Diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you work in human resources, or a related field, you’ve heard these terms before and, odds are, you have some idea of what they mean. But just so that we are all on the same page, I’ll use the following, heavily borrowed, definitions for diversity, equity, and inclusion:
Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ from each other. Though this is often limited to race, ethnicity, and gender, it more broadly includes age, nationality, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education level, marital status, language, and physical appearance. Diversity also includes differences in ideas, perspectives, and values.
Equity concerns fair treatment, access, and opportunity for all people. Equity is about providing recognition, promotion, and compensation that is consistent with one’s work and qualifications. No one should be provided special treatment or privileges based on anything but performance.
Inclusion concerns creating working environments where everyone feels welcomed, respected, supported, and valued. Inclusive environments embrace diversity.
There are at least three reasons organizations should care about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The first is moral. Basic standards of human decency tell us that all people are of value and have something to contribute to society. Moreover, all people – regardless of background – deserve to be treated fairly, sharing equally in the benefits and burdens of society.
The second reason to care about diversity, equity, and inclusion is legal. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The act also established Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which further expanded Title VII to include discrimination based on age, gender, and disability. Ultimately, organizations found to be in violation of the laws are subject to legal ramifications including fines.
The third reason to care about diversity, equity, and inclusion is to do better business. Solving business problems like growing market share, understanding clients for different markets, and ensuring your advertising isn’t off-putting to certain groups is easier and more efficient with people from a diverse set of backgrounds. In 2015, Bud Light added the tag line “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” to their label. The advertising was immediately criticized. One cannot help but think that if the marketing team had included just one woman, they would have immediately realized this was a really bad idea.
The good news is that many organizations today get it. In 2005, fewer than 20% of the Fortune 500 had officers/programs for diversity and inclusion. In 2016, that number was closer to 60% and is poised to climb even higher. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are good for the organization and they are here to stay. But many organizations still struggle to increase their diversity and inclusion. The purpose of this essay is to make the scientific case for the use of personality assessments as a direct way to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Making Personnel Decisions
When it comes time to hire someone, or to promote someone to a higher role, there are lots of valid ways organizations can go about doing this. Obvious options include asking for referrals, looking at resumes, and conducting an interview. All these methods, to various degrees, are valid predictors of workplace performance. Unfortunately, all these methods are also heavily subject to bias. Referrals practically guarantee that you will reduce diversity (i.e., people tend to only refer people with whom they are familiar, and we tend to be most familiar with people who are similar to us). While resumes may appear to be unbiased, they frequently include opportunities for implicit bias to occur. For example, some names may reflect ethnicity (e.g., John Logan vs. Juan Lopez) and even educational experiences may be a better reflection of parental socioeconomic status than ability to perform on the job. And, of course, interviews are full of opportunities for bias to creep in. The data are clear, with classic methods of making personnel decisions, you get increased workplace performance, but also increased bias. Ultimately, this reduces diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The good news is that it is easy to eliminate bias from personnel decisions: just make decisions at random. That is, if you decide to hire or promote people on a completely random basis (i.e., rolling dice, drawing names out of hat), it is guaranteed that you will not be making biased decisions. Unfortunately, it is also guaranteed that you will not be making the most effective decisions in terms of your organization’s long-term performance.
But there is still one more alternative, one way that you can increase both long-term performance and increase your organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion: scientifically validated personality assessments. Decades of research on personality assessment (broadly speaking) show effectively zero differences in scores due to race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, language, physical appearance, education level, or disability. (There are age differences, but these reflect maturity and are not biased against older adults.) At Hogan, we gather personality data from millions of people – from virtually every ethnic background – all over the world on an annual basis. Our own data show no meaningful differences in test scores as a function of group status. As just one example, the figures below show average scores on our three core assessments – the HPI, the HDS, and the MVPI – for different U.S. racial categories. The scores are so close that they are virtually identical.
But with personality assessments, you don’t just get diversity, equity, and inclusion. As already mentioned, you can do that simply by choosing people at random. With scientifically-validated personality assessments, you also get a track record of predicting workplace performance. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too.
The point here is simple: If all personnel decisions were made using scientifically-validated personality assessments, unfair discrimination in the workplace would cease to exist. Personality assessments lead to increased productivity and engagement, as well as increased diversity, equity and inclusion. If you are serious about increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in your organization, using scientifically-validated personality assessments is an easy way to do that.