practice. This issue is most prevalent where the prioritisation of seeming ‘equality’ can, but not always, overshadow having the best qualified candidate for the job.
Martin Glenn’s recent appointment which courted many headlines does have another consequence. While some might argue the appointment didn’t come from an organisation known for its diversity, it’s certainly a robust public demonstration of the FA’s intention to be diverse in its outlook. It satisfied this PR goal for better or worse.
Our business grapples with this issue more than most as the industries which we work for –technology, professional services and private equity – are notoriously homogenous in its people who are, by and large, white males.
Lessons from the chief diversity oﬀicer
Less than a decade ago, many of the companies for which we recruited, required chief data oﬀicers. This position is slowly becoming redundant because the skillsets of all the other key C-Suite positions in our market, now require them to be fluent in this arena. The chief diversity oﬀicer’s (now a respected and integral part of the C-Suite) fate could and should follow this. Therefore it might hold the answer to whether our quest for diversity has gone too far.
Ironically, many chief diversity oﬀicers themselves are from diverse backgrounds – predominantly female and ethnically varied. But let’s not forget there is no quick fix to achieving a diverse workforce. Part of the solution is the degree to which diversity is imbedded in the culture and recruitment processes, but more importantly, the general consciousness among executives in key operational roles. The role of the chief diversity oﬀicer ultimately needs to filter and merge into the consciousness of all the executives for there to be meaningful change.
Systems to support diversity
The public pressure to appear diverse should rather evolve into an introspective process among all executives. Leaders need to be coached to think about diversity, it needs to go right through HR, into learning and development and be firmly embedded into the organisational recruitment process. All the research indicates the benefits of having a diverse workforce. Companies with 30 per cent more female execs rake in as much as six percentage points more in profits, according to a recent global study, feeding into a debate over the scarcity of women in decision making business roles. We also have to define what diverse truly means. What’s the composition of someone’s background? Have they lived in diﬀerent cultures or part of hugely diﬀerent organisations? How we think of diversity also needs to be broadened.
Lessons from companies big and small
Perhaps recruiting all types of people – men or woman of racial backgrounds – from companies that are leading the pack in ‘comprehensively adoptive diversity and inclusion’ cultures is a worthwhile recruitment strategy. This would be the case for companies seeking not only diversity candidates, but candidates who hold an open mind on the topic.
This would work is a similar way to small growth oriented companies, bringing in leaders from Fortune 50 companies to acquire their experience, training and best-in-class practices. We should see the same take place for seeking candidates who are advocates and are conduits to helping grow a conscientious culture by recruiting future leaders from these companies.
We also have to look at companies getting it right. Accenture, for example, have adopted firm-wide strategic priorities, as one example. Their ‘2020’ Initiative is a goal to have the entire global workforce 50/50 men to women by the year 2020. The eﬀectiveness is in a cultural priority, which over time ought to embed itself in the hearts of the individuals becoming a part of the culture without the necessity of a public, branded strategy.
So, for now, I encourage the existence of chief diversity oﬀers in the C-suite in the hope that it filters into the wider psyche of wider management. This gradual process should remove pressure to recruit to fulfill the public image, but should come from a genuine and deep-seated desire to see the best possible workforce, which we know, must be diverse. So, we haven’t gone too far yet.