Disparate effect: Diversity is what makes the world go round

Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

MANY people managers are often stifled on how to recruit, identify, and motivate the best and the brightest workers. For them, one possible shortcut is to experiment with several programs and wait for the result. It’s a trial-and-error approach. Sometimes, they look for some best practices from elsewhere. That’s why they attend public management seminars, if not read books or internet materials to find ways on how model organizations do it.

That’s the easy way, but not necessarily the effective solution. Why not? That’s because we often use the copy-and-paste approach. Take hiring for instance. Some managers are focused on altering the job requirements to fit certain types of people. They tend to create job specifications that are not necessarily the best for the organization, and yet they do it just the same to keep the tradition, no matter how they have become obsolete.

In hiring, they give priority to job applicants who belong to their standards – same race, religion, national origin, gender, political belief, and academic origin, among others, even if they have nothing to do with the excellent performance of the advertised jobs. Hiring managers give important, key management positions to those with monosyllabic surnames and relegate contractual, insignificant jobs to outsiders.

They hire people from a certain religious sect because they abhor unionism. And they hire graduates of exclusive schools because they too, were graduates of maroon, green, and blue universities, not necessarily in that order.

These people managers invent job requirements that have the effect of unfairly excluding applicants who don’t belong to their breed, no matter how lowly they have reached that stage. This is called the “disparate effect” under the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) standards.

Finding and identifying the problem is often the crucial step when the Management hires people according to their appearance and likeness, in words and in deeds. The point of “disparate effect” is for us in people management to be conscious of what we’re missing if we don’t recognize a problem like that, at least from the ethical and moral viewpoints. After all, what’s the point of discriminating people in this era when cultural diversity is revered by dynamic organizations trying to foster internal creative competition?

You really have to open your eyes to see existing problems under a new light so that you can convert them into solutions. Sounds crazy? But not if you think that customers are our regular source of solutions. If you can tell me any organization that doesn’t rely on customer feedback, then you’re simply pulling my leg.

Is it not true that job applicants are customers, too? Now, would that change your position? Think about it. More than that, people who know that they’re in a disadvantaged position would try to change that perception by working doubly hard to prove their manager-detractors wrong. That’s for the victims of disparate effect.

For the hiring managers, when testing cultural diversity in an organization, management consultant Roosevelt Thomas uses the following questions so that they can understand the bigger picture in the workplace: Do you accept responsibility for improving your performance? Do you understand diversity concepts? Do you make decisions about others based on their abilities?

Do you understand that diversity issues are complex? Are you able to cope with tensions in addressing diversity? Are you willing to challenge the way things are? Are you willing to learn continuously?

Like cultural diversity, the disparate effect as a hidden problem should be understood. They should not be swept under the rug of Jurassic managers. Instead of becoming intolerant of people outside of their levels, managers need to cultivate them and even empathize with them.

Once you have identified persons who are discriminated against, would you go about testing my proposition that they, too, can exceed management expectations? Watching how they work is an excellent approach. Rather than perpetuating a discriminatory hiring and promotion policy, organizations must re-examine their approach against certain “protected” groups.

Thinking this way is a tool to get you to be a bit bolder and more positively outrageous than you can imagine. Remember this. When a tag is sewn into clothing, the garment can be scientifically laundered to give the look of being old and worn as is desired, just like a faded but fashionable pair of jeans.

Flaws and imperfections are part of the total desired look sometimes. And for the right occasion, that’s what makes it look more expensive.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.


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1 Comment

  1. The key is to regard diversity as a corporate strength rather than simply as a legal requirement, a marketing tool, or a personnel initiative.

    Diversity should also not be perceived as an isolated activity but part of a holistic approach which needs to become embedded in the corporate culture, with individuals/employees learning to overcome unconscious biases.

    It is more important than ever that cultural variances and individual differences are fully understood, accepted, and utilised, especially as more and more people are working in multi-functional and multi-cultural teams, nationally and internationally, which are expected to be high performing and rapidly productive.

    D&I as a function is embryonic in The Philippines, but, with the advent of ASEAN, increasing globalisation, and the need to be more innovative, it will be a critical success factor for companies to harness diversity, and to be more open to change itself.

    In a collective culture such as The Philippines, leveraging diversity is a major challenge which needs strong commitment and continuous effort, but without it, innovation will be stifled, productivity will stagnate, and overall competitiveness will suffer.

    The government could do a lot more to promote diversity and inclusion as a core value and recognise its importance in establishing competitive and comparative advantage, otherwise the business environment/community will continue to be perceived as old fashioned, and lacking in creativity and modern management practices – which holds little appeal to potential partners/international investors.

    I have developed a 5 T model/approach to change which includes Diversity as one of the core pillars.

    Transformational leadership – DRIVER – vision, strategy, structure,

    Talent management – DIVERSITY – recruitment, training, motivation, equality

    Team culture – INCLUSION – innovation, improvement, empowerment

    Total immersion – INTEGRATION – systems, culture, skills, people.

    Total satisfaction – EXCELLENCE – customer, product, service.

    International companies hire on attitude and train for aptitude, so those candidates/employees who exhibit closed minds, or who demonstrate paroquial thinking, will invariably struggle in the corporate world.