Do corporate values limit diversity in the recruitment process?
A properly thought-out recruitment process is vital to an organisation’s success, and each business must ask whether basing its recruitment on corporate values, of which diversity could be one, is limiting its cognitive diversity.
Cognitive diversity recognises that people look at the world in different ways based on their own experiences. Skin colour and sex should not have an effect on cognitive style but age, education and religious upbringing might.
But corporate values are important?
Most businesses have corporate values, defined as being the operating philosophies that guide conduct and relationships with customers, partners and shareholders. These values set a vision and align people behind a common purpose. People like organisations with good values and, all else being equal, are attracted to an organisation that is passionate about what it does.
Has anyone got it right?
Apple has an extremely diverse and innovative workforce. Recent court documents revealed that its approach for developing new products involves hiring “super creative” people with “maniacal” tendencies, sit them round a table, give them a job to do and let them get on with it. Cognitive diversity seems to be a by-product of Apple’s recruitment strategy. But if you hire the wrong people and expect them to innovate, it won’t work.
So how do corporate values get in the way?
Organisations often base their recruitment processes on finding people who “fit” with their corporate values. This can reinforce people’s tendencies to recruit people like themselves, with similar backgrounds and views of the world. In financial services, for example, many firms hire similar people. It is easily done and can lead to an attitude of institutional racism or sexism despite everyone fitting with values that, in themselves, are honourable.
Hiring the same types of people certainly won’t produce a diverse and innovative workforce. Corporate values can also divide the workforce and alienate people – to the point where if you deviate from the company line you could be side-lined and no longer listened to. “Groupthink” is another danger.
Can diversity cause confusion and delay?
Of course, if not everyone has the same opinion you might get more differences of opinion and delays. But you arguably get better decisions because there are more options available and there is less risk of groupthink. I would much rather work with people who have different ideas.
What should employers do?
They need to think carefully about the benefits of recruiting based on corporate values and what they are looking to achieve. Is diversity just a corporate value to tick a box, or do you really want a diverse workforce?
Enlightened and cognitively diverse staff might be more independent, moral and less obedient, but they bring new ideas and innovation. They will have a mind of their own and might refuse to cross the line for short-term profit and a nice end-of-year bonus.
Values and culture motivate behaviour. If a company wants to innovate, make better strategic decisions and build trust with customers, pure diversity should be ingrained in corporate culture, that all starts with a well-thought-out recruitment strategy.
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