Diversity For The Sake Of Diversity Doesn’t Work

Posted on July 8, 2022


I recently came by a fascinating LinkedIn post by Spend Matters’ Jason Busch.

Under the heading “Merit in Procurement Hiring and Shareholder Value,” Jason shares the story of a highly qualified friend interviewing for what appears to be a senior position with a company.

When the people interviewing him asked about his success in building a diverse and inclusive team, he said that the current team he had built for a Global 50 manufacturer was “more diverse” than anything he had previously seen at the company.

In their response, the interviewers zeroed in on his effectiveness at “promoting marginalized groups.”

What was his response? He told them that he hires “based on merit.”

Let’s pause for a moment to think about the above answer. What would you think and ultimately say to this individual if you were conducting the interview?

Right Versus Smart

“They said they strive to maintain “hiring metrics” that match up with the demographics of their customers.”

While I would encourage you to read Jason’s post in its entirety, the net result is that the interviewed individual told them that he wouldn’t be a good fit for their company. He reasoned that “there is no replacement for merit and demonstrated capability.”

When an organisation indicates that they base their hiring decisions on metrics in which “merit and demonstrated capability” are secondary considerations, diversity shifts from being the “smart thing to do” to being just the “right thing to do.” And having a “right thing to do” mindset is ultimately a disservice to everyone – including the customers the hiring company seeks to serve.

As I read the various comments regarding the post, one, in particular, stood out to me. In their response, the individual wrote the following:

“Hiring on merit means that you see all potential candidates as equal regardless of skin colour, gender, or other differences we all share as human beings on planet earth.”

They then went on to write:

“What concerns me most about the hiring company is that their creation and adherence to “maintain a hiring metrics that match up with the demographics of their customers” have less to do with true DEI intent and more to do with pandering to gain approval and market share.”

Before you raise protests about the above as insensitive or out of touch, you should know that the person writing it is “classified” as a “diverse” professional. He is speaking from a position of personal experience versus dismissive ignorance. In other words, and as he so eloquently puts it: “I do not want someone to hire me because I am ADHD. I want someone to hire me because I can make a tangible and meaningful contribution to the business for which I can take pride and have a sense of achievement.”

What About Right AND Smart

I do not believe that it is an either-or right versus wrong scenario. I think that effective DE&I hiring practices get it right by hiring on merit regardless of colour, sex or anything else that makes us uniquely individual. The same principles apply to choosing the suppliers with whom you work.

Of course, the outcome is the real test of the above mindset or approach.

In this context, I will close this article with a final statement from Jason’s post about the company hiring to match up to their customers’ demographics:

“The hiring company,” which is one of the “worst-performing big box stores,” was “recently cited in the headlines for continued supply chain troubles relative to peers, dragging down financial performance.”

For me, this is the ultimate metric by which you should measure any policy or practice.

Posted in: Commentary