We live in the 21st century. There should be no room for doubt about the business case for diversity in the workplace anymore. Workplace diversity can be considered an actual competitive advantage rather than just something companies tend to boost about as means of improving their reputation.
Imagine a scenario where you interview two people for the same position.
- Candidate A has a protected characteristic which you have a quota to fill (e.g. a person of color) but is less suitable for the job.
- Candidate B is more suitable for the job role.
You end up hiring Candidate A even though they are less suitable or qualified for the job, simply because they have a protected characteristic.
This is positive discrimination.
In this blog, together we’ll uncover whether it is a good or bad practice to implement… ????
- Positive Discrimination
- Positive Action
- Begin hiring based on what matters
- Here’s how to prevent discrimination throughout the hiring process
- The most successful way to overcome discrimination: Gamification
What is Positive Discrimination
Instead of unconsciously (or sadly, sometimes consciously) discriminating against any candidates that might be considered of a minority group or discriminated against based on protected characteristics (I’ll tell you more about that in a bit) – positive discrimination implies that these groups are prioritized when making hiring-related decisions.
Often also referred to as Affirmative action, it is a term first used in the United States in March 1961, created with the goal of actively encouraging:
Positive discrimination at the essence of it works the opposite way as standard recruitment bias which can leave lots of room for discrimination throughout the hiring process.
What are protected characteristics?
The 9 protected characteristics
Since the creation of the Equality Act 2010, there are 9 protected characteristics when it comes to discrimination:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Why are they protected?
To clarify things before we dive any further into discussing positive discrimination, let me first explain why these 9 characteristics are protected. These 9 characteristics were chosen because of the vast majority of evidence indicating that there is still significant discrimination in employment regarding these characteristics. Now you might be wondering – what does it exactly mean that they are protected. Well, it means that it is against the law to discriminate against someone based on either one of these above-listed characteristics.
Let me give you some obvious and some not so obvious examples of how this can play out when it comes to employment:
Protected characteristics apply to everyone. From Angela Merkel to Borat, everyone has a race, sexual orientation, marital status, and so on. No matter who you are in regards to all this, these aspects of a person cannot be considered when hiring.
Examples of positive discrimination
Take a look at these examples of positive discrimination:
- Setting quotas or benchmarks throughout the recruitment process to take on a proportion of people from a protected characteristic group.
- Promoting a specific number of people within a minority group.
- Hiring someone with a disability solely to fulfill a quota.
Can discrimination be positive?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, positive discrimination or more commonly referred to as affirmative action was once created with the aim of ensuring that applicants are employed, and employees are treated fairly during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin. However, over time it has developed to become quite the opposite of what it was intended to be.
Now it is often perceived as replacing old wrongs with new wrongs, all while simultaneously:
- Hindering reconciliation
- Undermining the achievements of minorities or those of protected characteristics
- Actively encouraging individuals to identify themselves as disadvantaged (in cases when they are perhaps even not)
- Increasing racial tensions
- Resulting in benefits for those individuals who are privileged within minority groups at the expense of those who are not
So, what once was created with the intention of abolishing or at least diminishing discrimination, has become the exact opposite. – discrimination. This brings me to my next point – is positive discrimination even legal?
Is positive discrimination legal?
Time to work on boosting diversity by hiring new team members, right?
Do you see my point? If you do that, it automatically devalues their accomplishments because they are chosen solely because of a protected characteristic, in this case, gender.
Many communities have been wronged in the past and there should be steps taken towards fixing that but that’s exactly it. People perceive this aspect of “fixing it” as treating individuals from minorities or marginalized communities in a special way when, from my understanding, all they’ve ever wanted is to be treated the same as anyone else and get equal opportunities when it also comes to employment.
So, the short answer to the question of whether positive discrimination is legal is no.
Of course, there are certain specific situations when race, gender, or sexuality can become a factor within a job application. But that can really only occur in two instances:
- If it is relevant to the job, which is most definitely a rare situation.
- There are two candidates that are equally qualified, but one of them is from a minority group that is not well represented within the company.
However, there is a legal alternative to this which is called Positive Action. Already has a less negative connotation to it than positive discrimination, right?
What is positive action?
In contrast to positive discrimination, positive action implies changing society in a way that provides and ensures equal opportunities for everyone. For example, companies can do this by actively (and proudly) encouraging people with protected characteristics to apply for open job positions at their company.
This is legal. And has absolutely nothing wrong with it.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission Statutory code of practice on employment defines positive action as the following:
“The Act permits employers to take positive action measures to improve equality for people who share a protected characteristic.”
The difference between positive action and positive discrimination
Positive action is not the same as positive discrimination, which is unlawful.
Positive action doesn’t negatively impact other groups. Meaning that other groups are not being discriminated against.
Positive action is taken to benefit those from one particular protected group that does not involve less favorable treatment of those from another protected group, or to eradicate discriminatory policies or practices, which will normally be lawful.
Positive action is optional, not a requirement. However, if you plan to take positive action, then you need to ensure you comply with the requirements of the Act to avoid unlawful discrimination.
Examples of positive action
- Your profession has very few women, so you run an open day for women to raise awareness about the industry.
- Another example of positive action might be, advertising a job in a magazine with a largely LGBT+ readership, while also advertising in the national press.
Benefits of positive action
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission Statutory code of practice on employment, there are 3 main benefits positive action in employment can bring. Let’s briefly discuss them one by one.
A wider talent pool
Diversity in the workplace is a direct representation of diversity within the talent pool. Having a diverse workforce matters – as diversity is the absolute catalyst for ensuring growth.
On top of that, a diverse talent pool serves as a safety net for your company – it is the first place to look for qualified candidates when a new job role opens, and if luck is on your side and the talent pool is big – it will allow for finding the best-fit candidates for each open job position you might have.
If your workplace is diverse and inclusive, it will leave a positive impact on your organizational culture.
When interacting with people from different backgrounds, nationalities, views, beliefs, and different life stages, your employees will be able to form better awareness of each other’s world views. This way raising the awareness surrounding the importance of constant exchange of opinions and thoughts, as well as the crucial role that diversity plays within the workplace.
Workplace diversity can improve your talent attraction
I’m pretty sure (or at least I hope so) that the vast majority of companies out there understand and truly value the importance of workplace diversity and inclusion. Many are implementing hiring practices that are fair and attempting to provide equal opportunities for everyone that applies. While previously this might have been something to do as a formality on a surface level (to look good), now it has become a conscious effort to actively look for people from all walks of life.
Companies that continuously and actively showcase their commitment to DE&I and can back it up with actual real-time results are the companies that are the most in-demand by candidates.
Begin hiring based on what matters
Discrimination, positive or negative, shouldn’t be hard to combat, but diversity doesn’t happen overnight. But don’t worry, Rome wasn’t built in a day either.
Magically, it all seems to come down to how and who you hire. If you aren’t attracting candidates from a wide range of backgrounds, your office will always look the same. But before you start herding up different groups and setting patronizing quotas, you need to have a hard look at your application process.
- Is your application process fair – do you suddenly lose more than 30% of your female applicants at one stage? Let me give you an example: if your talent pool consists of 100 candidates, and only 1 of them is a woman – she might as well look for a job elsewhere because her chance of being hired is close to none. It is only an equal representation within a talent pool that can balance out the odds of diverse talent being hired.
- Do you only evaluate and screen candidates based on their educational level? Selecting candidates based on their educational degree is not only unfair but also a huge risk for your hiring success. On top of that, it means you’re discriminating against candidates who perhaps did not have the opportunity to acquire degrees from top-notch universities. There’s even scientific proof that selecting candidates on their educational level is nonsense!
- Is CV screening your main selection method? A resume shows the eligibility rather than suitability of a candidate. Therefore, hiring decisions are often based on wrongfully made assumptions that arise when evaluating someone based on their CV. This also leads to a lack of diversity in teams and discrimination throughout the hiring process.
If you want to prevent any type of potential discrimination through the hiring process – I’ve got a few tips prepared for you.
Here’s how to prevent discrimination throughout the hiring process
When identifying hiring needs
Set objective hiring criteria
- Analyze your team, first, to objectively reveal your hiring needs. Understand what are the cultural and traits of each team to find out who will fit in
- Think twice about your hiring requirements because many skills can also be learned on the job. (example?) technical skills can be taught, who you are can’t be changed.
When writing job descriptions
- Get that job description right: Write more inclusive job descriptions (here’s a 5 step guide you can follow).
- Showcase that you truly care about DE&I and practice what you preach. In fact, research has shown that emphasizing your commitment to ensuring diversity and inclusion has a positive effect on overall organizational attractiveness. This not only results in attracting high-quality applicants but also improves and diversifies your talent pool.
Throughout the candidate screening process
- Don’t focus on education-based screening only
- Shortlist candidates for an interview effectively
- Ensure an outstanding candidate experience
- Don’t screen candidates solely based on top-performer indicators
- Pre-hire assessments for candidate screening have become increasingly more popular as they allow you to focus on gathering valuable insights about each candidate even before the interview process through psychometric tests, cognitive ability tests, or other pre-employment assessments
When conducting job interviews
Conduct interviews in such a way that it actually removes bias by:
- Standardizing your interview process
- Using a diverse interview panel and preparing interview scorecards
- Avoid interviewer bias: 8 ways to avoid this
The most successful way to overcome Discrimination: Gamification
Harness the power of data in your hiring process.
Here, at Equalture, we have made it our mission to help companies hire people based on what’s actually predictive of job fit and culture fit: cognitive skills, behavior, and personality. Instead of basing your hiring decision on gut feeling and first impressions.
Our library of scientifically-validated gamified assessments, which candidates are asked to complete right at the start of the hiring process (this takes around 15 minutes).
This way allowing you to look beyond your bias & hire top talent objectively.
Curious to play one of our games?