We know that organisations with diverse workforces perform better than those that are homogenous.
Research conducted by Deloitte in 2012, for instance, identified an 80% improvement in business performance when levels of diversity and inclusion were high.
But we know too that recruiting people who are the right cultural fit, who share the same values, is also beneficial. People who espouse the same values as their employer are more engaged, have more job satisfaction and perform better.
Which leaves us with something of a dilemma, doesn’t it?
How can you deliver diversity while recognising shared values and cultural fit are important?
How can you ensure someone is the right fit for your organisation but avoid recruiting more people who are basically just like you?
Lack of diversity and cultural fit
Why is it, when we all know how advantageous it is to have a diverse workforce, that so many organisations look so uniform?
Did you know, for instance, that there are more men named John running FTSE100 companies than there are women?
That’s outrageous, clearly. But it also appears to be deeply entrenched.
What is it about homogeneity that’s so attractive?
Is it about cultural fit?
Hiring people who ‘fit in round here’ is hugely important. It leads to a more harmonious organisation where everyone’s singing from the same hymnsheet. Where employees share the same values and pull in the same direction.
So does a diverse workforce mean we risk disharmony and chaos? Does diversity equate to a diversity of values, some of which may be incompatible with our own?
Only if we assume that the only way for someone to fit in is for them to be like us.
Which isn’t true, of course. Sharing the same values does not equate to being the same. But it’s perfectly natural to assume this. Here’s why.
The impact of unconscious bias
Rationally, we know that having a diverse workforce is a good thing. But, emotionally, hiring someone who is different from us feels uncomfortable.
We all have a natural tendency, known as unconscious bias, to place too much importance on people’s similarity to us. When recruiting, this can mean that, without realising it, we consider those who are the same gender, or race, or age, or background as us, as better candidates than those who are not.
Using assessment tools like psychometric tests can help us override our unconscious bias by providing objective empirical evidence of a candidate’s abilities.
When it comes to cultural fit though, we often fall back on our own judgement. On gut instinct. Which, given the powerful influence of unconscious bias, could explain why so often we end up recruiting people who are the same as us.
Focusing on what’s really important
The key to recruiting a diverse workforce that shares the right values for your organisation is to take a structured approach to recruitment.
An approach that is rooted in what is truly important when it comes to effective job performance in your business. Rather than what you feel is important. Not that what you feel should be ignored, but it should be approached scientifically, objectively and with strong evidence of predicting performance.
You need a values framework which sets out clearly what values – and associated behaviours – are necessary to deliver the right outcomes for your business. And you need to have conducted job analysis to figure out what good performance looks like in the role in question. What values do you need to see in candidates that will mean they’ll perform well in the role?
With these tools in place, when you’re assessing candidates, you’ll be measuring them against objective criteria, reducing the influence of your own particular bias.
Meaning that employees can be very different from each other, and you, but still share the values that are important to your business.
The NHS has done exactly this. It has a hugely diverse workforce, but recruits all staff against the core shared value of putting patients first. There’s more on how the NHS deploys value-based recruitment here.
By taking a rigorous and evidence-based approach founded upon what your business truly needs, your hiring decision is less reliant on how you feel. And more grounded in what’s important to your organisation.
Resulting in a diverse workforce which shares the right values.