Diversity: Successful hires begin with the right onboarding
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Diversity: Successful hires begin with the right onboarding

It’s a sad fact of life that the minute you hire somebody from a group that’s underrepresented in your workplace — an African-American, a Hispanic, a Native American, even in some cases a woman — some of your employees are going to assume you did it out of political correctness rather than because the person is qualified.

And, according to recent research, your new hire(s) can feel that unfriendly assumption radiating off their co-workers. So much so, in fact, that they’re less likely to succeed than non-diverse hires — or even flat out give up.

The research, led by business professors from the University of Michigan, George Mason University and NYU, analyzes interviews done on the topic with more than 6,000 employees. The researchers concluded that so-called “diversity” hires are seen by colleagues not only as less competent, but also less likable. The latter effect occurs because co-workers see them as having unfair advantages in the competition for organizational resources, promotion and the like.

Battling negative attitudes
Obviously, you want new hires to succeed. And if you’ve expended extra time, effort and money finding people as part of a diversity initiative, you have even more reason to want them to succeed.

So how can you counteract the negative attitudes their co-workers may feel?

Well, there’s one fairly simple thing you can do right from the top: As part of your onboarding process for diverse hires, make sure you communicate to everyone exactly why you brought the person in.

Describe the person’s education, experience and knowledge, especially in areas that aren’t already common to your organization and that will enrich it. Explain how he or she is expected to help the organization in unique ways NOT directly related to their diverse characteristics. (In other words, don’t say that the new Hispanic hire will be focused on penetrating Spanish-speaking markets.)

This isn’t rocket science; indeed, it’s something that you probably ought to do with EVERY hire to encourage their co-workers to appreciate them. But it’s particularly important with new employees about whom negative assumptions may be made, and whose colleagues may not take the time or trouble to learn about their unique qualifications on their own.

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