A Cure for Common Corporate Insanity

Peter Weddle

As Einstein once noted, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. If that’s true, there are a lot of employers out there who could use some clinical help. The way they’re conducting talent acquisition these days would make Einstein shake his head in disbelief … or frustration.

Don’t stand outside the door to the corporate c-suite these days. You’ll get trampled by the horde of executives flocking to interviews on cable news shows and to sit-downs with reporters on the business beat, all proclaiming their undying commitment to diversity and inclusion. The old saw “Our employees are our most important asset” has now been transformed into “The diversity of our employees is our most important asset.”

That statement is at one and the same time both true and false. Diversity will give employers a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace, but far too many companies are anything but diverse. And, of course, those executives know that full well. So, they’re telling their recruiting teams to bring in more diverse candidates to help the company align its talk and walk.

There’s just one problem. The way they’re going about it is a textbook illustration of insanity. Companies are doing what they have always done in a recession – they’re laying off recruiters and slashing the recruiting budget because hiring has paused – and at the same time, they’re expecting the remaining recruiters to deliver a more diverse flow of candidates. It’s the same old CFO-driven “just the numbers, ma’am” strategy over and over again, all while the company is trying to get from aspiration to reality in diversity.

A Workable Cure is Available

There is a cure for common corporate insanity, but it can only be administered by recruiters themselves. Unfortunately, however, some recruiters have actually been enablers of the executives who are Einstein exemplars. They have been reluctant to speak truth to power. They’ve not been willing to make the case that correcting historical imbalances in diversity takes investment, not budget cuts … even in a recession.

There are undoubtedly several reasons for this reluctance, but one stands out: a lack of data to build a strong business case for spending more, not less on recruiting. Yes, it’s counter-intuitive – at least, if your sole guiding principle is to maximize this quarter’s top and bottom line numbers – but the only way to achieve a different outcome like greater workforce diversity is by doing something different. And, doing something different requires an investment.

That’s not as wild and crazy an idea as some might think. The media, for example, is filled with stories about how companies are using the pandemic as a rationale for investing in more smart technology and automation. They’re spending money now because they think that will make them more money down the road. The same logic works for diversity … if you truly believe that a diverse workforce is more innovative and productive than one that is not.

So, how do we solve the lack of data problem? How do we give recruiters the facts they need to justify a company putting its money where the CEO’s mouth is?

The best approach, I believe, is for recruiting teams to partner with their solution providers. Talent technology companies often have a deep reservoir of data on their product applications. They track candidate behaviors from ad opens and email response rates as well as job seeker applications and conversion rates. Most will have that data by occupation or job type and some will even have it by demographic cohort.

Now, there will be those who complain that these data are incomplete or too provider-centric. Fair enough, but so are all data sets, including those being used to justify automating production lines and installing smart machines in customer service jobs. The use of provider data is not GIGO – garbage in, garbage out – but BIBO – best available data in, best results out.

Some would say it’s insane for an employer to collaborate with a bunch of vendors. The truth, however, is that it’s crazy to let company execs get away with practicing insanity in their commitment to diversity.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest books on Amazon or in the TAtech Bookstore.

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