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Research Finds That Companies Pursuing Inclusive Workplaces Often Reluctant to Task Diverse Hires With Important Work

  • Harvard professor looks at how one midsize consulting firm assessed its internal culture after observing a high turnover of diverse hires
  • Even when committed to diversity and inclusion, companies can inadvertently fall back on White male employees for important clients and tasks
  • Developing a developmental culture instead of an assessment one

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Companies attempting to hire a more diverse workforce may inadvertently sabotage the opportunities available to these hires by falling back on trusted White male workers for significant tasks, according to recent research.

Robin Ely, a business administration professor at Harvard Business School, scrutinized one midsize consulting firm and how they assessed their internal culture following the high employee turnover rate. The findings included:

  • The firm’s White male partners tended to turn to other White male employees as their most trusted employees to handle important clients, assigning women and minority hires to simpler tasks
  • These decisions resulted in diverse hires leaving to pursue opportunities elsewhere or taking longer to advance their careers when staying at the same company
  • Ely also determined that the problem may be exacerbated if a company has an “assessment’ culture, which assumes that talent is fixed rather than developed
  • She recommends that companies focus on developing potential in all employees through equal opportunities, training, support
  • This approach has other advantages as well, including more honest feedback and a better ability to track and adjust the company’s development

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