Recent Events and Their Impact on Talent

By J. James O’Malley, Former Andersen National Director of Experience Recruiting,

Jim joined TalentRISE as a partner in 2012 to focus on clients’ executive leadership challenges by leveraging his passions for executive search, on-demand recruiting, workforce planning and analytics and executive coaching.

I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute articles on recruitment to this newsletter over the last couple of years. For this issue, however, given recent events in the world, I’d like to depart from my usual “rants” and address the impact that certain events of the day are having on recruiting and, by extension, my profession.

Globally, Brexit seems indicative of the winds of change within our largest trading partners and seems to me to reflect what we are seeing in our own country: flashbacks towards nationalism, protectionism and many more “isms” to boot.

And speaking of “isms”, I can't help but think that the recent police shootings of African Americans in Louisiana and Minnesota along with the gunning down of white police officer in Dallas reveals how racism is still such a pressing issue for every US citizen today. As I think about the future of our country, our economy, our standing in the world, not to mention our moral compass, I recall Rodney King’s desperate plea back in the 90's during the riots and violence in the aftermath of his publicized beating: "Can't we all just get along?". We have problems, America, and finding talent just seems like the least of them.

So, what exactly does any of this have to do with recruitment? My answer is: a lot. Despite our problems, we still live in a great society and arguably the greatest country in the world. But it will be tough to maintain that standard without us doing it together. That means working together and utilizing everyone’s talents, in spite of and regardless of differences, to sustain and build our society and economy. McKinsey, among other respected entities, has been examining diversity in the workplace for several years. Their report, Diversity Matters [Link here for more], examined data for 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The research looked at metrics such as financial results and the composition of top management and boards. The findings were clear:

Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rose 0.8 percent.

The unequal performance of companies in the same industry and the same country implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies.
While studies such as this offer empirical evidence for believers and skeptics, it should come as no surprise that more diverse companies and institutions are achieving better performance. All organizations seeking growth should do even more to tap into diverse talent pipelines to attract, develop, mentor, sponsor, and retain the next generations of diverse global leaders.

But given today’s climate, many of us fear that our leadership and advanced world position will be threatened by this new nationalism that seems to be gaining ground. Don’t get me wrong - Americans have the right to be angry as so many of our systems perceived to be broken or are on the verge of breaking. However, we can't let all of the good we have created unravel. My fear is that we are moving backwards with respect to employment equality law and that fear is only eclipsed by the potential of stalled action or resolution to fix the gender inequality in pay. Furthermore, for a country that was built by immigrants to consider closing its borders, or worse, kicking out a group of people seems absurd, but is oddly potentially real. And, back to one of the biggest issues of all, race, we still can't seem to have an honest and open discussion about it in our personal lives or in the realm of the workplace where attempts to address it have, in my opinion, fallen short or are stifled by the need to be politically correct. This is America after all -- the melting pot of the world -- so we should not be afraid to have an open, honest debate with each other without turning to personal attacks and hidden agendas.

All of these unresolved issues, combined with the current anti-immigration shift, seem to me to undermine our ability - as businesses, as governments and as an economy as a whole - to get great talent to do great work.

So what I am trying to say here is that we need real change to occur. This change needs to be in the way we think and act. We need to be honest with one another. I’m sure all of you remember “Think Straight, Talk Straight” the words that Arthur Andersen spoke many decades ago couldn’t be more relevant today.

PS - For those of you who may object to this musing as being political, please know that is not my intent. In my 36 years of voting I admit to having split my votes 50/50 for both parties. (A true HR professional riding the fence!)