Talent Circles

Monday, August 25, 2014

Diversity series: Would you hire the Jean Valjean of Les Miz?

Diversity has become a common word. Yet, we are sometimes far from embracing diversity and accepting individual differences. It can be challenging to look at people as human beings, beyond their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, beyond their socio-economic situation, their age, their physical appearance, their abilities or disabilities, their political viewpoints or religious beliefs. It can be even more challenging if several characteristics that we do not especially care for happen to be combined in the same person.

Respect or tolerance for people who are completely different from us is an art that we all have to master. This may even require courage when we have to go as far as getting along with people who don't tolerate diversity themselves. Should we roll over? I don't think so... Can we politely ignore them? Certainly. What about the idea of uncovering a deeper sense of humanity in us and others? It's not always as problematic as we believe. That's something we often experience in the arts almost unbeknownst to us. We like Jean Valjean in Les Miz even though he has quite a few traits and a history that we could easily disapprove of.

In our industry, ensuring diversity should not be a subject for discussion: after all, aren't we supposed to primarily look at people for their ability to perform the job? Yet, can we always be so abstract? Don't we say that we hire people — and not simply functional cogs for our corporate machine?

The legislative framework prevents us from overlooking diversity mandates and the fact that we all operate in an open social world may help us think twice. Yet, do we build great teams if we only look at diversity as something we must comply with or as a matter of law and quotas for paperwork? Diversity is a must. Yet, let's make it more than that: something we want to do. Let's think of it as the opportunity for us to get out of our comfort zone, open up and draw a new energy from different people. Diversity is the engine of personal discovery and mutual learning.

Researchers are all unanimous about the benefits organizations obtain from a systematic and continuous commitment to fostering diversity.  First in line to make this happen are recruiters and hiring managers, and they can do it well only if they internalize this organizational value and make it part of their own personal values system. Reinventing diversity may first be about feeling it.

The question you may now ask yourself is this: How many people who are different from you did you end up hiring in your career? If the response is that you do not exactly know, ask yourself why you don't know and if you have the right tools to manage diversity at the talent acquisition level.


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