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Why Diversity Programs Fail & How You Can Protect Yourself Against Hiring Bias

Posted September 20, 2018

Businesses all across the country have faced legal suits in recent years for discrimination in the hiring process and beyond. Race, gender, gender identity, agism, physical or mental disabilities, religious beliefs— the list goes on.

But despite mandatory-instated diversity programs, equality doesn’t seem to be improving in any industry. People still aren’t being hired, or are fired for their differences, and, in some cases, bias is getting increasingly worse.

Let’s look at why these programs are failing and what you can do to protect yourself from discrimination in the hiring process:

Why Current Diversity Programs Are Doomed to Fail

About half of mid-sized companies and nearly all of the Fortune 500 have adopted some form of diversity training program since 2017. However, according to a report from Harvard Business Review, their approaches are all outdated. In fact, many of the same principles used in the late 60’s to “diversify” are still being pushed today.

These practices are often problematic for a few proven reasons:

  • Diversity programs are often mandatory and force participation
  • Diversity programs often rely on the use of negative language and consequences to drive cooperation
  • Diversity programs are typically only implemented after a problem has already reached a peak and are remedial in nature

Reliance on control tactics, fear and urgency makes many managers resist change, and sometimes exacerbates situational bias.

Managers Don’t Like Being Forced to Do Something

“A 40-hour diversity program... or half-day diversity program will not “change” an employee who doesn’t arrive with an open mind,” says Dr. Steve Albrecht, an internationally-acclaimed workplace violence consultant.

And he’s right. Resistant managers sit through these awareness exercises and workshops simply because they have to, but many studies have found that participants leave without a desire to change— or that the sessions actually activate more bias and backlash.

The negative framing of these diversity programs certainly doesn’t help. Many legal suits prompt companies to implement new procedures in fear or as a result of financial damage in court. This “discriminate and you will pay the price” mentality isn’t a positive way to influence and sustain behavioral changes.

Forty percent of companies now try to fight bias with mandatory hiring tests in tandem with these training programs, but managers disdain being told who they can and can’t hire based on these results, and often pick and choose who they want to give the tests to, against policy. Like a child being told to eat green beans, these managers often do the opposite to prove they don’t take orders.

Oftentimes, voluntary training leads to better results, as those who choose to show up feel more responsible for pushing this “pro-diversity” choice and influencing others. The problem is, this rarely happens, and those being interviewed have no way of telling who is diversity-conscious or not.


Many Solutions Are Out of the Interviewee's Control

Because diversity training often has poor returns and hiring tests are often ignored, companies oftentimes couple these strategies with performance ratings or grievance procedures to improve managerial bias. These tactics target the hiring managers even further, but it’s rare that any walk away with new information, better approaches or new tools for tolerance, communication and awareness.

Those interviewing simply don’t know what kind of hiring manager they will face, and just because a company claims to have diversity programs in place, it doesn’t mean they won’t face unfair bias before even getting a chance to do the job.


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I know the point is to get people to sign on to GoGig, and I feel the pull to do that when I read the post, however, as a millennial/candidate I am wondering how do I make sure I haven’t already been negatively affected by hiring bias unbeknownst to me?

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