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You’re doing diversity wrong #SHRM15

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Today is the first full day of #SHRM15 and us bloggers have been busy bees! I’m pretty proud of myself for getting up before the sun over here and cranking out a run AND getting back to the room and ready in time for a 7 am session! By the way, it’s really really hot here. As our friend Penn Jillette says “Its 100 and hell out here.” This mornings session is the one I have been looking forward to the most, even more so than the general sessions lined up this week. The session, “The Black Guy in the C-Suite: Diversity Hiring Practices.” This one caught my eye over all the other diversity sessions, because its all about a perspective from a diversity candidate.

I’ve been poking around about the diversity issue in my own organization and I’ve given up on the meetings with other white people in the building and decided to start asking diversity candidates how they feel about it, what their challenges are, what education they think the workforce needs, etc. I’ve received some awesome feedback that has verified that the group of (us) white people trying to talk numbers and initiatives were headed in the wrong direction. Truth be told, how dare us act like we understood this issue in the least bit without getting their perspective.

I’ll give you an example. Last week before I left town I had lunch with a group of female engineers to get some feedback and perspective about their experience and challenges. You may not know this, but engineering is still a majority male industry. I wanted to know how they feel about that and most of them, don’t even notice anymore. Granted these are young female engineers so I know their experience isn’t the same as other female engineers 10 or 20 years prior to them. The top two things that I walked away from after meeting with that group is that they do sometimes feel like they have to work twice as hard to prove they are as good as their male counterparts and that they do NOT want to be hired just because they are female engineers, but because they are good engineers. You know why they said that? Because they know we have numbers to fill and percentages to meet and they don’t want jobs just to make your AAP a little sexier. They want you to hire them for your job because they are the best candidate for the job.

Here’s the deal, we like to throw things at our managers that they have to do and expect them to follow the rules, but my friend Famous Heather has a great point. If she makes her son eat carrots then he’s never going to like them or appreciate them. Are you forcing carrots on your managers? Are you chasing your initiatives the right way?

I appreciated Marlin, a fellow HR practitioner, calling the HR profession out on this one very bold fact: We, as an HR community, have been talking about how important diversity IS, but doing almost nothing about it. He shared some survey results to back this up and challenged the room to think about their own organizations in regards to this. He also provided tools to the audience to consider in understanding the differences in groups and why people perceive others the way they do.

More to come on this topic over the next few weeks, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Who leads your diversity issues? What’s most important to your org in reference to diversity? What have you done that has worked?

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