Diversity, equity and inclusion.

If you work in learning and development (L&D), 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:

  • Diversity includes all the ways people differ from each other. Though the term is often limited to race, ethnicity and gender, it 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. It involves providing recognition, promotion and compensation that is consistent with individuals’ work and qualifications. No one should be provided special treatment or privileges based on anything but performance.
  • Inclusion concerns creating work 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 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 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which expanded Title VII to include discrimination based on age and disability. Ultimately, organizations 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 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 when employees come from diverse backgrounds.

The good news is that many organizations today understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. In 2005, fewer than 20% of the Fortune 500 had officers or programs for diversity and inclusion (D&I), and in 2016, that number was closer to 60% and poised to climb even higher. Still, many organizations still struggle to improve their diversity and inclusion. Personality assessments can help.

Making Personnel Decisions

There are a number of valid ways organizations hire or promote employees. Obvious options include asking for referrals, looking at resumes and conducting interviews. All these methods, to various degrees, are valid predictors of workplace performance. Unfortunately, they are also heavily subject to bias.

Referrals practically guarantee that you will reduce diversity, because 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 unbiased, they frequently include opportunities for implicit bias to occur. For example, some names may reflect ethnicity, 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.

On the other hand, if you hire or promote people on a completely random basis, it is guaranteed that you will not be making biased decisions — and that you will not be making the most effective decisions in terms of your organization’s long-term performance.

There is one more alternative — one way that you can improve both long-term performance and your organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion: scientifically validated personality assessments. While some popular assessments are just another way of grouping people, scientifically validated assessments — the type that are based on the Big Five model of personality, for instance — embrace the full complexity that is an individual person.

Decades of research on personality assessment show effectively no differences in scores due to race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, language, physical appearance, education level or disability. (There are age differences, but they reflect maturity, not bias against older adults.) With these scientifically validated personality assessments, employees aren’t just another type of person — they’re a whole person.

With personality assessments, you don’t just gain diversity, equity and inclusion; you also gain a track record of predicting workplace performance. In other words, yes — you can have your cake and eat it, too.

TL; DR

If all personnel decisions were made using scientifically validated personality assessments, unfair discrimination in the workplace would cease to exist. Personality assessments lead to improved productivity and engagement, as well as D&I. If you are serious about improving diversity, equity and inclusion in your organization, using scientifically validated personality assessments is an easy way to do that.

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