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October 3, 2019
TA: Talent Anonymous: An Agency President Shares Objection Handling For D&I Pushback
Alex Csedrik

Our article series TA: Talent Anonymous offers anonymity to experts in the worlds of TA, Diversity & Inclusion, Campus Recruiting, and HR in exchange for their frank assessment of the state of the industry.

This edition features the president of a prestigious ad agency who has prioritized diversity and inclusion throughout their storied career. Here’s why they believe organizations are hesitant to embrace D&I—and tips for objection handling a common pushback.  

What pushback have you received in the past when you’ve tried to hire more diverse candidates? 

“When I was leading a different agency several years ago, we had an open senior position. The majority of our leadership team was white men, so I strongly recommended that we hire a woman for the role—a job that, quite frankly, tends to be predominantly female, anyway. There was immediate pushback.

Their intention was pure—they said the agency needed to focus on hiring the best person for the position. I understood where they were coming from, and often times people that argue this sentiment genuinely believe they’re taking an elevated approach. They don’t realize this becomes code to embrace unconscious biases and allow organizations to remain homogeneous.

To combat this objection, I used two different approaches. The first tactic was, I discussed one of our star performers, someone who everyone on the leadership team respected. I clearly expressed how I could only develop them to 80 percent of their capabilities. Without a strong female mentor, this employee would never reach her full potential.

I was also able to draw from previous experiences about how diverse teams that I’ve led increased revenue, creativity, and all-around performance.”

(This is backed up by research from organizations like the Center for Talent Innovation, which found that businesses with diverse leadership teams are 45 percent more likely to report market share growth year-over-year, and 70 percent more likely to have captured a new market. And it’s the key to hiring top Gen Z talent.)

“I understand the reluctance organizations may have about creating diverse teams. People resist change, and even when we intellectually understand the need to have everyone represented at our company, emotionally we’re drawn to stay the same. Fighting against our basic instinct of surrounding ourselves with people who look and think like us requires a lot of effort and skill that some people don’t have.

And, to be honest, it’s definitely harder to lead a fully represented group. You can’t just fill the roles and be done with it. You need the right leadership in place to orchestrate the talent. If you don’t have someone who knows how to conduct all the different needs of the staff, it becomes a lot of noise.

But, with the right leader, a mixed team becomes a beautiful symphony.”

Be sure to read our previous TA: Talent Anonymous article here!

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