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Category Archives: Cognitive Diversity

Why do we need diversity in HR? Does diversity breed creativity and productivity?

Why do we need diversity in HR? Does diversity breed creativity and productivity?

How can the least diverse sector be the lead in changing the diversity paradigm?

Diversity (or lack of) is one of our key focus areas. Saxus is strongly committed to building a diverse future – with particular focus on cognitive diversity rather than the broad-brush gender /race / sexuality diversity of yesterday. A diversity based on true self rather than extrinsic factors…

This search for greater creativity and spark has led me through many thought processes and one in particularly is this:

HR is, quite possibly, one of the least diverse sectors in business. It is the one area of the C suite where women outnumber men. The majority of HR graduates are women…

Is this a case of women rising – or is this in fact a lack of diversity issue that we seem comfortable to ignore?

HR has historically been a “people-focussed” side of the business with a strong leaning towards administrations. Historically women have been the mainstay of secretarial functions and so the move to a career in HR has been an easy one. In fact, for many women the move to HR was clearly a step in the right direction – the pay was better, the career opportunities better and perhaps more importantly – the dinosaur (male) bosses of the 1970s were comfortable with women in this so called more “caring” profession. Today 73% of HR Managers are women. (source: 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics)

So – the real question here is… Is this a problem? The rise of women in the workforce is a good thing, the inclusion of greater numbers of women in the C suite can only be beneficial – and – let’s face it – historical work patterns do lead towards a gender bias in other professions (think nursing and teaching!). But if we have realised the need for less gender bias in these professions – then why are we still so secure with the world of HR being a female only zone?

HR is the gatekeeper to our organisations. If diversity breeds more creativity and productivity – then why wouldn’t your Human Resources department be the first place you look to change the status quo? Talk of diversity is cheap when the first people you interact with are not showing the way as role models themselves.

So, do we need to change?

Well I would argue that this is a resounding YES. Diversity is an all-encompassing factor in the way we improve all aspects of our world of work. A greater diversity in HR will filter through to the rest of organisation.

As with most things – the path to change starts with enlightenment – it’s about changing education and perceptions. A male nurse 20 years ago would have been a standout feature of medical care – now it’s just a healthcare professional.

Graduate programmes need to actively encourage men to consider a career in HR –and job descriptions need to show less gender bias. HR is not purely an admin role. It is strategic and critical to business success. After all, if we all agree that our people are critical to our organisation – then surely the department geared towards those people is an integral part of corporate success?

First impressions matter.

If diversity matters – then perhaps it’s time to change the face of HR?

Cognitive Diversity

Cognitive Diversity

“If you’re constrained by classical, conventional wisdom on appointments in recruitment you’re never going to optimise the situation. You need people to bring different thought processes and challenge the system, you need a cognitive diversity”

Dave Brailsford

Far too often , in work , and in life – we seek out people that validate ourselves. We look for the familiar, the mirror image. We cultivate (very often unconsciously!) a culture of “groupthink”. Corporations have bought into the commercial proposition that a diversity of gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality improves our workforce. Yet all to often we overlook the diversity of thought that could truly innovate within our workplaces.

Cognitive diversity means breaking away from the perceived norm of thought process; defined as differences in perspective or information processing styles.

Cognitively diverse organisations are more genuinely inclusive and collaborative places to work.

Tech is a classic example; when looking at the companies who are now positively recruiting individuals with Aspergers or on the Autistic Spectrum. These are companies who have recognised the power of “difference” – and are using these differently wired brains to enhance performance and innovation.

We do tend to recruit in our own image – its human nature to want to fit in. But this functional bias slows the process of innovation and performance down. In a time of huge disruption – agility is critical to staying ahead. If all our talent is only able to think in one way – we reach an impasse. Teams of cognitively similar teams may be great while situations are stable – but our digital world isn’t waiting.

A First rate Madness by S. Nasser Ghaemi explores the differences further still – looking at Politcal leaders with a history of mental illness. So called “healthy” leaders such as Tony Blair operated well during politically stable times – but compare that with Churchill and the crisis after crisis that required a mind more able to change on a sixpence.

Tips for better Cognitive Diversity

Change your recruitment process:

If we always do what we always did… then we always get what we always got. A cliché – but valid. Cognitive diversity is a far less obvious recruitment challenge. Many people do not come into an interview situation expecting to show how different they are to the organisation they want to work for – so searching out cognitive diversity is an obstacle in itself. Corporations and recruiters must work together to ensure that job descriptions and interview processes seek out competencies of those who are willing and able to challenge groupthink. Seek out talent from different pools, look for the curious, the open minded, the insightful. Don’t look for the mirror image of the rest of the team!

Perhaps consider using a recruitment algorithm to help reduce some of the natural human bias – use a diverse group of people to interview

Be Yourself:

Management needs to change to show that authenicity is welcome here. Generate an inclusive culture that empowers learning from everyone. Debate welcome here – challenge welcome here. Status quo no longer relevant. A manager that can enable employees to truly express themselves will encourage cognitively diverse and collaborative teams

Active Promotion:

Organisations must actively practice what they preach and positively promote differences in thinking styles across the corporation. This needs to be factored into career development and progression to back up the culture of true human diversity in real terms. Reward innovators and encourage disruptive thinking

For further reading take a look here:

https://hbr.org/2017/03/teams-solve-problems-faster-when-theyre-more-cognitively-diverse

Teams Solve Problems Faster When They’re More Cognitively …

hbr.org

The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies – Scott Page

http://nonprofitprofessionals.com/2014/01/from-rhetoric-to-practice-recruiting-strategies-to-make-diversity-more-meaningful-in-your-organization/

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