Your hiring practices say much about you

2010

Not much good comes from trying to look good. You must actually be good, too. Unfortunately, someone needs to remind the Chicago Police Department of this truism. A recent article by Steve Bryant on nbcchicago.com states that the Chicago PD is thinking about doing away with their entrance exam because they don't employ enough minorities.

If you have half a brain, you're saying "What?"

But it's true. Apparently the department is overly concerned about achieving racial parity. Only 25 percent of their rank-and-file officers and 8 percent of their lieutenants are African-American, but the 2000 census shows that blacks make up about 37 percent of Chicago's population. It would seem that someone doesn't think those numbers look fair.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather make sure the people hired to serve and protect are the best available at serving and protecting - regardless of their skin color. If the best cops are four feet tall with purple skin from Antarctica, "hire em!"

It so happens that I grew up in a Chicago suburb near O'Hare airport and my father was a policeman in that town for 28 years. I can tell you from close observation and interacting with these men and women on a regular basis that they don't have an easy job. The stresses on policemen and women are enormous.

Put yourself in their shoes
For a moment, put yourself in a police officer's shoes. It would be pretty unnerving as a highly qualified officer to be surrounded by people hired because of their skin color and not because they were the best possible people to be backing you up.

Quality hiring makes a huge difference. When I was contracted to do management coaching at Qualcomm, Inc. in San Diego, California, I noticed they had an intense application process to identify the best possible applicants. As a result, the company created much of the cutting-edge technology we use today in our mobile phones, along with many other nifty inventions that most of us never hear about.

But Qualcomm wouldn't be the successful company they are if they merely hired people to balance their employees' skin-tone palette.

If this kind of logic doesn't sit right with you, think about your current place of employment. Regardless of your specific career choice, if the professional hurdles you had to clear were suddenly discarded and unqualified people were hired (for whatever reason), I imagine you might feel a bit ripped off and cheated.

'Opportunity' and 'Outcome' are different
I'm all about equal opportunity, but equal opportunity doesn't mean equality of outcome. In other words, everyone who wants to apply themselves should be given the chance to do so. But true fairness says that people are to be evaluated based on their merits, not on their race, color, religion, gender, national origin, veteran's status, political affiliation, or the existence or non-existence of any disability.

Hiring (or not hiring) people based on any aspect of the above-mentioned list is not only unethical and immoral, it's illegal.

Sadly, the Chicago Police Department is giving us an example of how to substitute perceived fairness for true fairness.

Also beware of bias
It's unfortunate, but true fairness also gets replaced by bias. One person I know (let's call her Laura) tells of when she wanted to move closer to her sister's family. It so happened that in her sister's town, one particular religion dominated the culture, but that didn't bother Laura one bit.

While visiting her sister, she went into town and applied for an office manager position. Everyone in the company thought Laura was a perfect match, and she was offered the job. So, when Laura got home (which was six states away), she gave notice at her other job, packed up her belongings, and moved.

Three days before she was supposed to start work, Laura was at the new office filling out some paperwork. Someone asked her a casual question about church that Laura answered without much thought. She was glad about the openness and friendliness that everyone showed.

Unfortunately, Laura received a short, abrupt telephone call later than afternoon informing her that her services would not be needed - the job had been given to someone else.

Laura strongly suspected illegal discrimination based on religion, but she was new to the area and didn't want to fight a costly legal battle her first weeks in town. She also didn't want to establish a reputation as a trouble maker, and even more, she didn't want to work at a place that thought it was okay to practice illegal discrimination.

Bottom line, merit needs to be the reason for hiring/not hiring someone. If, as a company, you want to look good, you've got to be good - and that starts with how you decide who to hire.

  Categories:
more articles

About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.

Older Comments

Mr. Bobinski might have a point to make but he hasn't demonstrated it in this article. There's significant differences between making telephones and policing the streets of Chicago. One set of work skills involves innovating an efficient product while another involves steering through a myriad of complex political, social and legal issues every day. I can't imagine a test that could fairly measure the best person for such a job but a possible performance measure of that test would be whether your recruits were reflecting the community of applicants. Perhaps there are political undertones and issues of perceived fairness involved in the Chicago situation but the central question I would be asking is why doesn't my police force reflect the racial mix of the community it works in. If the test is screening out a disproportionate number of African Americans then I think its fair to look at whether the test is doing its job correctly.

Tim Sweeney Olympia Washington