March 27, 2017
Diversity and Inclusion: What Really Works?

Whenever someone asks us to do diversity and inclusion work, we have to stop and ask them what they mean. There are a lot of different ideas about what diversity and inclusion might include, ranging from feel good sessions to legal guidelines to bias testing. 
Implicit bias testing ( seems to be a strong current fad. A recent article from The Atlantic describes this method as: "It's diversity training for the new millennium, in which people are made aware of their own hidden biases" ("Why is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women",
The Atlantic, April, 2017). The test has been especially popular in Silicon Valley with companies such as Facebook and Google, because it's grounded in strong social science research showing how women and minorities are stereotyped. Yet a recent study by Michelle M. Duguid of Cornell University and Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt of the University of Virginia found surprising results about that method's effectiveness. 

"Much more that focuses on 
what the organization's goals are around diversity and inclusion 
under the law, their policy and their values."
The researchers found that showing people their own biases, and pointing out that many people hold similar biases normalized the behavior, allowing people to decide that the beliefs they held were okay, and giving them a disincentive to change their behavior. Surprisingly, what may work instead is instituting structural changes in interviewing, as well as measuring the numbers, especially creating hiring and retention goals and rewarding managers who meet those goals. Sometimes, in the case of Intel, for example, tying meeting diversity goals to across-the-board employee bonuses ("Why is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women", The Atlantic, April 2017, pages 61-73). Intel and PepsiCo, for example, have used these methods effectively for years.
Of course, we have to be careful to make sure that goals don't turn into quotas, which are illegal in the United States, although they've been quite effective in Europe. 
What Should You Do?   
We sometimes use implicit bias testing if a client wants to use it and we recommend the Harvard test, listed above. Much more effective, we've found, however, is training that focuses on letting employees and managers know what the organization's goals are around diversity and inclusion under the law, their policy and their values. We also recommend tying specific goals to executive and manager rewards, following the old adage of
what gets measured gets done.

Did You Know?

We offer a diverse group of consultants to help meet your diversity and inclusion needs. 
For more information, call or write us at: 303-216-1020 or 

Be sure to read Lynne's books "Sexual Harassment" and "Affirmative Action".


Workplaces That Work | (303) 216-1020 | [email protected] 
3985 Wonderland Hill Suite 106 Boulder, CO 80304
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