Workforce diversity, in my view, is one of the more misunderstood and misquoted aspects within Human Resources practice. You’ll often find people, often very senior people within organisations, stating how top organisations have a diverse workforce, and so that is something that ‘we’ should replicate. This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of diversity and its relationship to high performing organisations.
Generally speaking, those top-performing organisations have a very simple approach, find the brightest people who have an interest in that work and employ them. As it happens intelligence is not determined by gender, sexuality, height, weight, age, or any of the numerous aspects that we seem to focus upon in mainstream media. Hence organisations that focus on hiring and retaining the best in their respective fields and/or career levels, very often end up with quite a diverse workforce. Which then leads to this incorrect belief that diversity drives performance, which is invariably followed by organisations almost laughably launching a diversity-focused program based on discrimination. How many of us have been in organisations and witnessed age or gender-focused programs as a means of building diversity? As it turns out both age and gender are terrible predictors of performance.
Focusing on extremely poor predictors of performance in their desire to be diverse, will lead to a diverse workforce within that organisation, in some cases however it will lead to that organisation being a low performer. Rather, focus on what does predict strong performance, focus on finding the brightest people that you can afford and recruit them. Focus on removing those aspects in your recruitment and selection processes that discriminate, leaving the way open to actually finding high performers who will be female, male, gender diverse, tall, short, native, and non-native speakers of the dominant language in your workplace.
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