As an employee, you are supposed to do what you are told by your superiors. But then you don’t. It’s not intentional; why would you deliberately not do something you were told to do and risk getting in trouble?
Well, because the majority of our actions are being driven by our subconscious mind. We act on our filters and biases that have been ingrained in us over the course of our lifetimes. What’s more, it takes a great deal of effort to be conscious of these things; even the most well-versed at this can still fall into familiar thought patterns or actions.
Our subconscious mind remembers where our comfort zone is and works to keep us in it, which is why you can feel tense or uneasy when you are trying something new.
Unsurprisingly, this applies to talent acquisition professionals and hiring managers as much as anyone else.
Many talent professionals are still behind the times
Recently I was approached by a well-intentioned talent acquisition professional and asked to deliver a session to the company’s hiring managers on the importance of hiring a diverse workforce. Delving into the real problem, it soon surfaced that many of the managers are of an age and culture where they think nothing of ruling out an applicant because, for example, they have children or are of childbearing age.
Using myself as an example, I am the youngest of four children and my parents are in the ‘silent generation’, born between 1925 and 1945. In fact, my father just turned 91, which means he has witnessed the complexion of the entire working world change throughout his lifetime.
In 1959, when my mother became engaged to her first husband, she was subsequently coerced into resigning from her job at a bank. Just 61 years ago, in the financial services industry in Australia, it was considered acceptable to decide that a woman was likely to fall pregnant after marriage, and ask them to resign. To us in 2020, this obviously seems staggering.
But think about those hiring and talent managers who fall into the ‘boomer’ age group. Those managers born between 1946 and 1964 who, like my eldest two siblings, witnessed their parents endure this kind of bigotry, before there was legal protection, and simply filed the experience in the subconscious under ‘it is what it is’.
In the UK, it took until 1975 for the Sex Discrimination Act to be introduced to “to render unlawful certain kinds of sex discrimination and discrimination on the ground of marriage.”
Now, in 2020, simply telling your older talent managers that they should hire more women, or anyone from the myriad of other diverse backgrounds, is going to cause resistance because of the subconscious filters that were established in their youth.
Interestingly, a review of D&I practices published by CIPD called into question the impact of diversity training in fostering inclusive workplaces. It states that the training can give people a reason to use their unconscious biases to be more biased. Not good.
People don’t like change. Even when it is for the greater good of the company or even themselves. People resist moving out of their comfort zone even if staying in there is a form of self-sabotage.
Based on this, leaders must ask themselves: have you also avoided doing things that were a stretch but good for you because they made you feel uneasy?
How can HR and talent leaders act?
The answer to this dilemma is complex but, in my experience, both in business and personally, I have found people are less resistant to change when they come up with the idea themselves. Hence coaching is so powerful and the reason that I stopped delivering training and switched to facilitation that uses design thinking.
My recommendation to this talent acquisition professional was to start with the ‘facilitation’ method. In short, this is the process of managers and leaders being reflective and critical in order to ascertain what was done well, what was lacking, and what can be done to improve in future.
In essence, the facilitator provides resources and opportunities to the group, which enables them to progress and ultimately succeed.
In this instance, this will encourage the hiring managers to consider why hiring a diverse team would be of benefit to them and the company. Then, they can democratically vote on which issues need addressing first and discover actionable results, which may well include training.
This way, there is a real opportunity to create change. The fact is, even though your hiring managers should do what they are told, they won’t. However, if they think that they have innovated the solution and come up with the idea, they most likely will.
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