by Edward Chang, Siri Chilazi, James Elfer, Cansin Arslan, Erika Kirgios, Oliver Hauser, Iris Bohnet
Most people don’t think of themselves as biased or prejudiced, and people often explicitly endorse diversity as something companies should strive for. But many organizations struggle with DEI. Why?
Implicit or unconscious biases can lead to inequitable decision-making. More mundanely, people are just busy. They have lots of competing priorities and lots to occupy their brains. Even if they care about DEI, they might not have it top of mind as they go about their work. As a result, they might not see how their decisions are relevant for DEI and so might inadvertently make inequitable decisions.
To fix this, managers and organizations should make DEI more immediately obvious, or salient, when it matters most — that is, when consequential decisions about such matters as hiring, promotions, and performance evaluation are being made. Our academic research and experiences partnering with companies suggest that to make real progress on DEI, managers and organizations need to make DEI salient in those moments of consequential decision-making. We’ve identified three particularly effective ways of doing so.
1. Ask managers to hire for more than one job at a time.
Many hiring decisions are made in isolation, with only one person being hired at a time. When this is the case, diversity simply just isn’t that salient to decision-makers, who are often thinking not about diversity but instead about technical skills, cultural fit, or how quickly a candidate can start. This shouldn’t be surprising, because diversity is a property of groups, not individuals. You can describe a group of people as “diverse” or “homogeneous,” after all, but not an individual person.
On the other hand, when people make collective hiring decisions — when they hire multiple people at a time — our research shows that people select more diversity. They start thinking about the candidates they’re selecting as a group, which makes diversity more salient and leads to hiring decisions that improve it. For example, rather than hiring one person every month, a company might benefit from grouping these decisions together and hiring three people very quarter. The total number of people hired will be the same, but making collective decisions every quarter should lead to more diversity. Relatedly, it might also be beneficial to give one person oversight over hiring decisions across teams or departments, enabling that person to make collective hiring decisions.