Discrimination, when promoting or hiring employees, is bad for business. Instances and patterns of discrimination can be very costly to a company and can lead to very bad publicity.
At the same time, strong systems for hiring and promotion lead to greater employee satisfaction and protection from lawsuits. Discrimination is also, of course, against the law — promotions are covered by current non-discrimination laws just like hiring.
So what’s the key to a fair promotion process? Policy and communication.
Discrimination Hurts Business
Diversity can be a great strength in the workplace. It produces a workforce that is more productive, creative and dynamic, with greater problem-solving capacity. According to Gartner, at diverse workplaces individual effort is up by 12%, 20% more employees want to stay on, and healthy collaboration increased by 50%.
Devoting more of a company’s budget to diversity and inclusion initiatives is an investment that pays off. But it’s not as easy as deciding to not be biased. For example, there is a significant employment gap for disabled people. Despite the ADA passing in 1990, there has been little progress in closing that gap.
The fact is, being fair is hard work because we all carry unconscious biases, and sometimes our hiring process retains those biases. If you’re not designing for inclusion, your promotion or hiring process can accidentally bar strong employees.
To close this gap, companies will need to hire diverse managers and neutralize individual bias through procedures and policy.
Policy is Strategy
Policies can protect you from discrimination lawsuits, help eliminate bias and have a consistent and documented process. When your hiring managers and HR follow a strong script, promoting becomes more efficient, and you’re more likely to land the right person in the right position.
● Create neutral selection criteria for positions
● Conduct consistent interviews for all candidates
● Have standards for internal communication about positions so everyone is informed
● Make clear and consistent steps for employees to follow if they want a position
● Document why people are hired or not
● Audit your process with experts to reduce invisible biases, such as language biases
● Have a method for holding the decision-makers accountable
● Have multiple people source your pool of candidates so no one is overlooked
● Consider using candidate management systems
● Check and update your process
Good communication is also key. When employees know how decisions are made, they can avoid distrust and hurt feelings. In employee reviews, give very specific feedback, so everyone knows what they need to do to move up in the company. Give them what they need to figure out their career paths, and access training, education, and mentorship.
It is also important to be very clear and open about what you’re not looking for in a particular position. Most companies don’t tell candidates why they were not hired or promoted - being transparent with this information can help show that the reason for such a decision is not about an applicant’s protected status.
For the interviewing process, be sure to employ the same procedure for each applicant. This will mean interviewing every employee who is interested in the promotion, with the same questions, focused on whether a candidate has the right skills for the position. Panel interviews lead to multiple perspectives on each applicant, and interviewers can hold each other accountable to your standard.
Avoiding discrimination is a critical task, and seriously addressing it will require continuously reviewing and improving processes to ensure that they’re effectively serving that goal.