This article was first published on LinkedIn
Recently, we wrote about the relaxation of the circuit breaker and those opportunities that could be seized to help workforce change agendas.
In another article, we used the chaos theory as analogous to the challenges of understanding the interconnectivity of different objectives and key performance indicators. That businesses seek a balance between how they optimize workforce spend and manage risk and, through empowering agility and resilience, firms can manage this process more effectively. That understanding the cause and effect of how you drive cost efficient agendas without compounding growth risks and constraining future skills development.
In both articles, we proposed that the key enabler to informing effective decision-making was data. Capturing the information, signals and outcomes generated by your workforce allows you to start the journey of ‘understanding your people’. From this point, companies can at least appreciate the chaos of managing the ‘living’ organism that a company is.
Today, we thought it would be useful to provide a ‘what if’ hypothesis and showcase how data, if combined with the appropriate amount of ambition, could potentially help drive a more systemic solution to managing diversity agendas.
Diversity agendas within companies are commendable efforts to firefight a bigger issue. The issue and positive impact of a more diverse workforce is widely understood and efforts are ongoing with all parties, appreciating that there is no silver bullet to a resolution and the journey is long.
However, if we recognize that the journey is long and investment is required - why not be ambitious with the target? The problem statement is: ‘how do you maintain standards and increase diversity?’
The subject matter of diversity, equity and inclusion is a big one to tackle. Indeed, many of our colleagues dedicate their careers to this agenda. To keep it simple, there are a number of problems:
- Diversity: the word implies breadth or range. It doesn’t specify. Our individual traits are diverse and these evolve through interaction and circumstance. We are diverse and yet we tend to focus on the most physically obvious facets: color and gender.
- Zero-sum: trying to solve diversity from one firm to another, and one demographic to another is zero-sum. If we champion one cause, it (by its very nature) de-emphasizes others.
- The Pipeline: it is widely recognized that the pipeline is the problem. In many industries, the issue is that there are not enough diverse people.
The Real Problem
The real problem is the data we use to define us. The most simple way to understand this is if we think of graduate schemes. Thousands of students transition from college to employment each year. Most Fortune 500 companies compete for people, they want the best. They test for it. We collect data - all the data. However, the main filter is academics and herein lies the real problem.
Education systems across the world perpetuate a system where the best schools are in the most affluent areas. They drive the best results which then provide the pipeline to the best colleges and universities.
Companies feed off this pipeline - selecting the most prestigious colleges and, at this stage, the social economic diversity is extremely narrow. People of color are a smaller part of this proportion.
Imagine if … we had diversified resumes.
All the data we collect on graduates after academics have narrowed the pool. Imagine if we captured it and built that into a resume alongside our acquisition, because we are looking to understand people and potential too late in the process.
We try to understand potential because we realize academics show capability to assimilate and learn - not agility, resilience or curiosity.
Is it better to hire the person who breezed straight As or the person who worked tooth and nail to get the C in a subject they struggled with?
What if we captured data focused on understanding innate capability, cognitive diversity and soft skills throughout education?
What if we gave how we developed these data points an equal weighting to grades in Latin?
What if we are taught how to develop soft skills as part of our education – or how intervention can be targeted? Women in STEM, Code like a girl - these would happen earlier and would be both recognized and credentialized.
It would mean our resumes become more like balanced score cards – and universities can consider more diverse candidates. The pool of talent becomes wider and broader. Companies can work in partnership with universities and governments to develop the pipeline so the pool of talent is socially and economically diverse and, with that, starting to reflect society in all its vibrant colors, cultures, creeds and types and, importantly, a much larger talent pool.
What does it take?
Data - but nothing new (psychometric testing, skills academics and external but we need an intuitive way to capture it).
We would then give it to schools and democratize it. And we would see a coalition. Companies and schools working together to drive intervention and recognize development, cognitive diversity and agendas.
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