If you think the business world has overcome its challenges with hiring bias and diversity, you haven’t been paying attention. Before the new “Ghostbusters” movie hit the silver screen last week, outcry over the decision to cast an all-female team of protagonists dominated the Internet. There was another interesting release just a day before “Ghostbusters.” Facebook published a stunningly vapid report on its lack of diversity growth. The social network further fanned the flames by taking no accountability. Instead, its executives blamed schools and even diverse workers themselves. Both of these examples illustrate just how alive and well America’s diversity problems are. Companies that want to change for the better are probably asking, “Who you gonna call?” The answer isn’t a “paranormal investigation and elimination service.” The staffing industry has been the leading the charge for diversity and inclusion since it began. So pick up the phone and call.
This Summer’s Diversity Blockbusters
On Friday, a reboot of the 1984 supernatural comedy “Ghostbusters” opened in a theater near you. This version features a female cast. When the studio first announced details of the film, social media lit up with litanies of condemnation. Given Hollywood’s overreliance on rebooting successful franchises, some level of outrage made sense. I expected critiques about the movie industry’s lack of original writing, the pointlessness of remaking a property that’s still great on its own, or perhaps a script that departs too much from the original. And that wasn’t really the case. The main point of contention was that women would be taking over as New York’s protectors of all things demonic.
Perhaps there’s some irony that many of the complaints appeared on Facebook, which on Thursday boasted of its efforts to improve diversity. The figures, however, didn’t bear those claims out. As ThinkProgress reported, Facebook’s diversity numbers demonstrated no substantial gains for women or people of color:
“Its technical workforce is 48 percent white and 83 percent male, while just 3 percent is Hispanic, 1 percent is black, and 17 percent is female. That’s just a 2 percent increase in its female technical workforce from 2014, while its numbers on black and Hispanic workers in that area didn’t budge at all.”
Facebook then blamed public education and a lack of skilled talent for its failure to diversify. Lately, this rationale has become a standard trope among technology firms that struggle to post impressive diversity counts. The problem is that the facts don’t reflect Facebook’s explanation.
The Pipeline Excuse Ignores Real Diversity Accomplishments
The gist of the pipeline excuse is that the network of qualified applicants doesn’t represent society as a whole. In other words, according to this faulty philosophy, there just happen to be more white males with the skills technology companies require. And that isn’t true.
ThinkProgress cited the influential 2014 USA Today investigation. It found black and Hispanic students were graduating from top-tier universities with computer science and engineering degrees at twice the rate they were receiving job offers from tech firms. That year, average Silicon Valley workforces were just 2 percent black and 3 percent Hispanic. Yet 4.5 percent of all new graduates in the field were black, and 6.5 percent were Hispanic. Even more, they earned their degrees from prestigious universities.
“Women have a similar experience,” ThinkProgress explains. “A 2013 report from the Census Bureau found that among college graduates with science and engineering degrees, men were employed in science, technology, engineering, or math at twice the rate of women — 31 percent for men versus 15 percent for women. A different report from last year found that four years after they graduate, less than a quarter of female computer science and engineering majors get a job in their field.”
Slack, the rapidly expanding tech pioneer, also disproves the pipeline excuse. The company has created a flourishing culture of diversity. Consider the presence of women leaders in the organization: “While 45% of all people managers at Slack are women, it’s noteworthy that fully 41% of all people working at Slack have a woman as their manager. This means that 41% of our people report to a woman who help set their priorities, measure their performance, mentor them in their work, and who make recommendations that will impact their compensation and career growth.”
The Hiring Bias Problem is a Culture Problem
“One-half of the problem is on the hiring side, where white, male employees have been found to be more likely to hire people who look like them than others in all industries,” ThinkProgress writes. “Technology also thinks of itself as a ‘meritocracy’ where people succeed on skills alone, no matter what they look like, which ignores implicit biases. For example, many people are turned away from jobs for not being a ‘culture fit,’ which can also be read as not fitting in with an already white and male office.”
The second part of the problem is that biased environments push away qualified diversity talent, who seek work in more accommodating and welcoming companies — oftentimes outside the technology space. Corporate leaders talk so much about the skills deficit in hiring, yet do they ever consider that culture is fueling it?
How MSPs and Staffing Providers Bust the Ghosts of Hiring Bias
Nearly all workforce studies demonstrate that robust business cultures are connected to soaring profits. Gallup, for example, showed that businesses with truly diverse talent witnessed a 46-percent increase in revenue, along with a 58-percent higher level of profit. For jobs involving complex decisions and creativity, diverse teams outperform less diverse ones. And business cultures should reflect those strategies instead of seeking individuals with similar biographies, backgrounds, personal beliefs and genders between managers and talent.
MSPs and their staffing partners are instrumental in establishing and guiding inclusive business cultures. For clients who think the talent pipeline is an arid conduit where skilled women and people of color seldom trickle out, staffing professionals can open the floodgates.
- MSPs are proven to make diversity a visible and strategic priority. They set inclusiveness goals and hold managers accountable for diversity.
- During implementation, MSPs establish executive sponsorship with their clients’ corporate leaders, allowing them to create inclusion advocates across all classes, reinforce diversity commitments, measure progress toward goals and establish formal review processes for identifying challenges.
- MSPs develop, as part of their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), merit-based hiring strategies that emphasize ideal cultural fits — not friendship fits — that align to the organization’s overarching strategies and objectives. These strategies focus on filling key positions with the best people across diversity groups, eliminating perceptions that people are placed to fill quotas.
- They have teams of data analysts who review employment data from their internal systems, the client’s human resource platform, and business intelligence across other clients. These predictive analytics enable them to identify talent trends, traits, skills, values and goals to optimize the recruiting process. They can also uncover divisions with the poorest track records in diverse hiring and engagement.
- MSPs and their staffing partners don’t generally share the cultural biases of their clients. Just as they are industry agnostic, they’re also agnostic about worker selection — they pick the candidates with the best skills, motivations, attitudes and goals to fit the role. They employ a blinder hiring process, orchestrated by account management teams who have standardized criteria that weed out inherent biases among the group. This in turn also gives them more leverage in selling the right candidate to a lone hiring manager who may have preconceived notions about the “ideal worker.”
MSPs also seek out, recruit and mentor diversity suppliers to assist clients in reaching their diversity goals. The nature of an MSP solution provides these staffing partners with an equal opportunity to participate in major contracts without having to invest in the resources or technology normally required for a relationship with large, decentralized companies. To capitalize and expand on their efforts, most MSPs ally themselves with recognized councils, community outreach groups and others to identify diverse providers.
- They create internal supplier diversity departments or advisory bodies to lead the efforts in recruiting minority, women-owned, disadvantaged and veteran business enterprises.
- After sourcing and engagement, MSPs continue to manage supplier relationships and help them mature their diversity initiatives.
- Many MSPs establish membership in official associations and groups that provide access to a wide array of diversity vendors, allowing them to approach and engage certified suppliers through those organizations.
- MSPs frequently participate in diversity supplier functions, such as Business Expos, Trade Fairs, Opportunity Luncheons and others.
- They build networks of qualified diversity suppliers and maintain a unique registration process for these staffing partners when they enter the program. This approach allows MSPs to pre-screen suppliers for diversity status. It also facilitates the tracking of performance and spend related to diversity objectives, often through the VMS.
- MSPs engage client staff who have control over corporate purchasing, which helps improve the success rate when striving to achieve specific annual goals for acquiring labor from diversity-owned businesses.
- MSPs collaborate with clients to promote visibility of the diversity initiative on the corporate website, including program details, contacts and a list of services needed (e.g., specific job categories of workers, etc.).
MSPs: That’s Who You Gonna Call
According to Department of Education data, close to 10 percent of graduates from the top 25 computer science programs belong to underrepresented diversity categories. Yet those same groups account for barely 5 percent of the talent populations at tech giants such as Facebook, WildTangent and even Google. These industry leaders continue to invoke the “pipeline excuse” to justify the ongoing issue. More than that, they’re hobbling their own potential. As every major study has proven, a lack of diversity stifles innovation and growth.
Businesses that are truly serious about eradicating biases, fostering inclusion and driving their offerings to new heights should be enlisting the expertise of MSPs and staffing professionals. If your organization is haunted by the phantom of a homogeneous workforce, you know who to call.
Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures (c) 2016.