Why top execs are all focused on cognitive diversity

Several months ago, we released an article on the importance of reducing unconscious bias from the hiring process. Unconscious bias leads to decisions being made about a candidate’s fit based on criteria that is irrelevant to the job (i.e., giving preference to a candidate that went to a particular university, has a specific degree or discount someone from outside a preferred industry).

Unfortunately, these traditional hiring factors can lead to a workforce made up of people who all think alike. Over time, that can smother innovation and stifle growth. 

On a recent call with several executives, this issue was top of mind once again and more specifically, considerations to ensure more diversity of thought. One executive stated that her organization was now focusing their selection process on cognitive diversity to ensure a more adaptive workforce needed to succeed. Once a candidate meets their criteria, only then do they consider the supporting resume and experience of the candidate.

According to a Forbes study of executives, “The ability to leverage diversity in experiences, culture and background is a strong driver of innovation and global success”

Researchers have also found that cognitively diverse teams solve complex problems faster than teams composed of individuals who follow a uniform approach. When faced with new and uncertain situations, cognitively diverse teams take different approaches to solving the problem at hand. The result is accelerated learning and performance. Meanwhile, teams composed of people who address complex problems in the same way are hampered by a lack of versatility. 
Steps to Recruit for Cognitive Diversity
Be Deliberate

Be deliberate about looking for team members that are different from one another in terms of thinking styles and approaches. Most organizations are looking for ways to strengthen their workforce skill mix. That starts by challenging assumptions on what success looks like for a specific role.

It is common for organizations to hire talent based on their background, such as the number of years they have spent in a similar role or where they went to school. This approach limits an organization's ability to gain the cognitive diversity needed to tackle business challenges in a rapidly changing environment.
The question should be, "What are the challenges we need to solve, and what are the capabilities, experience, and backgrounds that we need to address these challenges in new and different ways?" 

Look Outside Your Industry

Similarly, it is important to broaden your search area and look outside your industry sector for talent who can bring new ideas that have been developed in other fields or workplaces.
For example, when recruiter Caroline Pill set out to hire a president for a major beauty company last year, intimate knowledge of specifics products was optional. She ended up hiring someone from the toy industry who she found on LinkedIn.  This individual had the fresh ideas and ability to think outside the box that the company needed to be successful moving forward.
Include a Pre-employment Assessment

Consider adding a pre-employment assessment to your hiring process that measures for cognitive abilities, behavioral traits, and interests. A well validated assessment does not evaluate for age, gender or race or any other criteria that can lead to biases. It also adheres to strict guidelines, which encourage a more equitable and non-discriminatory hiring process.

To find out more about how pre-employment assessments have helped leading organizations select talent with the right skills and abilities to innovate and grow, contact LePhair Associates.

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Lucy Arkell, General Manager

LePhair Associates Ltd.

LePhair Associates provides employee assessments, training and consulting services to businesses that appreciate their people are essential to their success. With more than 60 years of combined P&C industry experience, we have a track record of helping businesses achieve breakthrough results in company performance. Our advanced assessment information combined with customized sales, service, and leadership development training programs, helps companies get the right person in the right job, develop processes to coach, train, manage and motivate them to greater success.