Merit: Let’s stop using this as an excuse in hiring!

Many companies proudly proclaim that they pick and promote individuals based on merit, as if this fixes the diversity problem. The concept of merit assumes that there is no bias and that the best individual wins. 

Then how can merit overcome diversity if an organization operates inside the same architecture and atmosphere that has permitted bias or prejudice to exist and even thrive? 

For a true meritocracy to exist, the pool of candidates must be diverse. Studies show that like attracts like. There is a general understanding that humans have substantial prejudice in-group. This bias plays out in various ways across social, racial, gendered, and other groups.

People who don’t match the mould rarely make it into the selection pool, implying that merit will not improve workplace diversity.

Merit is a common belief in most corporations. Organizations pat themselves on the back to check to hire diverse folks, but they don’t necessarily feel included.

It is important to note that merit is subjective. In merit-based programs, unconscious or even conscious bias plays a key role. People tend to encourage people similar to them rather than those who are capable. It’s hard to be entirely objective when determining whom to promote or hire.

We often consider an individual’s potential, resulting in a wide range of subjective evaluations. This type of prejudice can be difficult to detect unless the process is entirely blind – which is nearly impossible to achieve when recruiting or promoting people. The only way to achieve true diversity is to eliminate merit favouring other recruiting and promotion techniques that foster diversity and truly reward people based on their competency and talents.

One solution is to guarantee that businesses are held accountable for their decisions. They shouldn’t be able to use “merit” as an excuse; rather, they should demonstrate what that means in terms of recruiting and promotion with open and transparent criteria. 

As you progress up the hierarchy, you may need to consider innovative techniques that enable more individuals to be part of promotions and oversee a more comprehensive number of conditions. 

Although many companies have used training to influence behaviour and increase diversity, research has shown that it has minimal influence. A radical shift in the workplace’s structure and culture is needed, not a one-off training. Companies can look at the language they use in job descriptions and interviews, for instance, to ensure that it includes employees from various backgrounds. 

This trend isn’t just about preventing unpleasant or discriminating remarks; relatively harmless language, artifacts, symbols, and behaviours can promote or inhibit people from working for a company. An example is the word command in a job description, which attracts fewer women to apply. 

Organizations must examine how their leaders act and behave to see if they send the right message. Are some people, for instance, asked to play golf or work with a leader regularly? 

True diversity is challenging to attain, and for far too long, merit has given organizations an excuse to give up. Clients and employees are the biggest losers of a lack of diversity. They do not gain from the variety, uniqueness, and talent among people of various backgrounds. Organizations, therefore, have continued to serve them more of the same. It’s time for things to change, and businesses should examine how they function and what they can do to deliver the expected results.

Innovation requires diversity. It is critical for both financial and employee success. It can even negatively influence a company’s data security, recruiting efforts, and general reputation. Not only is representation crucial, but if it isn’t present, it can cost a company money. 

In the most competitive, merit-based jobs, talent isn’t the primary criterion for hiring. For instance, it is mainly dependent on who is aware that specific career prospects exist. Low-income groups and those from marginalized backgrounds may have poor knowledge about work opportunities in an up-and-coming field.

It also depends on your network. When you have more people in your network, you’re more likely to tell them you’re looking for work and have them recommend you. 

People who like you are more likely to hire or refer you for job opportunities. This bias can open doors for dedicated people who lack experience in a particular field. It can also allow unconscious or conscious prejudice to restrict some groups’ possibilities.

Hiring based on merit may be an indisputable technique to assure that an organization hires the finest of the best. However, it does not address systematic inequality, which may prevent some groups from accessing the same educational resources as their peers. 

Systemic inequity affects academic chances. People of all races and economic levels do not have equal educational resources due to historically racist practices such as redlining. 

It’s not always about choosing the most outstanding individual for the job; it is about recruiting the best person that complements your team. 

Things to Note

  • Employee turnover is relatively minor in companies with greater levels of gender diversity and HR policies and procedures that focus on gender diversity. 
  • According to a new analysis, organizations with more diversity in management earned 38 percent more income from innovative products and services over three years than companies with less variety. 
  • Businesses with inclusive company cultures and practices are 57.8% more likely to improve their public image. 
  • During the Great Recession, companies with stable, inclusive workplace cultures beat the S&P 500 in average yearly stock returns, especially as experienced by historically underrepresented groups.

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