Will 2015 be the year of the Quotas?

We still haven’t really made a dent in this diversity/inclusion thing have we?  The numbers don’t lie.  81% of healthcare workers are female, less than 18% of leadership positions in healthcare are filled by females.  The same is true in the service industry, the restaurant industry, etc.  Similar numbers can be said about African Americans and Hispanics in almost every industry.

The world is changing and we keep doing the same thing.

HR shops are trying to change our behaviors and how we think, but they are working against thousands of years of ingrained behaviors.  A few training courses aren’t going to change this level of programming.

People hate quotas in hiring.  They view the word ‘quota’ in the same vane as they view other words that lead to hate speech.

No one wants quotas.

That’s the problem. Quotas work.  Quotas are a measure that organizations can see and do something about.  Oh, we need five more females. We better go hire them. It’s straightforward. It’s simple to understand.

I get what’s wrong with them, we talk about that all the time.  Rarely, do we ever talk about what’s right with quotas.  When I was in HR at Applebee’s I had a ‘diversity quota’ on my leadership staffing.  It was measured as a percent of the overall staff and our diversity in leadership was measured as females, African American, Asian, Hispanic, etc. Basically, the only thing that didn’t count was white guys.

It was frustrating to me because I had very high diversity within my leadership team, but to continue to get high ratings I had to keep hiring diversity, even if it meant that one day I would have 100% diverse leadership. This rating was important to me because I got bonused on this rating. Having a diverse leadership team was very important to Applebees.

What Applebee’s leadership knew was that I was never going to get to 100% diversity.  It wasn’t their goal.  But, they knew to move the needle on diversity we needed to start measuring the color and kinds of faces we were hiring.  Quotas.

It worked.  It showed those working for our organization that we were serious about hiring diversity, so much so, that we were going to ensure this number moved.

Quotas are bad when they are used for bad purposes and good people get hurt by this.  I wasn’t passing over better white guys when hiring leadership at Applebees.  I was searching for better diverse candidates overall and hiring them.  Our leadership makeup needs to reflect our employee makeup. That is better hiring.

Don’t discount quotas in 2015.  If you truly want to move the needle in your organization, measure it.

2 thoughts on “Will 2015 be the year of the Quotas?

  1. I believe workplace diversity starts with line management. HR can refer candidates, but don’t make the ultimate decisions. Those are made by (at least to some extent) direct supervisors. Normally people hire people like them and people they want to ‘hang around’ with, whether it’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexual persuasion and language proficiency (that’s a big one in the hospitality industry). This is why we see healthcare being overwhelmingly female. Topics of conversation between work tasks make someone comfortable or uncomfortable (and I’m not talking about discrimination). No woman, in their right mind, would want to work on construction crew due to ‘gutter talk.’

    What happens when people aren’t doing work related tasks determines the work environment more than anything. Make that neutral and the diversity will come.

    • Clay,

      I’m not sure your healthcare female example is proving your point. 81% of healthcare workers are female. Only 20% of healthcare leadership is female. That’s a major diversity issue. Line managers being male, are only going to hire more males if you allow this to continue. At this point in our culture, line managers have proven incapable of making our workforces more diverse at a leadership level.

      My point on quotas is that we can’t hope that our line managers will fix this. They won’t. If you really want to fix diversity, you first have to get to a place of equality within the work environment. In most environments you have to force the numbers to make that happen. Then, our hope would be, natural selection would keep diversity at the levels that match your demographic – if leadership is bought into the concept.

      “Doing the Right Thing” leadership philosophy of the last twenty years is not working. I think we can all agree on that.


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