How to Walk the Walk on Diverse Hiring

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It seems self-evident that companies should hire from the widest possible pool of applicants. After all, more diverse companies are more innovative, not to mention the social good of enriching workers who are disabled, female, and/or from traditionally marginalized communities. Most companies seem to talk a bigger talk than their actions bear out, though.

Psychologists at Switzerland's University of Basel wanted to look into why that is. A new study finds that the problem is as simple as it is insidious: "Diversity is very important to us — but not in my team." Overall, people in a position to hire say they're worried that an employee who's too "different" will slow down or snarl up a team or a business. Even worse, the problem intensifies when the person hiring is closer to managing the position they're hiring for.

You don't have to look too hard to find the discrimination in those statements, and if you don't believe that's a problem, chances are you're proving the study's point. Luckily, there are ways to override those instincts, the first of which is simply being aware of them. The Swiss researchers recommend leaning more on hiring managers and instituting blind hiring practices, which have been shown to improve workplace diversity. One you've embedded diversity into your company, it tends to self-reinforce, especially when coupled with public-facing transparency in hiring.

The process isn't perfect — after all, referrals from inside a business also tend to self-reinforce staff makeup — but when you've got diversity front of mind, you'll be far more likely to spot what you need in a candidate.