How to Build an Unbiased Talent Meritocracy

Aligning Diversity with Business Success

Business has one primary objective: Providing customers with value in ways that deliver growing returns to shareholders. Every business activity should be tested against this objective -- including diversity and inclusion initiatives. Before trying to broaden the diversity of your executive teams, you should ask yourself the reason for your imperative: If it is to respond to regulatory, shareholder or public pressure, you are likely to fail because these reasons do not align with your primary business objective. If your reason for increased diversity is to create an unbiased meritocracy (a unbiased system in which the talented are chosen and advanced on the basis of their achievement) in your organization in order to power its growth and fuel its innovation, you will succeed because your initiative is aligned with your primary business objective.

Avoiding Cultural Rejection

Building teams of people who think differently takes intentionality and work. It is easier and more natural to associate with people like us. David Ducheyne is Chief People Officer at Securex, a Belgium based HR company. His blog, Avoid Rejection. Do not Adapt. Integrate, compares the integration of a diverse employee into an otherwise homogenous organization, to the challenges of organ acceptance in transplant surgery. Bodies are built to reject foreign organisms and technology had to be developed to overcome that natural rejection. The rejection mechanism, designed to protect the body from infection, needs to be overridden. In the same way the natural instinct of socio-homogeneity needs to be overridden by a deliberate values choice to opt for difference and innovation over comfort and ease.

9 Steps to Executive Diversity

Here are some guidelines that may be helpful in that process:

1. Expertly create the conditions for honest conversation.

2. Skillfully check whether the team needing to become more diverse, truly believes that a team made up of diverse talent, culture, and background will deliver more innovation and growth than a homogenous team.

3. Agree that diversity is not about how different people look but how different people see. People who look the same may be very diverse, and sometimes different-looking people can see the world in very similar ways. You want people who see a situation from different perspectives but all identify with the organization's values.

4. Agree that while becoming more embracing of diverse cultures, the team will not tolerate diverse organizational values.

5. Create awareness of the unintentional and subtle ways that a team might make integration of a diverse viewpoint difficult.

6. Be mindful of and address those who passively resist by stating that they are in complete alignment and therefore, will not examine themselves or change.

7. Commit to changed behaviors needed to make integration easier.

8. Agree on the expectations the team would have from a future member who is different from the team's mainstream, and how these expectations will be communicated.

9. Gain consensus on what success would look like and how this could be measured with metrics of added value to customers and growth to shareholders.

The 3 Conditions for Success

If people:

* Understand the correlation between diverse talent and innovation and growth;

* Are conscious of the barriers they unintentionally create to the integration of diverse talent;

* And are committed to the creation of a genuinely unbiased meritocracy;

then, diversity initiatives at senior levels can succeed. When a team feels secure in a commitment to shared values, it is generally more ready to embrace diverse cultures and divergent viewpoints. The result is an unbiased meritocracy able to deliver more innovation and faster growth.

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