Month: January 2019

Do Diversity Statements Really Work?

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lottiehsmphotoWe are surrounded by pro-diversity messages today – from the #MeToo campaign, to the controversial Pepsi advert featuring Kendall Jenner – diversity, and the lack of it, penetrates every aspect of society.

We find here at HSM, that workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I) is often the most pressing challenge for many HR executives, and it’s no surprise given that there are only 25 female Fortune 500 CEOs and three black Fortune 500 CEOs[1], and that just 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time employment[2]. Many organisations are trying to amend these inequalities not only because it has become socially unacceptable, but also because it has been evidenced that a diverse workforce can greatly benefit an organisation’s bottom line.

For example McKinsey has found that companies in the top quartile of ethnic and racial diversity were 35% more likely to financially outperform their industry competitors[3]. This clearly has huge appeal for organisations, yet there remains a significant gap between the rhetoric and the reality of diversity efforts today. In this post I will focus on how often well-intentioned organisations are unaware of how to make the leap from the rhetoric of aspirational diversity agendas, to creating a reality of a company culture that is truly diverse and inclusive.

One way in which companies try to incorporate a pro-diversity message within their organisation’s culture and values is by including diversity or equal employer opportunity (EEO) statements, or by creating lengthy and comprehensive D&I policies. It is sometimes assumed that by creating these statements or policies, they will automatically attract a more diverse applicant pool of talent, and thus a more diverse workforce, allowing them to benefit from all of the advantages of diverse workforces. However, research has shown that EEO and diversity statements are ineffective in bringing about actual change[4]. A recent World Economic Forum report claimed that although 97% of companies have diversity programs or statements in place, only 25% of employees from diverse groups believe that they have personally benefited from these initiatives[5].

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So where can we go from here? Evidently employers still have a long way to go in fully addressing discrimination in organisations. Eliminating discrimination and working towards inclusivity needs to be made a regular part of the conversation in order to become a reality. For example, it could be a good starting point to ask employees what they think inclusion means, to ask them to share their experiences of feeling excluded, and to co-create with their employers the actions that would make the company more inclusive. The ideas and actions that come from these conversations can help bring your policy to life, as they truly come from the heart of your organisation and your people, those who will ultimately be responsible for implementing it.

This is something we have enabled clients to do, using our Collaboration Jams. These online, crowdsourced conversations enable thousands of employees to connect in a many-to-many conversation around the most pressing issues. Combined with expert facilitation, they make even the most sensitive topics safe to explore and provide leaders and HR teams with evidence-based solutions. Get in touch to find out more about how you can empower your employees to convert your diversity rhetoric into a reality.


[1] http://fortune.com/2017/06/09/white-men-senior-executives-fortune-500-companies-diversity-data/

[2] https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7540

[3] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

[4] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/000312240607100404

[5] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/company-diversity-fatigue-no-excuse/

Gillette – A Lesson on Inclusion and Diversity for Organisations

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DTIt has been a week since Gillette released their new ‘The Best Men Can Be’ advert and the world of social media turned upside down. From ‘well done’ to decrying the advertisement as being biased against men, the comments and opinions kept flooding in. So — is Gillette’s ad biased against men, or highlighting needed social change? Perhaps both, but here is a third theory: it was our unconscious bias that made us feel one way or another.

The human brain is hard-wired to make hasty decisions that draw on a variety of assumptions and experiences. Consider this: we are exposed to as many as 11 million pieces of information at any one time, but our brain can only functionally deal with about 40.[1] To filter out all the remaining pieces of information, our brain develops a perceptual lens that only lets in certain things. On one hand, this prevents information overload, but at the same time, we are not subjective on our interpretation of what is in front of us.

Unconscious behaviour is not just individual; it influences organisational culture as well. Unconscious organisational patterns exert an enormous influence over an organisation’s decisions, choices, and behaviours. These deep-seated company characteristics are often the reason that despite conscious efforts, organisations are failing to move the needle on inclusion and diversity. Even when leaders declare a commitment to fairness in their organisations, unconscious bias causes them to evaluate equal performers differently, as Emilio Castilla, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stephen Benard, of Indiana University, have demonstrated in their research on the “paradox of meritocracy.”[i]

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So… Is diversity training the best an organisation can get?

Not really. According to the renowned behavioural economist, Daniel Kahneman, it is very hard to eliminate our individual biases. Hundreds of studies have examined the relevance of interventions for reducing bias.[ii] It turns out that the positive effects of diversity training rarely last beyond a day or two, and a number of studies suggest that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance, with many participants actually reporting more animosity towards other groups afterward.

What is the way forward? Organisations should consider the approach known as choice architecture. This involves deliberately structuring how the information is presented: You do not take away the individual’s right to decide or tell them what they should do. You just make it easier for them to reach more rational decisions. For example, orchestras deployed this technique by using blind auditions in the 1970s.[iii] Cecilia Rouse of Princeton University and Claudia Golden of Harvard University have illustrated that this simple change played an important role in increasing the percentage of women in orchestras from 5% to almost 40% today.[iv] Organisations cannot easily put job candidates behind a curtain, but they can do a version of this with people analytics. For example, using software that allows recruiters to strip age, gender, educational and socioeconomic background information out of résumés so they can focus exclusively on talent.

How is your organisation overcoming unconscious biases? Is people analytics currently being utilising in hiring by your organisation? I would love to hear your insights on this very important topic. Email me at david@hotspotsmovement.com


[1] Ross, H. (2008). Proven Strategies for Addressing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace. Cook Ross.

[i] Castilla, E. J., & Benard, S. (2010). The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55(4), 543-676.

[ii]Levy Paluck, E., and Green, Donald P. (2009). Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Review and Assessment of Research and Practice. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 339-367. Retrieved from http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5186d08fe4b065e39b45b91e/t/51e3234ce4b0c8784c9e4aae/1373840204345/Paluck_Green_AnnRev_2009.pdf

[iii] Ibid.

[iv]Goldin, C. and Rouse, C. (2009, September). Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of ‘Blind’ Auditions on Female Musicians. Retrieved from

https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/goldin/files/orchestrating_impartiality_the_effect_of_blind_auditions_on_female_musicians.pdf

New Year, New Culture? Three Resolutions for HR Professionals

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MFHappy new year! January 2019 is in full swing and we should all be two weeks in to our new years’ resolutions (…or not!). Whilst staying fit and healthy, saving money, and travelling remain high on the list of our top resolutions, for the last 5 years, getting a new job is approximately 15% of the nations’ main focus – quite a scary statistic for HR professionals trying to hold on to great talent.

Our research suggests that there are three new years’ resolutions that organisations should consider in order to hold on to the great people that drive their performance:

  1. Build a Narrative around The Future of Work

Employees are anxious about the future of work and what this means for them, and they’re looking to their leaders for direction. In increasingly uncertain times, it is essential that your organisation and leaders are informed about the trends shaping the future of work and have a well-developed point of view to communicate to their teams. We’ve been working with 30 of the world’s leading companies to help them understand what a strong narrative looks like and how it can be developed. We’ve also worked with companies to engage their employees on the journey – tapping into their insights and experience to create a narrative that really resonates.

        2. Upgrade your company culture

Shifting a company culture can be daunting – but not as daunting as not changing it at all. According to research by Robert Walters, 73% of professionals in the UK have left a job because of an outdated workplace culture. With every organisation having a culture, and every employee experiencing it daily, it’s something which needs to continuously transform to reflect your organisation, its people and the modern day. There are many ways to get started on this, including identifying who the real influencers are within your organisation; harnessing the power of positive sub cultures within the company; and changing people’s micro behaviours in order to bring about larger scale change. Click here to find out more about how you can shift your company culture in 2019.

       3. Stay Agile

Flexible working and work-life balance are the at the forefront of workplace agility. As technology improves, so too do our means of crafting agile people strategies that give people more freedom to decide how, when and where they work.  Staying agile means building adaptability, fostering speed and dynamism, and enabling fluidity, all of which will be critical to mobilising talent in a changing world of work. We’ve just completed a fascinating piece of research on the benefits and unintended consequences of agile ways of working. One key revelation was the need to ensure that agile and activity-based work environments provide enough team continuity to ensure that people do not end up feeling lonely or isolated.


To find out more about any of these topics, please contact emma@hotspotsmovement.com