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Diversity Hiring Doesn’t Require Any Compromise

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At SmartRecruiters’ Hiring Success recruiting conference in San Francisco someone suggested that too many people think diversity hiring requires the lowering of standards.

At a recent interviewing training workshop, I suggested that the Hiring Formula for Success shown in the graphic provides the evidence needed to accurately predict on-the-job performance. In words, the formula states that ability in relationship to fit drives motivation which ultimately drives success. Since motivation is so important it’s squared with the following fit factors being the critical drivers for motivation:

  • Fit with the job, meaning the person is intrinsically motivated to do the work.
  • Fit with the company culture, and …
  • Fit with the hiring manager’s leadership and management style, regardless of whether it’s good or bad.

At this point, someone in the session suggested that too many people think fit, including cultural fit, relates to hiring people just like the people who have already been hired.

My response to both queries was pretty much the same:

“When companies continue to use job descriptions listing skills and experiences surrounded by generic competencies and highfalutin statements about culture, diversity hiring implies making compromises.”

Then I went on to say that this type of hiring process compromises more than diversity. It eliminates the most promising people from consideration before they even get a chance to be considered. These are the people who achieve more with a different mix of skills and experiences. These are people who get promoted more frequently. These are the people who are assigned stretch projects early in the careers. These are the people who are assigned the toughest projects or volunteer for them at every stage of their career. These are people who are assigned to important multi-functional teams or volunteer to be part of them or are asked by other team members to join.

Performance Qualified vs. Skills and Experience Qualified

The sad part is that traditional job descriptions prevent these people from consideration unless they are referred or already known by the people making the hiring decisions. However, there is one technique that opens up this diverse pool of high performing talent without making any compromises: Eliminate traditional job descriptions and shift to a performance qualified approach for attracting and assessing talent.

Here’s how to make the shift.

  1. When opening a new job, ask the hiring manager what the person hired needs to do over the course of the first year that would define success. Most jobs can be defined with 5-6 performance objectives or KPOs (key performance objectives) describing the task, the action required and some deliverable. For example, “Develop a state-of-the-art model predicting semiconductor cost trends.”
  2. Convert all critical skills and competencies into performance objectives by asking, “How is that (requirement) actually used on the job?” For example, for “Results-oriented” the performance objective might be, “Complete the entire marketing launch plan on time and on budget by Q3 regardless of any setbacks.”
  3. Develop a few more short-term performance objectives by asking, “What does the person need to do in the first 30-60-90 days to ensure all of the major KPOs will be achieved as planned?”

To develop some of the performance objectives you could also ask about problems that need to be solved, processes that need to be improved, team and personnel challenges the person is likely to face or any long-term strategic issues that need to be addressed. Regardless of how they’re developed, select the top 6-8 KPOs and put them in priority order. The summary is called a performance-based job description or performance profile and people who can do this work are considered performance qualified. Using a performance qualified approach like this is how you remove the lid on quality of hire and never need to make compromises when hiring diverse talent.

This demo lesson describes the process in more detail and also how to assess the person during the interview using the Hiring Formula for Success as a guide.

As part of the research for The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, I asked one of the top labor attorneys in the country what he thought of this approach. Here’s his summary:

  • A properly prepared performance profile can identify and document the essential functions of a job better than traditional position descriptions, facilitating the reasonable accommodation of disabilities and making it easier to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar laws. 
  • Focusing on “Year 1 and Beyond” criteria may open the door to more minority, military, and disabled candidates who have a less “traditional” mix of experiences, thereby supporting affirmative action or diversity efforts.

By shifting to a “performance qualified” attracting and assessment process there is never a need to compromise on ability, fit or motivation to excel. Companies who do not make the shift are the ones that make the compromise with every new hire.