If you take something everyone hates and give it a cool buzz-phrase, it’s magically reborn as something new and exciting. A rose by another name might not smell as sweet, but you can fool an awful lot of people by putting lipstick on a pig.
We used to hate Philip Morris, but now we love Altria (MO). The dreaded phone company is now your friendly wireless service provider. Nobody likes to diet, but weight-loss systems are all the rage.
Somewhere along the line, cows grazing in a field became beef in the supermarket. I guess it’s okay to have chicken for dinner, but not cow. Likewise with pig and squid. So uncool.
Lately, everyone has a trumped up new job title. Bartenders are now mixologists. Prostitutes are escorts. Business owners have become entrepreneurs and CEOs. There are C-Level titles for every letter in the alphabet. Wonder what CZO is. Never mind; I don’t want to know.
Don’t ask me why, but we do love to rebrand stuff.
About five years ago, the dog-eat-dog recruiting function began to morph into the glamorous new field of talent acquisition. And, without a doubt, nothing has helped recruiters elevate their brand more than the diversity and inclusiveness movement.
Which brings us to San Francisco-based Entelo, a venture-backed startup that provides recruiters – I mean talent acquisition people – with software to help them find the right candidates. The venture-backed company counts Box, Groupon, Square and Yelp among its many clients.
On April 30th, Entelo will launch a controversial new product that allows employers to filter candidates based on gender, ethnicity, and veteran status, according to founding CEO Jon Bischke. “The purpose of our product is to allow employers to develop a more diverse candidate pool,” said Bischke in an email interview.
That practice is known as diversity recruiting. No, I don’t know why it isn’t called diverse talent acquisition. It’s a mystery.
My immediate reaction was that Entelo’s new diversity recruiting product is just institutionalized reverse discrimination. After all, it would seem to enable companies to more effectively find and presumably hire minorities to improve the diversity of their workforces.
But that’s not exactly true. If it were true, the practice of diversity recruiting would probably violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits making hiring decisions based upon race. That’s where naming comes into the picture.
The reason we no longer hear about Equal Opportunity Employment is because it was supposed to ensure that race, gender, and religion don’t enter into the employment picture. Diversity and inclusion promotes the opposite. And it’s legal because it enables more diverse pools of candidates. The actual hiring decision is another matter entirely. At least, that’s the story I’m hearing.
Let’s think about that for a moment. Let’s say you do a search and get 90 resumes that fit your job spec, but the diversity software says you’re light on one minority. So you rerun the search, filtering on that minority, but you need to cast a wider net or you’ll just get the same candidates.
The only way to do that is to lighten up on at least one criteria in the spec – say, direct related experience or education, for example. And why would you go through the trouble and spend the money to do that unless you’re willing to hire one of those people who isn’t as qualified as the others.
That’s right, you wouldn’t. And that, my friends, is not equal opportunity for all. At least, not to me.
Now, let’s take a step back and look at the big picture, for a moment. Homogeneity is a bad thing. Diversity is a good thing. Diversity does facilitate new ideas and viewpoints. It creates constructive conflict and debate that leads to better decisions. It improves team dynamics that fight the status quo and the treachery of groupthink.
But when you lower your standards and hire or promote less qualified people based on race or gender, you erase whatever benefit you may have gained by adding diversity. When you undermine the tenets of meritocracy and personal accountability by giving unfair advantage to some chosen group, it breeds resentment and diminishes organizational performance.
If you want a high-performance team, simply hire the best people for the job, treat them fairly, and encourage them to openly question the status quo and each other. That’s all the diversity and inclusion you really need.
Political correctness already has our culture on a slippery slope that leads to mediocrity and collectivism. Call it what you want, diversity recruiting just makes that slippery slope even more treacherous. Maybe it’s legal, but to me, it’s unethical and discriminatory.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive and author of "Real Leaders Don't Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur." Learn more, contact Tobak or follow his new blog at stevetobak.com. Any opinions expressed are those of the columnist.