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How layoffs affect thought diversity

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I’ve written a bit lately about discrimination in the workplace and how a lot of discriminatory practices seem to be subconsciously delivered.  Whilst there are obvious ethical concerns with that kind of thing, it is also extremely detrimental to an organizations level of thought diversity, which is of course so valuable to their innovation capacity.

Whilst the recent economic slump was notable, certainly in the UK, for the relative lack of redundancies, a new study reveals just how dangerous many redundancy policies can be to diversity, both in the identity and thought sense of the word.  This largely occurs because redundancy can so often follow the last in, first out rule, rather than focusing on performance as a criteria.

The research scoured over Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data over a 22 year period, combining this with survey data from over 300 private companies in the US.

“This study is a wake-up call,” say the researchers. “Downsizing is increasingly done in ways that hit managerial diversity hardest, and practices that help protect diversity have become less and less common. Most diversity programs in place today are based on ‘best practices’, not on best data, which appear to undermine efforts at managerial diversity.”

The sad thing about the study is that many companies seemed to be doing this almost without even knowing it.  As with the discrimination mentioned that is so often in place during recruitment, by firing based upon position rather than talent, this inadvertently meant positions often held by women or minorities were zapped.

“There has been little to no attention to the fact that women and minorities bear more of the risk and disproportionately lose their managerial jobs,” they said. “American corporations are investing a lot of effort in increasing managerial diversity, and they are not always aware that they are losing that diversity in position- or tenure-based downsizing.”

Of course, knowledge that this takes place is often the first step towards having a more enlightened policy towards redundancy.  Forearmed is forewarned and all that.

“We found that when managers become aware of the disproportionate impact of their layoff decisions, they make every effort to keep women and minorities on board,” the researchers said. “Executives can make a difference if they are motivated and have the knowledge to do so.”

Suffice to say however, this does suppose that there is sufficient motivation to take the more difficult path and start both gauging peoples effectiveness at work, and then making talent management decisions accordingly.  I won’t hold my breath.

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