Why Data-Driven HR Practices Champion Diversity

Those companies that champion diversity yet hire individuals based on ‘cultural fit’ risk perpetuating a non-diverse workforce.

‘I liked them’ is no longer an acceptable reason for making a hire. In fact, one of HR’s greatest enemies is intuition: especially where the majority of people who trust their gut feeling and identify themselves as intuitive may not actually be intuitive at all.

Consequently, those companies that champion diversity yet hire individuals based on ‘cultural fit’ risk perpetuating a non-diverse workforce. By nature, hiring based on cultural fit means recruiting those similar to yourself, and therefore in many cases promoting a lack of diversity.

This problem is exacerbated when measures of performance are based upon perceptions rather than data. If new recruits are evaluated by the same people who interviewed them, performance evaluations risk being skewed by pre-conceived ideas that ‘I must have made the right hire’. This is where HR has the opportunity to become an instigator – to recognise that in many cases, recruitment decisions are made through the frame through which the recruiter lives their life, and are consequently replicating what they already have.

Through the use of systematic data however, organisations will ultimately be able to structure, gather and analyse information on how their people are performing, removing the danger of individual judgement and potential prejudices and allowing for complete objectivity. Organisations such as Uber are already there. With the ability to view the same information for each driver: how many journeys they make, their average rating, response time and journey duration, there is no room for subjectivity. The big leap will come when organisations can apply the same systems currently used to evaluate lower level jobs to leadership roles.

In his latest book, ‘Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?’, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic argues that the best gender diversity policy organisations can follow to increase representation of women, is to focus on talent rather than gender. This focus on talent will drive organisations to naturally develop a more balanced workforce. Chamorro-Premuzic argues that, counterintuitively, making the issue about gender suggests positive discrimination that is designed to break a meritocratic order which doesn’t exist in the first place.

Chamorro-Premuzic provides an alternative to Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ movement; he argues that Sandberg’s theory blames women themselves for the lack of leadership opportunities, by suggesting that females are not ambitious enough, and that if they only ‘leaned in’ further, they would become more successful. Chamorro-Premuzic notes that there has never been a connection between ‘leaning in’ and having talent. He suggests that instead, we must stop falling for the men who ‘lean in’ with no talent.

“We need to get better at actively discriminating against incompetent men who want to become leaders.” says Chamorro-Premuzic. The solution is simple: if you bet on talent, you will by default create a more meritocratic system.