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Diversity recruiting

Human Resources

Recruiting? Random selection can help you tap into diversity dividend

IbyIMD+ Published 29 September 2021 in Human Resources • 9 min read • Audio availableAudio available

When it comes to hiring, blind luck can trump biased reasoning and generate a less-is-more effect.

Recruiting a diverse workforce does not necessarily improve an organization’s performance. Diversity may generate a performance bonus when a task is so complex that no individual expert can be expected to master all the relevant knowledge, experience and perspectives needed to address the task. For less complex tasks, however, such as difficult mathematical problems, one expert can easily beat a crowd, regardless of how diverse it is.

The logic of generating a diversity bonus – the way organizations can improve performance by harnessing the power of differences in the way people think – seems straightforward, but can be difficult to put into practice. Organizations facing complex problems tend to put a misplaced belief in meritocracy – hiring the “best”. If a complex problem is like a jigsaw puzzle, the “best” may provide more pieces but unlikely all of them, because the “best” tend to be good in a homogeneous way. In addition, organizations tend to mistake identity diversity for cognitive diversity. Recruiting a demographically diverse team does not necessarily generate non-overlapping cognitive repertoires, which are essential to generating a diversity bonus. These biases imply that a performance bonus from recruiting a diverse workforce may exist as potential but can often be left unexploited. 

My research shows that random selection is an undervalued tool for overcoming several barriers to…

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