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Diversity, or Merit?
Is diversity really that important? Or are companies dooming themselves by not focusing on merit instead. The problem of diversity has been a huge issue in the modern world. Nowadays, people are looking at diversity rather than merit when it comes to hiring or evaluating a person for a job or school application. While hiring for diversity does have some benefits, hiring for merit is much more important.
Diversity policies backfire in increasing diversity. According to a Harvard Business Review on behavioral science, diversity programs fail because they are mandatory. This causes managers to feel the need to rebel and strike back, “proving that they are their own person” and continue or even start discriminating. When managers are forced to take a diversity program, they often feel that they are being suppressed and being told what to do. Instead of voluntarily choosing their own hiring policies, they are forced to obey a standard that they don't believe in. This causes them to think more in a discriminatory way. Therefore, diversity programs have the opposite of the intended effect. In addition, a diversity policy that is meant to stop discrimination in hiring is the grievance system, but this system, in fact, causes more discrimination. The very same Harvard Business Review says that “lab studies show that protective measures like grievance systems lead people to drop their guard and let bias affect their decisions, because they think company policies will guarantee fairness.” Hiring managers will feel they do not have any personal responsibility and can feel free to do whatever they want because the company has their back. The hiring grievance system is not only ineffective, but could also further cause bias to grow inside the mind of evaluators if evaluators feel that they don't need to pay attention and constantly be alert. If they receive a discrimination complaint, it could cause anger and discrimination because they don't want to feel as though somebody is questioning their authority. In conclusion, diversity policies do the opposite of what it is supposed to.
Instead of focusing on hiring with diversity policies, there are many benefits of evaluating solely through merit. Hiring based on skills means that top producers will not be tempted to look for other jobs. Eskill, a talent assessment platform, says that top workers and students know that they will be awarded based on skill and ability. They will then be less tempted to look for other opportunities and ensure a stable company or school. These workers will feel that as long as they work hard, they will be rewarded. Not only will this cause stability throughout companies, the teams will be “top quality” and highly skilled. Hiring through merit means that schools and companies will not receive hiring discrimination complaints. According to Eskill, “Each year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives thousands of discrimination complaints from applicants who claim employers engaged in unfair hiring practices.” By implementing merit based hiring, they ensure that all hiring and promotions are based on skill and quantitative data. Discrimination complaints through hiring are a big problem in companies. The public will turn against them, they often lose money due to lawsuits, and workers often go on strikes to protest discrimination. If companies and schools evaluate candidates on merit, discrimination in hiring complaints will not be valid and these problems can be solved. Evaluating through merit not only solves multiple problems evaluating on diversity brings, but is also an effective way to ensure top quality teams within schools.
Another solution is to encourage merit and diversity through alternative methods. Blind hiring is a better alternative to diversity policies. Blind hiring is when any information that could lead to bias is removed from the application. According to ThriveMap, blind hiring will cause the manager to only hire through skill and ability. Uninfluenced by bias and personal opinion. This will ensure that there will be no bias when an evaluator is reading an application. The evaluator cannot feel bias if they can only see the skills and abilities of the candidate. Another case where you can ensure both merit and diversity is to only permit structured interviews. ThriveMap says that structured interviews means that the interview will not include personal questions like “What's your biggest weakness” or “tell me about yourself, thus preventing bias and personal opinion about the candidate. A structured interview has set questions, this means the interviewer cannot stray away from those questions and ask personal questions that might reveal qualities of the candidate that spark bias and discrimination. Using merit as a method of hiring can also increase diversity and decrease bias and discrimination.
Opponents will argue that diversity is beneficial. They may say that diversity in a workplace makes employees feel like they belong and that they fit in. When employees fit in, they tend to work harder and smarter. While having diversity in a workplace can sometimes make employees feel like they belong. Diversity can also achieve poor results for the company. Diversity within a company or school can cause miscommunication, conflict, stress, leading to people leaving the company/school. A solution to this would be to advocate college recruitment programs that target women and minorities. According to Why Diversity Programs fail, a Harvard Business Review, “Managers who make college visits say they take their charge seriously. They are determined to come back with strong candidates from underrepresented groups—female engineers, for instance, or African American management trainees. Cognitive dissonance soon kicks in—and managers who were wishy-washy about diversity become converts.” By sending a manager to look for diversity and merit within candidates in college, it solves the problem of diversity while also making sure the companies are hiring the right people with the right set of skills. Problems that diversity causes can be fixed by applying team bonding. According to an editorial in Forbes, “effective team building means more engaged employees, which is good for company culture and boosting the bottom line” (Scudamore). This solution can easily fix the problems diversity causes while also ensuring that companies have the right people with the right amount of skill. While diversity has its benefits, it also has its disadvantages. A simple solution like team bonding can easily fix all the disadvantages while also having all the benefits.
Merit is undeniably a better attribute to look for when hiring than diversity. Diversity policies do not work, merit hiring offers many more benefits, and you can encourage diversity and merit with alternate methods. Let’s stop looking just for diversity in companies and schools and focus on what really makes these teams successful: merit. Companies and schools should start evaluating based on merit to ensure success. Not everybody will accept this idea at first, but slowly, everyone will come to realize that this is the way to a better future.
Bohnet, Iris. “We Just Can’t Handle Diversity.” Harvard Business Review, 1 July 2016,
Dobbin, Frank, and Alexandra Kalev. “Why Diversity Programs Fail.” Harvard Business
Review, July 2016, hbr.org/2016/07/why-diversity-programs-fail.
Kloefkorn, Sheila. “Why Organizations Are Turning to Merit-Based Recruitment.” ESkill,
17 Oct. 2022, eskill.com/blog/why-organizations-are-turning-to-merit-based-hiring/#:~:text=Reduce%20Turnover%3A%20Implementing%20a%20skills. Accessed 14 July 2023.
Platts, Chris. “Diversity Training: 5 Alternatives to Bias Training.” ThriveMap, 7 Sept.
Scudamore, Brian. “Why Team Building Is the Most Important Investment You’ll Make.”
Forbes, www.forbes.com/sites/brianscudamore/2016/03/09/why-team-building-is-the-most-important-investment-youll-make/?sh=25f222e8617f. Accessed 14 July 2023.