Month: October 2016

John Podesta Nagged to Complete Diversity Training

Jon Podesta - Wikimedia

Jon Podesta – Wikimedia

The book discusses how annoying and in the end counterproductive diversity training by web is. Some ironic Wikileaks emails from Georgetown University to John Podesta first informed him of a new mandatory training program (RESPECT training), then nagged him to complete it:

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing both to inform you of the launch of a new University-wide, mandatory online program for all faculty and staff: RESPECT: Preventing Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct, and to ask you to take that course.

Georgetown is committed to creating a respectful and inclusive culture. As members of the Georgetown community, we are all responsible for ensuring that everyone in our community has the opportunity to learn and work in an environment that is free from harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct. Recent events at colleges and universities across the nation remind us that we must all be knowledgeable about our legal responsibilities and vigilant in creating a respectful learning and work environment.

RESPECT is a new course designed to help you avoid, recognize, and report discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct. The course provides you with information about University resources, policies, and procedures to address and resolve such matters. It is in the interest of each one of us and in the interest of our community as a whole to take this course and understand our obligations. The course is flexible and can be completed in as little as 30 minutes. You may take it from your desktop or laptop, either at work or at home… Completion of the course is required by the University. All faculty must complete the RESPECT program by March 20, 2015 — to ensure compliance.

Once you have completed the Mastery Test, which reinforces what you have learned, you should be able to get immediate confirmation that you have successfully completed the course: 1. Upon successful completion of the mastery test, you will be presented with a printable certificate indicating that you have completed the course. This is your primary confirmation that you have completed training…. Thank you for taking this course and for your help in ensuring that the University is a supportive and inclusive community.

URGENT: Please Complete your Mandatory RESPECT Training

Dear Colleague,

According to our records, you have not yet completed the mandatory “Respect” online course. The deadline by which all current faculty and staff were asked to complete the course has passed, so we request that you please complete the course as soon as possible. If you are a newly hired Staff and/or Academic Administrative Professional (AAP), you have 30 days from the date of your hire to complete training. Additionally, for newly hired employees, completion of the “Respect’ course is also a requirement to pass your probationary period at Georgetown.

You can launch the course by going to If you have not yet started your training, you can take the course on a tablet such as an iPad, in addition to your desktop or laptop.

Thank you for your efforts in ensuring that we have a work and educational environment that is free from discrimination and harassment.

*If you have completed your training within the last 24 hours, you may disregard this message.

If you have any questions about the course content, please contact the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Affirmative Action (IDEAA):
phone: 202-687-4798




Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


For more reading goodness:

Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer

A Clinton Christmas Carol

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton looks on as she speaks during a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada August 18, 2015. REUTERS/David Becker - RTX1OPKY

Hillary Clinton – REUTERS/David Becker

Vince Foster was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that.

For years afterward, she was haunted by his abandonment. She relied on her people to protect and serve her, and Vince had left her exposed in their time of need. She found new servants, and even when that snotty Obama stole her prize just when it was almost hers, the comfort of the money rolling in and the loyal minions that followed them kept her going, and now she was close, so close to the brass ring…

The plane landed, and she could hear murmuring from the back. The reporters were asking for comment about James Comey’s letter — new emails had come to light from the FBI investigation into Anthony Weiner’s sexting, and so Comey was revealing that the FBI was continuing the investigation he had declared closed months ago. Into her. That bastard Weiner! Why are the men always doing stupid shit their dicks tell them to? It was all unraveling…

She made a simple statement to the reporters and returned to talk to Huma, who cried. No words, she thought — I know exactly what how that feels.

That night she fell asleep in front of the hotel room TV. She woke with a start — to the sound of chains rattling, and moans. On the screen was a dark shape forming over the CNN talking heads, and the sound had gone off. The form of Vince Foster — green, face half rotted, suit stained and oozing fluids — looked out at her and spoke.

“Hill — it’s me,” the apparition said. She was distracted by the worms crawling out of his mouth. “You’re in trouble again. And you’re the only person who can save you.”

She was frozen, but finally managed to speak: “What can I do?”

“Come with me,” Vince said, beckoning. And she was somehow through the screen and looking down on Washington from above.

“This city was yours,” Vince said, gesturing at the white-columned buildings below. “You were the One to lead the loyal bureaucrats to rolling over all those naysayers and keeping the very best people from the very best schools in charge. Those filthy racist rednecks from flyover states were going to be crushed, and the future would belong to pre-K, free college, clean energy, and social service jobs for everyone. You can still pull it off. But only if you handle this right.”

They passed into the Capital through the dome, and swooped down the halls toward the Senate chamber.

“But this is where you are heading, if you don’t change course now,” Vince said, nodding toward the dias. A vote was going on, with the end of the roll call. The chamber was quiet as the result was announced. “You see,” Vince said, “even Democrats voted to dump you after the election guaranteed the office of President would be in their hands. Impeachment gets you out of their hair. Kaine will be able to run things without the baggage and the investigations. You’re worth more to them dead than alive. And I of all people know how that feels.”

They seemed to be weightless, but the sinking sensation was real. “How can I stop this? Huma — should I cut her loose?”

“That’s not going to help. You have to change yourself. Be the person you’d have to be to overcome your image problems. Turn over a new leaf. Humble yourself. Admit error. Promise to be open and honest, and mean it. You’d be amazed how quickly you can be rehabbed if you can pull off sincere.”

She absorbed this idea. She tasted curdled milk. “Humble?”

“You are but a public servant. You will close down the Clinton Foundation. Bill will not be allowed in the White House — maybe a separation would be wise. You apologize for all the lying and the casual treatment of secret documents and the death of that Iranian scientist, and any other agents you endangered. You admit that you’ve spent a lifetime lying and influence-peddling and that you want to make amends. You’ll apologize to the people of Haiti for abusing their trust and siphoning off most of their relief funds to pay off your friends. You’ll make the White House the most transparent in history — maybe find some new words for that, those might be tainted.”

She looked down at the bald spots of the Senators reflecting the overhead lights. “Who’s going to believe any of that?”

“It used to work to claim you were born again, that you’d found Jesus. That won’t fly anymore. You could claim victim status — a sob story about how your mother treated you, and Bill let you down and shamed you. You couldn’t help yourself. But the conniving and greed are over. You’re taking a vow of poverty and service.”

“Fuck that shit,” she said, and spit down at a Republican who had voted to convict. “Thanks for warning me about these losers. We’ve got files on all of them. If I go down, so do they.”

And then she woke up — but the national nightmare was just beginning. Tiny Tim (Kaine) was sent out to denounce Comey only a week after he praised him.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


For more reading goodness:

Death by HR: Who Staffs HR Departments? Mostly Women…
Death by HR: The Great Enrichment to the Great Slackening
Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer

“Death by HR” – First Amazon Reviews: “An HR Survival Guide”


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now for Kindle and itrade paperback.]

5.0 out of 5 stars
Death By HR is a book that every CEO should read. As should the rest of us. Anybody’s who has been looking for work, or working for an American corporation currently or in the last few years has experienced the lunacy and extreme dysfunction in just about every function related to Human Resources. Death By HR examines why the dysfunction came about and provides the start of a road map to escape the tyranny being imposed on us.

The book does not pull it’s punches, nor should it. Right from the introduction the book lays out the case for what has happened in all too much of American business.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Why I Can’t Get a Job I’m Overqualified for….

To start off, this book hacked me off. or once, someone has, through careful research and thought, and in concise easy to understand language has explained why the hell our country is falling to pieces. It should have been obvious to someone with my 35 years in the work force in a wide variety of jobs.

I’ve been fighting HR stooges for years and years. Now I know why it I can’t make much forward progress. Why it took six months to hire me as a paramedic for a major health system despite paying hundreds of thousand dollars in overtime to fill shifts that there were no warm bodies available. Why, after three attempts to fill a job I am more than qualified for, I can’t even get much more than a postcard saying “thank you, but no thanks.” Hey, I’m a paramedic, give me minimal training and toss me in, I’ll do just fine.

I now know why LinkedIn is so popular as a way to essentially bypass HR so people can make direct contact with the people who actually do the hiring and establish relationships.

So, if you have been in the workforce for years and are thinking about a new job or have been trying to find one and can’t get anywhere, this book shows you why and how.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Great read for managers or workers – Almost an HR survival guide.

Reading from Kindle Unlimited. Excellent book on where HR is today and how it got there. Many excellent discussions on how to develop an HR department that will contribute rather than being a cost center. For non-managers the book gives plenty of insight into the modern HR system enough to help you pick an organization with a healthy HR department or if you have a problem HR, how to deal with them without getting burned.

More reading on other topics:

Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind
High Tech Under Diversity Pressure
HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches
Diversity Programs Don’t Work

“Death by HR” – High Tech Under Diversity Pressure

Jesse Jackson at Intel - photo Recode/PushTECH2020

Jesse Jackson at Intel – photo Recode/PushTECH2020

[An abridged chapter from Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The culture difference between HR staff and the rest of the workforce causes problems in many industries, but it’s worst in high tech. While successful companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook started their HR departments with technology-savvy people, even they eventually succumbed to the bureaucratic disease — with newer HR staff more similar to the risk-averse, non-business-oriented sorts seen elsewhere. It takes constant CEO attention to keep HR from drifting toward bureaucratic focus on process and not results.

Bob Cringely has been observing and writing about the PC world since early days, with his “Notes From the Field” column in InfoWorld from 1987 to 1995, and a now-dated but still historically interesting book, Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date. His article “The Enemy in HR” gets directly to the heart of the problem of HR in Silicon Valley. He starts off wondering why companies claim there’s a shortage of IT workers requiring large numbers of foreign workers to be admitted under H1-B visas to fill the need, while at the same time hundreds of thousands of (mostly male, mostly older, experienced) unemployed IT workers can’t get an interview. What could it be? He states the basic thesis of this book in a few paragraphs:

…we can start by blaming the Human Resources (HR) departments at big and even medium-sized companies. HR does the hiring and firing or at least handles the paperwork for hiring and firing. HR hires headhunters to find IT talent or advertises and finds that talent itself. If you are an IT professional in a company of almost any size that has an HR department, go down there sometime and ask about their professional qualifications. What made them qualified to hire you?

You’ll find the departments are predominantly staffed with women and few, if any, of those women have technical degrees. They are hiring predominantly male candidates for positions whose duties they typically don’t understand. Those HR folks, if put on the spot, will point out that the final decision on all technical hires comes from the IT department, itself. All HR does is facilitate.

Not really. What HR does is filter. They see as an important part of their job finding the very best candidates for every technical position. But how do you qualify candidates if you don’t know what you are talking about? They use heuristics—sorting techniques designed to get good candidates without really knowing good from bad.

Common heuristic techniques for hiring IT professionals include looking for graduates of top university programs and for people currently working in similar positions at comparable companies including competitors. The flip side of these techniques also applies—not looking for graduates of less prestigious universities or the unemployed.[1]

Software and hardware engineering work is as far from liberal arts-communications-psychology as it is possible to be, revolving around hard math, heavy-duty abstract reasoning, and specialized language often impenetrable to outsiders. So typical HR staff don’t understand the work or the distinguishing characteristics of the most productive workers in the field. A software genius may be inattentive to details of personal hygiene — and the HR staffer who interviews him may conclude from his smell that he’s sloppy and undisciplined, and will cause interpersonal issues. Many of the best have Asperger’s Syndrome, which could be summed up as deep focus on order and details of problem domains while lacking abilities to communicate or sense the feeling of others through the normal signalling.[2] These are the people who get into trouble with modern feminists because they are clumsy and will continue to crudely pursue sexual come-ons when a woman has signalled disinterest; they are no more likely than anyone else to sexually assault a woman, but modern feminists believe unwanted attention from a male is tantamount to sexual assault — if it makes someone uncomfortable, it should be a firing offense. Female HR staff are likely to find such men unattractive and screen them out as not fitting in.

Meanwhile, hiring managers are more likely to understand the type, and that careful management — hiding the socially-inept from customers and outsiders, and feeding them the hardest problems to solve — can make these people a key strength for the organization. It may become necessary for executive management to make it clear to HR that Asperger’s (under the current DSM-5 terminology, a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder[3]) is a recognized disability and that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide these disabled men with “reasonable accommodations” — special treatment recognizing that they need support to be effective workers with their disability. This puts HR staff on notice that they would be violating the law if they continue to discriminate against the apparently insensitive, overly-focused males the company badly needs to do the most difficult programming jobs!

That warning in place, HR staff will come to see both easily-offended women and socially-obtuse men as victims to be protected. Which would be an improvement over current practice, where a few complaints of bad behavior can get a man fired when no actual malice or assault was intended. Everyone in the workplace should feel safe from sexual pressure and physical assault, but not to the point where perceived rudeness or insensitivity gets you fired, or some of the industry’s best workers will be exiled.

Silicon Valley is a magnet for technologists from around the world, and the resulting engineering workforce is skewed toward men, Asians, Indians, and a scattering of Europeans all attracted by the prospect of working with the world’s best people for some of the world’s highest rewards. Early on, PC and microprocessor companies resembled the defense contractors of the Valley, mostly white male engineering staff and more diverse support staff. As engineers from elsewhere moved to take jobs in the Valley, they brought wives and family, and many of the wives began work in support positions like accounting and HR. Today, despite all their efforts to recruit more women and minorities, an exemplary company like Apple reports their engineering staff is still 77% male[4], and that includes a lot of less focused, more routine positions like release management and QA testing support which usually have more women. Meanwhile, overall diversity numbers have been improved by hiring more women and minorities in support, sales, and HR.

Silicon Valley continues to passively resist pressures to hire based on diversity goals rather than competence. Management understands that engineering excellence can’t be compromised away without destroying their company’s competitive edge, and promotes diversity recruitment efforts to find capable minorities for core engineering work as well as secondary roles like testing and maintenance the best engineers find unexciting. And still the resulting numbers fail to come close to the US population’s minority percentages, with Asians, whites, and males over-represented. So the pressure continues:

Two years ago, the Rev. Jesse Jackson set his sights on Silicon Valley. He promised to push tech companies and venture capital firms to prioritize diversity and inclusion, and to add more employees from historically underrepresented groups like women and people of color.

But the progress he’d hoped for hasn’t happened yet, and Jackson is growing restless. On Friday, as Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition held a conference in San Francisco where industry leaders joined local groups and activists to discuss diversity, Silicon Valley and what new initiatives may help close the gap. The Rainbow Push Coalition also introduced several programs of its own. Hire and Invest Oakland, aimed at engaging tech companies based in or moving into the East Bay, would encourage companies like Pandora and Uber to work with local organizations when hiring workers and looking for merchants. Several such Oakland organizations were on hand Friday to make their presence known to tech leaders.

“You would think companies that have been around for a while, since the 1990s, would not be where they are when it comes to diversity because they’ve had time to catch up,” Jackson said. “But the good news is there’s time now to catch up, and it will open up a whole new world of opportunity.”

…Pressure to boost diversity at tech companies and remain publicly accountable by disclosure of companies’ personnel data has grown over the past several years. Several firms—including Airbnb, Dropbox, Pinterest, Twitter and Yelp—even hired individuals to oversee and coordinate diversity efforts. Others have begun offering implicit-bias training to their employees or broadening their corporate definition of diversity to include intersectional identities—how various attributes combine to create unique experiences for certain people. Earlier this year, group-chat company Slack updated its diversity report to include more intersectional data on women of color and LGBT people.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who announced last year that the company would improve its diversity to reflect the percentage of women and underrepresented minorities in the United States by 2020, and pledged $300 million to aid in the effort, acknowledged at the Rainbow Push conference Friday that the company has received criticism for its outspoken commitment to diversity, according to reports.

“There’s no reason why there cannot be a change now,” Jackson said. “When I think about this culture of exclusion and how unchallenged it has been for so long—we need to end that. There’s responsibility at every level, and we all need to apply social pressure to change things because this is the future: America cannot improve without fully realizing its assets. Imagine baseball without Jackie Robinson. That’s where we are.”[5]

Or imagine fashion design firms required to recruit straight men, or basketball teams required to include more Asians. There are many excellent female and minority engineers, but for a wide variety of cultural and possibly innate reasons, there are not as many as you would expect if talent and interest in the field was uniformly distributed through the population. Decades of special efforts to promote STEM studies and careers for women and minorities has done about as much as is possible to encourage those who want to succeed in it. Forcing equal representation means forcing less qualified, less accomplished employees on some of our key technology leaders, damaging their ability to stay ahead of overseas competition.

Note in the story quoted above the payoffs made to affiliates of Jesse Jackson’s PUSH and minority nonprofit organizations. Activists have learned to make their daily bread by threatening boycotts and lawsuits, then accepting instead payoffs to keep their paychecks going while they pretend to work on the never-ending problems they claim they want to fix. The extortionate style relies on threats of public shaming and political difficulties if targeted companies don’t meet his demands:

The responses [to Jesse Jackson’s PUSH efforts] by these information technology leaders could have been predicted. Management at eBay had nothing overt to say, which amounts to tacit agreement. More telling was the response by Google. In exchange for Jackson’s demand for the company to release employee demographic data on its U.S. work force, David Drummond, chief legal officer (who, like Jackson, is black), promised that his company would release the numbers. He didn’t take very long to deliver. Yesterday, the company issued a report on workforce diversity showing about 60 percent of Google employees are white and 30 percent are Asian (apparently not all racial minorities arouse Jackson’s sympathies). Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for public relations, also wrote in a blog: “Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.” Facebook also gave in, adopting a feckless “we’re really, really trying” line. COO Sheryl Sandberg explained in writing: “We have built a number of great partnerships, groups like the National Society of Black Engineers, the Hispanic Alumni of Georgia Tech, Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and Management Leadership of Tomorrow. And these partnerships have been great because they are really helping us get great candidates and reach out.”

Jackson’s IT gambit has been all over the map this year. Earlier this year, he wrote a letter to tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, and Twitter, replete with his familiar hectoring style. On March 19, he showed up at the Hewlett-Packard shareholders meeting at the Santa Clara Convention Center to skewer CEO Meg Whitman and her company’s record on minority hiring. And just two days ago, appearing on CNBC, Jackson denounced information technology firms for their lack of “diversity.”[6]

It is far safer and easier to pay off the diversity blackmailers rather than meeting their hiring demands, and such donations to educational and recruitment efforts for minorities are socially positive and build goodwill. It’s better to pay this “diversity tax” outright than to compromise your core engineering, sales, and marketing teams with deadwood employees. If the pressure increases, managements may place more diverse hires in less critical areas, judging this to be the least harmful way of making their numbers look better. But employees that aren’t the best you can find for the position impose a greater cost than just their salaries—their presence signals to everyone in the company that excellence has been subordinated to political pressure, and that appeasing the diversity activists is more important than customers or markets. And this damages the morale of those who are working hardest and have sacrificed the most to be at the center of the company’s production.

One curmudgeon who openly resisted these kinds of demands, T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductors, famously wrote a letter to crusading nuns who had pressed for women and minority board members:

The semiconductor business is a tough one with significant competition from the Japanese, Taiwanese, and Koreans. There have been more corporate casualties than survivors. For that reason, our Board of Directors is not a ceremonial watchdog, but a critical management function. The essential criteria for Cypress board membership are as follows:

◆ Experience as a CEO of an important technology company.

◆ Direct expertise in the semiconductor business based on education and management experience.

◆ Direct experience in the management of a company that buys from the semiconductor industry.

A search based on these criteria usually yields a male who is 50-plus years old, has a Masters degree in an engineering science, and has moved up the managerial ladder to the top spot in one or more corporations. Unfortunately, there are currently few minorities and almost no women who chose to be engineering graduate students 30 years ago. (That picture will be dramatically different in 10 years, due to the greater diversification of graduate students in the ’80s.) Bluntly stated, a “woman’s view” on how to run our semiconductor company does not help us, unless that woman has an advanced technical degree and experience as a CEO. I do realize there are other industries in which the last statement does not hold true. We would quickly embrace the opportunity to include any woman or minority person who could help us as a director, because we pursue talent—and we don’t care in what package that talent comes.

I believe that placing arbitrary racial or gender quotas on corporate boards is fundamentally wrong. Therefore, not only does Cypress not meet your requirements for boardroom diversification, but we are unlikely to, because it is very difficult to find qualified directors, let alone directors that also meet investors’ racial and gender preferences.

I infer that your concept of corporate “morality” contains in it the requirement to appoint a Board of Directors with, in your words, “equality of sexes, races, and ethnic groups.” I am unaware of any Christian requirements for corporate boards; your views seem more accurately described as “politically correct,” than “Christian.”

My views aside, your requirements are—in effect—immoral. By “immoral,” I mean “causing harm to people,” a fundamental wrong. Here’s why:

I presume you believe your organization does good work and that the people who spend their careers in its service deserve to retire with the necessities of life assured. If your investment in Cypress is intended for that purpose, I can tell you that each of the retired Sisters of St. Francis would suffer if I were forced to run Cypress on anything but a profit-making basis. The retirement plans of thousands of other people also depend on Cypress stock—$1.2 billion worth of stock—owned directly by investors or through mutual funds, pension funds, 401k programs, and insurance companies…. Any choice I would make to jeopardize retirees and other investors from achieving their lifetime goals would be fundamentally wrong.[7]

Rodgers was expressing the belief shared by essentially all advanced technologists that the “package” workers come in — the skin color, sex, and body type containing the most critical component, the brain — doesn’t matter. Finding the solutions to problems matters. Building a great product matters. Getting that product sold and dominating the market matters. Making a good profit matters, so you can do it all again in our capitalist system and pay your investors back for their foresight in entrusting their hard-earned resources and future wellbeing to you. And anyone who can contribute to the project is accepted and rewarded, and anyone who does not, is not. There are many roles in society, many industries and types of work, and it would be strange if various types of people — races, sexes, and cultures –were equally motivated to work in all of them. And so it is not racism or sexism that holds back women and minorities in STEM fields, but cultural factors and motivation. And this diversity is to be celebrated, not artificially eliminated.

There is some pushback from the newer software companies as well. Leslie Miley, (black) head of engineering at the cloud-based team collaboration tool builder Slack,[8] opposed hiring quotas at a recent tech conference:

“I don’t think they work, in particular in think it’s another way saying we won’t lower the bar,” Miley said on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF. “What I’m saying is we want a level playing field, you need to have a level playing field. How you level it is, you don’t [just] go to places like MIT and [University of California—Berkeley] and Stanford and focus on those places. I don’t want to have to talk about this again, I don’t believe in quotas, I think they’re inherently wrong and I think there are realistic solutions that don’t have quotas attached to [them].”…

[Slack] has made a lot of effort to branch out into regions outside of Silicon Valley in order to attract talent in regions that are outside the traditional Silicon Valley mold. And it’s looking outside the traditional places that Silicon Valley giants, startups and venture capitalists may be pattern-matching into the best candidates.

That includes looking in unexpected areas in the United States, too, including cities like Detroit, Richmond or even Nashville, Miley said. Those cities are plenty diverse and also have a large pool of highly diverse and talented candidates, and Slack is doing what it can to expand into those areas. And larger tech companies should be doing the same thing, he said.

“[Large tech companies] don’t need to set up shop at the same scale,” Miley said. “Could you put 200 people, definitely, it’s a drop in the hat for Google or Facebook, it’s actually cost competitive to areas in India and China. I’ve had teams, managed over 100 people in India, I know what the cost structure looks like… [Then] people who want advancement know they have to come to HQ, you have people coming to Cupertino, Mountain View. What happens when you hire diverse people—they talk to their friends, their network looks like them. They’re gonna hire friends, associates, you start to make inroads in this company.”

A big part of the issue is that networks within companies tend to self-select within their own networks, keeping diverse candidates from coming into the company. That leads to a reinforcing cycle where diverse candidates from different regions and backgrounds, which might bring in their own friends to the companies, might not feel welcome in those companies….[9]

Outstanding — a networked company can operate in a distributed fashion in many sites around the world, giving HQ a less central role and encouraging geographic diversity that will increase other kinds of cultural diversity. With the goal being cost-effective excellence by going to where the talent is.


[1] “The Enemy in HR,” by Robert X. Cringely, I, Cringely, September 28th, 2014.
[2] Scott Aaronson, an associate professor of EE&CS at MIT, wrote a famous blog comment about his fear of being perceived as a nerdy heterosexual male found gross by females, which triggered a lot of online discussion. Overview:, then read the invaluable Scott Alexander’s commentary on the incident:, and then read
[4] See Apple’s EEO-1 Form for 2015:
[5] “Rev. Jesse Jackson continues push for diversity in tech industry,” by Marissa Lang, San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate, April 22, 2016.
[6] “Silicon Valley Capitulates to Jesse Jackson Shakedown,” by Carl Horowitz, National Legal and Policy Center, May 30, 2014.
[7] “Cypress CEO Responds to Nun’s Urging a ‘Politically Correct’ Board Make-up,” by Cypress Semiconductor CEO T. J. Rodgers, May 23, 1996.
[8] “Slack Is Our Company of the Year. Here’s Why Everybody’s Talking About It,” by Jeff Bercovici, Inc. Magazine, December 2015.
[9] “Slack’s director of engineering, Leslie Miley, doesn’t believe in diversity quotas,” by Matthew Lynley, TechCrunch, September 12, 2016.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool…  to craft counter-revolutionary tactics for dealing with the HR parasites our government has empowered to destroy us. All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

More reading on other topics:

The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front

Ban the Box - photo credit PBS

Death by HR – Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind

So corporate hiring today is a mess, and about to get worse as progressives try to force companies to give up some of the few tools they have to disqualify criminal or unreliable applicants—with the usual noble motivations, of course. We’ll go over these efforts, then look at a new Seattle ordinance designed to limit discrimination in apartment rentals by forcing landlords to accept the first applicant who “qualifies,” which will evolve (if not pushed back) to limit allowed requirements until landlords essentially will be forced to take almost anyone. This idea of forcing acceptance of applicants will most likely soon be applied to hiring, as the social engineers gradually reduce any freedoms a business manager might have so that their client population can enjoy the benefits of being hardworking, reliable, self-controlled citizens without actually demonstrating any of those qualities. If US labor law ever reaches that late stage equality-of-outcome decadence, productivity will crumble, much as it did in the old USSR where jobs were similarly guaranteed and handed out based on pull. This kind of micromanagement of free-market employment practices is typical of progressives—to achieve the worthy goal (in this case, limiting invidious discrimination), they try to limit the use of management discretion in operating a business by passing unenforceable laws that tend to do more harm than good.

Progressives are working hard to outlaw use of credit scores or criminal records to screen job candidates. This is, of course, because bad records on either tend to identify less trustworthy, less reliable people that employers quite reasonably want to avoid hiring. The campaign to outlaw application questions about criminal records is called “Ban the Box,” and this catchy name means applications that include a box to be checked if the applicant has a criminal record are to be banned by law. Most such laws passed at state and local levels only ban the question on applications for government jobs or government contractors, since the legality of going further at the local level is questionable. But moves are afoot to make it part of Federal equal employment regulations.

It’s true that not every candidate who fails such screening would be a bad employee. Both ex-prisoners and bad credit risks might well have reformed, with the black marks on their record not indicating their current state of trustworthiness—and a wise employer might consider them by looking deeper into their background and directly questioning them on how they may have learned from their experiences. But employers who are going to rely on the keeping of promises to show up on time, work hard, and not steal from their employer are not wrong to think these are factors to consider.

Further, studies of “Ban the Box” laws show that they can actually harm the minorities they are intended to help. An employer who loses the ability to check for a criminal record may be more likely to act on prejudice—after all, prejudice and adverse stereotyping are strongest where information is limited. Being able to pass a criminal record check enhances a minority candidate’s chance of being viewed as a good risk for the employer. The most recent study demonstrated this effect:

“Ban-the-Box” (BTB) policies restrict employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories on job applications and are often presented as a means of reducing unemployment among black men, who disproportionately have criminal records. However, withholding information about criminal records could risk encouraging statistical discrimination: employers may make assumptions about criminality based on the applicant’s race. To investigate this possibility as well as the effects of race and criminal records on employer callback rates, we sent approximately 15,000 fictitious online job applications to employers in New Jersey and New York City, in waves before and after each jurisdiction’s adoption of BTB policies. Our causal effect estimates are based on a triple-differences design, which exploits the fact that many businesses’ applications did not ask about records even before BTB and were thus unaffected by the law.

Our results confirm that criminal records are a major barrier to employment, but they also support the concern that BTB policies encourage statistical discrimination on the basis of race. Overall, white applicants received 23% more callbacks than similar black applicants (38% more in New Jersey; 6% more in New York City; we also find that the white advantage is much larger in whiter neighborhoods). Employers that ask about criminal records are 62% more likely to call back an applicant if he has no record (45% in New Jersey; 78% in New York City)—an effect that BTB compliance necessarily eliminates. However, we find that the race gap in callbacks grows dramatically at the BTB-affected companies after the policy goes into effect. Before BTB, white applicants to BTB-affected employers received about 7% more callbacks than similar black applicants, but BTB increases this gap to 45%.[1]

Most of these laws are presented as preventing pre-screening; the employer may still look into criminal records after deciding to offer the candidate a job. But the clear trend is to make ex-criminal status a protected class and outlaw discrimination on that basis. Another paper suggests employers are more likely to avoid even taking applications from minority candidates if these laws are in place, exercising a form of passive resistance that is hard to prevent:

Removing information about job applicants’ criminal histories [through Ban The Box (BTB) laws) could lead employers who don’t want to hire ex-offenders to try to guess who the ex-offenders are, and avoid interviewing them. In particular, employers might avoid interviewing young, low-skilled, black and Hispanic men when criminal records are not observable. This would worsen employment outcomes for these already-disadvantaged groups. In this paper, we use variation in the details and timing of state and local BTB policies to test BTB’s effects on employment for various demographic groups. We find that BTB policies decrease the probability of being employed by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled black men, and by 2.3 percentage points (2.9%) for young, low-skilled Hispanic men. These findings support the hypothesis that when an applicant’s criminal history is unavailable, employers statistically discriminate against demographic groups that are likely to have a criminal record.[2]

Not screening hires for criminal records also subjects employers to big negligence awards when consumers are victimized by unscreened employees:

“Consider these allegations from a 2012 Virginia case,” Leeson said. “The employer hired a person to work in a hotel, and allegedly did not perform a background check or ask about the person’s criminal history. The person had previously been convicted of a felony sex crime. The person thereafter raped an 18-year-old hotel maid on her third day on the job. The maid sued the hotel for negligent hire. The case settled with the hotel agreeing to pay $675,000 to the former maid.” Ultimately, Leeson said, “I believe it is reasonable and prudent for employers to ask about prior convictions as one factor in the overall evaluation of the applicant.”[3]

But the laws are spreading rapidly and being applied to private employers as well:

Nine states — Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont — have removed the conviction history question on job applications for private employers, which advocates embrace as the next step in the evolution of these policies.

The majority of ban-the-box laws apply only to public employers, but blanket ban-the-box laws impacting all sectors are on the rise. Many advocates embrace private-sector ban-the-box laws as the “next step in the evolution of these policies,” according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a worker advocacy organization….

There are also various city and county ban-the-box laws around the country that apply to private employers…

Many ban-the-box policies exempt employers that have 10 employees or less, but some, such as Minnesota’s, do not. And while many private employers have balked at ban-the-box policies, at least two large retailers have jumped on board. National retailers Target and Wal-Mart no longer ask about an applicant’s conviction record during the initial phase of the hiring process, according to NELP. In order to comply with the 2013 Minnesota law, Minneapolis-based Target announced it was eliminating the box on its applications. Wal-Mart took that action in 2010.[4]

So if your area doesn’t already have a BTB law, it soon will.

Now to move on to the use of credit reports to screen candidates: credit reports are already regulated by Federal law, and since they aren’t cheap, companies rarely use them to pre-screen candidates. But they are widely used in the final stages of hiring decisions:

Employers get a shortened version of your credit report that excludes any information that would violate equal employment opportunity laws, explains Rod Griffin, director of public education for credit bureau Experian. An employer report also does not list “soft” inquiries, which do show up on the report an individual receives….

According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 47% of employers check potential employees’ credit reports as part of the hiring process. The same study found that the two most common reasons for reviewing job candidates’ credit reports are to decrease the likelihood of theft and embezzlement and reduce legal liability for negligent hiring. According to an article in The New York Times, which cited the same survey:

“Most businesses use credit checks only to screen for certain positions, but one in eight, the survey found, does a credit check before every hire.”

But it’s important to remember that your employer can’t check your credit report without your consent; you must give written permission. Also, an employer won’t be seeing personal information, like your account numbers, when he or she reviews your report. The modified version that’s provided takes steps to protect your privacy.

Also, 11 states have laws prohibiting employer credit checks and/or restricting how this information can be used in the hiring process. If you live in one of these states, an employer credit check may not be something you need to worry about.[5]

Many employers are failing to follow the existing laws on use of credit reports, and as a result are getting hit with multimillion-dollar class action lawsuits:

Last year saw an increasing number of FCRA class-action lawsuits filed and settled for millions of dollars. FCRA violations can range from not making legally required disclosures to not following proper adverse action procedures.

“Not a month has gone by in over a year when there hasn’t been a major FCRA class action on background checks, and that trend has already continued into January,” said Nick Fishman, executive vice president at EmployeeScreenIQ.

We may see an “explosion” of FCRA class-action suits against employers and background screening firms as plaintiffs’ attorneys become more familiar with the law and the whole area of background checks, said Rosen. The financial recovery can be enormous—up to $1,000 per person in damages.

“Given the large statutory damages at issue, the promise of attorneys’ fees and punitive damages, along with the fact that there is an open question as to whether an individual need be actually harmed to bring an action, these claims will undoubtedly continue,” Devata agreed. Many FCRA claims have nothing to do with a person being harmed, but instead are the result of a mere technicality in the law, she added. …Employers should be aware that taking an adverse action—terminating an existing employee, rescinding a job offer to an applicant, denying a promotion—based on a consumer report “requires them to engage in a multistep process and requires close consideration of timed requirements,” said Do. “Bottom line, if negative information comes back on a background check, an employer simply can’t just pick up the phone and say ‘You’re not getting the job.’ ” Failing to provide a copy of the consumer report, failing to furnish a copy of the FCRA summary of rights document, and failing to provide the opportunity to dispute a report’s inaccuracies or errors, are common allegations, said Do.

These suits are the most troubling because they are the most avoidable, said Fishman. “These laws aren’t that hard to follow. Employers need to continually audit their processes and make sure that they comply with the law.”

It’s important to train incoming HR staff on the FCRA. “In many cases, with high turnover in HR departments, the sufficient training that was provided when an employer first signs on with a screening firm may not be adequately conveyed to new members. The likelihood that an oversight may result when an undertrained staff member fails to follow protocol then increases,” said Do.[7]

Notice how a seemingly well-motivated law not only removes hiring discretion, but with the help in this case of class action lawyers (who are part of the political class feeding off private industry with the help of the pols who write the laws), requires hiring more and more HR staff and consultants to administer and train for it. Every regulation imposed on employers increases non-productive staff and budget, and decreases the freedom to seek out the best employees without fear of government punishment. Every gain in “fairness” imposed by law costs everyone twice as much in lost growth and opportunity.

And banning use of credit checks in hiring has the same perverse effect as “Ban The Box” — it hurts minorities:

One of the hottest ideas among lawmakers right now is to ban employers from running credit checks on job applicants. Since 2007, eleven states, as well as Chicago and New York City, have passed such laws. Supporters of these restrictions often frame the issue as a civil rights problem. In particular, they say, credit checks impede employment among minorities, who disproportionately have low credit scores.

…But a new study from Robert Clifford, an economist at the Boston Fed, and Daniel Shoag, an assistant professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, finds that when employers are prohibited from looking into people’s financial history, something perverse happens: African-Americans become more likely to be unemployed relative to others….

Why did black unemployment go up?

To understand how banning credit checks can lead to unforeseen repercussions, consider the problem from the employer’s perspective. A single job opening these days can get hundreds of applications. Since hiring managers can’t interview every candidate, they need some way to narrow the field. Filtering out people with bad credit helps them bring the number of applicants down to a manageable size. But if employers can’t look into a job-seeker’s financial history, they try something else.

“Employers have many screening measures to narrow down who they want to hire,” Shoag says. “If you take one away, they’ll put more weight on the others.”

That’s exactly what seemed to happen in places that outlawed employer credit checks. Looking at 74 million job listings between 2007 and 2013, Clifford and Shoag found that employers started to become pickier, especially in cities where there were a lot of workers with low credit scores. If a credit-check ban went into effect, job postings were more likely to ask for a bachelor’s degree, and to require additional years of experience.

There are other ways that employers could have also become more discerning, Shoag says. They might have started to rely on referrals or recommendations to make sure that applicants were high-quality. In the absence of credit information to establish trustworthiness, they may even have fallen back on racial stereotypes to screen candidates. The researchers couldn’t measure these tactics, but they’re possibilities.

Any of these reasons might explain one of the study’s strangest findings. In states that passed a credit-check ban, unemployment for African-Americans rose by about one percent compared to unemployment in other states and among other demographic groups. This remained true after controlling for factors like education, age, and gender.

… In the absence of that information, employers had to rely more on other clues about the quality of applicants, including their education and experience levels, but also, perhaps, their interview skills or their recommendations. Whatever the new criteria were, they seem to have put black applicants at a disadvantage.

“This reflects a general movement of legislators monkeying around with the hiring process without thinking about the consequences,” Shoag says.[8]

The latest in efforts to restrict information available to hiring companies is the so-far-not-cleverly-named movement to ban asking any questions about salary history. The theory here is that current and past salary history can be used to hold back women, since a new employer may well offer an increase based on the supposedly lower salaries women make under the yoke of discrimination. The practical need for both applicant and employer to discover whether they are even close to a negotiating range is, of course, not considered, because the appearance of helping women make better salaries is all that counts. Now employers may spend considerable effort to decide on a candidate only to discover the salary they were prepared to offer is far too low to interest the candidate.

Massachusetts was the first state to pass such a law.[9] But theirs goes further, attempting to enshrine the concept of comparable worth—even different jobs with similar labor and standards are supposed to pay the same. This was in response to a suit from largely female cafeteria workers paid just over half of what janitors in the same school system made; the obvious difference in working conditions (social and clean vs. nonsocial and dirty) which explain the relative attractiveness of the positions, and thus the pay differential, seem to be beyond the politicians. This subjective standard will occupy court time and allow more lawyers to extract profitable settlements for themselves.
Meanwhile, attempts to outlaw salary questions at the Federal level are ongoing:

Under the Pay Equity for All Act of 2016 (H.R. 6030), the U.S. Department of Labor would be able to assess fines up to $10,000 against employers who violate the law by asking questions about an applicant’s salary history. Additionally, prospective or current employees would be able to bring a private lawsuit against an employer who violated the law and could receive up to $10,000 in damages plus attorney fees….

Although many employers may not intend to discriminate on the basis of gender, race or ethnicity, asking for prior salary information before offering an applicant a job can have a discriminatory effect in the workplace that begins or reinforces the wage gap, according to a news release announcing the bill.[10]

Women need a Big Brother on their side to have a chance at negotiating a fair salary for themselves, and the Party of Government is happy to provide one. Or at least pretend to.

[1] “Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment,” by Amanda Y. Agan (Princeton University – Department of Economics) and Sonja B. Starr (University of Michigan Law School), U of Michigan Law & Econ Research Paper No. 16-012, June 14, 2016.
[2] “Does ‘Ban the Box’ Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories are Hidden,” by Jennifer L. Doleac and Benjamin Hansen, NBER Working Paper No. 22469, July 2016.
[3] “Ban-the-Box Movement Goes Viral,” by Roy Maurer, SHRM, 2016.
[4] Maurer
[5] “Your Employer Won’t Be Looking at Your Credit Score—Here’s Why,” by Lindsay Konsko, Nerdwallet, August 1, 2016. Starts by saying employers don’t look at credit scores, then segues to how they actually look at credit reports.
[6] “The Use of Credit Reports in Employment Background Screening,” by Lester Rosen, CEO, Employment Screening Resources, and Kerstin Bagus, Director Global Compliance, LexisNexis Screening Solutions Inc., 2010.
[7] “Know Before You Hire: 2015 Employment Screening Trends,” by Roy Maurer, SHRM, January 27, 2015.
[8] “The law was supposed to reduce discrimination. But it made hiring more racially biased,” by Jeff Guo, Washington Post, March 23, 2016.
[9] “Does new law mean real pay equity for women? Not quite,” by Shirley Leung, Boston Globe, August 4, 2016.
[10] “Bill Banning Salary History Questions Goes Before House.” by Kathy Gurchiek, SHRM HR Today, Sep 16, 2016.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits… HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

More reading on other topics:

More Reading:

Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Stable is Boring? “Psychology Today” Article on Bad Boyfriends

HireVue app -- Google Play

“Death by HR” – HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches

We’ve seen how HR is already mismanaging hiring by using primitive automation tools for screening, and how future progressive regulations may make the situation even worse. Meanwhile, social media and online profiles are providing more honest data on candidates than ever before, but HR is warning hiring managers not to look at it.

The good news may be that AI in smarter screening programs may be able to use online searches and carefully-designed online questionnaires to do a much better job of identifying possible great hires and screening out the deadwood. Meanwhile, leading-edge employers like Google have discovered overly-specific degree and experience qualifications can actually screen out some of the most productive people in the applicant pool. If any company can apply data analytics and AI to hiring and performance management, it would be Google. How did Google do when they tried? The New York Times interviewed senior VP of people operations (Google’s name for HR, apparently) Laszlo Bock in 2013:

Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert….

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.

Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

Behavioral interviewing also works—where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.[1]

Google used to be known for hiring only people under 30, using those brainteasers to identify top programming talent and relying on academic qualifications, favoring degrees from prestigious universities. That’s no longer true:

One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless—no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college…. academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.

So how are they applying their famous data analytics to hiring for Google? Very methodically, as you would expect. According to an Atlantic story:

In the summer of 2006, Todd Carlisle, a Google analyst with a doctorate in organizational psychology, designed a 300-question survey for every Google employee to fill out… Some questions were straightforward: Have you ever set a world record? Other queries had employees plot themselves on a spectrum: Please indicate your working style preference on a scale of 1 (work alone) to 5 (work in a team). Other questions were frivolous: What kind of pets do you own?

Carlisle crunched the data and compared it to measures of employee performance. He was looking for patterns to understand what attributes made a good Google worker. This was strongly related to another question that interested his boss, Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of People Operations: What attributes could predict the perfect Google hire?

…Google was essentially trying to Google the human-resources process: It wanted a search algorithm that could sift through tens of thousands of people—Google’s acceptance rate is about 0.2 percent, or 1/25th that of Harvard University—and return a list of the top candidates. But after a great deal of question-asking and number-crunching, it turned out that the best performance predictor wasn’t grade-point average, or type of pets, or an answer to the question, “How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?” The single best predictor was: absolutely nothing.[2]

Much research shows referrals to be the most reliable source of better hires, so Google’s early emphasis on ties to computer science professors to recruit the best students for their early programming teams was a good if limited strategy. Referrals are more likely to be “good fits” because the skills needed for good teamwork are more likely to get someone referred:

The study found that referrals produce “substantially higher profits per worker” who are “less likely to quit,” “more innovative,” and “have fewer accidents”—all this, even after controlling for factors like college, SAT scores, and IQ. Team-based companies require openness, compatibility, and a willingness to cooperate. Referral programs work because great employees pass along workers who similarly match the company culture.

Although they account for only six percent of total applications, referrals now result in more than a quarter of all hires at large companies, according to a recent paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and MIT….

Google, which depends on referrals, once administered up to 25 interviews for each job candidate. Todd Carlisle, the organizational psychology doctorate who administered the company’s surveys in 2006, thought this might be overkill. He tested exactly how many interviews were necessary to be confident about a new hire. The right number of interviews per candidate, he discovered, was four. This new policy, which Google calls the Rule of Four, “shaved median time to hire to 47 days, compared to 90 to 180 days,” Laszlo Bock wrote in his book Work Rules.

But Carlisle’s research revealed something deeper about the hiring process, which has resonance for every industry: No one manager at Google was very good, alone, at predicting who would make a good worker.

Four meticulously orchestrated Google interviews could identify successful hires with 86 percent confidence, and nobody at the company—no matter how long they had been at the company or how many candidates they had interviewed—could do any better than the aggregated wisdom of four interviewers.

It turns out that a single Google hiring manager, at least, is often not that good at judging candidates — but when four of their judgments are combined, the result is as good as it’s going to get. This convinced the company to drop their over-interviewing policies, which took much candidate and staff time and delayed hiring by months.

So what are the prospects for automating hiring? Aptitude test scores have considerable predictive value in many cognitive jobs, but could one automate the emotional intelligence and teamwork skills testing needed to find good team workers? Google has tried and (at least as far as they’ve disclosed their practices) failed to find anything better than referrals and face-to-face interviews.

But software companies keep trying to improve ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) functions to do a better job:

Companies such as Facebook, GE, IBM, Hilton Worldwide, SAP and many others have been slowly adding data analytics into their recruitment practices. A few years ago, it was unheard of to scan candidate resumes for data, but now it’s commonplace. Machine intelligence is being used to scan through other aspects of candidate information, such as their social media content, their facial expressions, even their work samples to identify top candidates – and weed out the undesirables.

“Such practices raise questions about accuracy and privacy, but proponents argue that harnessing AI for hiring could lead to more diverse, empathetic, and dynamic workplaces,” says Sean Captain, a journalist with Fast Company.

…“corporate recruiting is broken” as a system. It’s filled with inaccuracies and black holes where candidates disappear…. “85% of job applicants never hear back after submitting an application.” This indicates that some recruiters are still not able to stay on top of recruitment processes, and the candidate experience has a long way to go towards being a positive one.

Perhaps there is room for more automation and AI in recruitment if it can restore better recruitment practices from the human side of things. Kibben mentions that AI will improve the candidate experience and is a winning proposition for recruiters who will be able to strategically partner with hiring managers instead of simply filling job requests.[3]

Lots of buzzwords and promises, few real advances. One semi-useful tool now becoming popular is the automated interview system — imagine an online interviewing system where the applicant answers preset questions in front of their PC, laptop, or phone camera, with the video uploaded for later replay by HR staff and hiring managers. This certainly cuts down the overhead of doing interviews — no more paying to fly candidates out and take them to dinner, just video dating-style files to pick up those subtle clues about the candidate normally gleaned from a face-to-face interview.

How does that work out in practice? A company called HireVue claims to analyze video interviews using AI tools:

The deep dive into a candidate’s mind isn’t a new idea, says Mark Newman, founder and CEO of HireVue. Founded in 2004, it was one of the pioneers in using AI for hiring. Its specialty is analyzing video interviews for personal attributes including engagement, motivation, and empathy. (Although it also uses written evaluations.) The company analyzes data such as word choice, rate of speech, and even microexpressions (fleeting facial expressions).[4]

But most users of their systems are just looking for a cost-effective substitute for face-to-face interviews, with only a few using “AI” to evaluate the candidate videos. HireVue is increasingly important:

HireVue Inc., which provides video interviewing software for Goldman Sachs and 600 other firms, said it hosted nearly three million video interviews last year, up from 13,000 five years ago….

Most video-interviewing programs require applicants to click a link or install an app. Interviews begin with a prompt such as “Tell us about a time you had to deal with a conflict” that stays on-screen for about 30 seconds. Then, the camera turns on and the candidate has anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes to respond before the next question pops up.

Human-resources staff then review the videos and pass along promising applicants to managers for consideration. Applicants who make the cut are typically invited to a one-on-one interview. That doesn’t always mean it will be in-person, though. Varsha Paidi, a software engineer hired by IBM last year, had subsequent online interviews and eventually received her job offer via text message.

Speeding up the hiring process allows recruiters to look at more applicants than before, giving companies wider reach, said Obed Louissaint, the human-resources lead for IBM’s Watson division.

Applicants, however, say that computer-guided interviews take some getting used to. Amy Hall was never the type to get nervous during job interviews, but when the 29-year-old had to complete a video interview last year for an internal job switch at Cigna-Healthspring, she recalled feeling apprehensive and camera-shy. She waited until after work hours and used a computer in the IT department. With the door closed, she clicked a link to Cigna’s video-interviewing site….

Companies say they seek similar traits in video interviews as they do in traditional interviews. Recruiters at IBM and Cigna said they evaluate candidates based on how well the person communicates his/her thought process, whether the person answers all parts of the question—and whether he/she makes eye contact…

Video interviews might also present some problems because managers cannot ask follow-up questions or engage candidates further on a point, said Carol Miaskoff, assistant legal counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In letters to vendors, Ms. Miaskoff has suggested that companies assign more than one person to review individual videos to ensure hiring decisions aren’t made hastily.

Taking robo-recruiting one step further, some HireVue customers have an algorithm review the video interviews for them. Using data about the skills and attributes companies are seeking for a given role, a program called HireVue Insights scans videos for verbal and facial cues that match those skills then ranks the top 100 applicants.[5]

Given that in-person interviews by staff tend to wander and often turn into staff evaluations of whether the candidate will be enjoyable company or not, a fixed format with questions set in advance does actually promise to reduce the element of good-old-boyism. Everyone has experienced the job interview that turns quickly to discussion of sports or hobbies in common — the interviewer pays less attention to skills and attitudes than shared cultural enthusiasms, tending to favor cultural clones of themselves whose company they will enjoy. But notice that most companies still rely on human HR staff judgement to screen the resulting videos, which saves time for hiring managers but still introduces an element of HR prejudice. If your HR staff are primarily left-leaning New England-educated feminists, a white male candidate with a Southern accent and stereotypically male mannerisms will likely be screened out. For once the EEOC advice is reasonable — this type of screening will be more effective if more than one person reviews each video, making it more difficult for prejudice to prevail.

Giving HR staff veto power over candidates seems unwise. Practical considerations require obviously unqualified candidates to be weeded out early when a position attracts large numbers of applicants, but hiring managers and team members should invest the relatively minor time it takes to review these types of video responses themselves, as they are likely to be the best judges of culture fit and attitudes revealed by video.

Applicants encounter HireVue and similar video interviewing systems frequently now, and not everyone is happy—they find the idea insulting and intrusive. One question at Ask the Headhunter:

[The questioner’s wife] landed two job interviews with hiring managers within three weeks. Suddenly, a personnel jockey injected himself into the ongoing discussions with the hiring manager. The recruiter insisted that my wife submit herself to a one-way, online digital video taping, answer a series of pre-selected “screening questions,” and upload it to who knows where for “further review and screening” by who knows whom.

She found the request creepy, impersonal, presumptuous, Orwellian, exploitative, voyeuristic, unprofessional, and perhaps even unethical. She declined, instantly prompting an automated “Do Not Reply” rejection e-mail. She was not worthy because she wouldn’t subject herself to a dehumanizing “HireVue Digital Video Interview.”

This new wrinkle in HR practices seems like the most unsettling and counterproductive yet. It not only removes access to the hiring manager, but also live, human interaction. It sounds like “HR pornography,” where perverted personnel jockeys huddle around a monitor to gawk at videos of “virtual job candidates,” picking apart perceived blunders while they screen you out.[6]

The Headhunter, Nick Corcodillos, suggested the candidate respond in this situation by expressing a willingness to do a Skype interview with the hiring manager, cheaper (no payment to HireVue) and more personal. He suggests HR has an agenda in using such impersonal services: “What they mean is, we don’t want you to see the personalities of our personnel jockeys because, face it, they’re a bunch of data diddlers that we don’t want talking to anyone.” I’d say that is correct. In this case the applicant already spoke to the hiring manager, but HR is trying to force use of its process using HireVue for bureaucratic control reasons. If it should come to an EEOC complaint, having anyone escape their uniform process would be seen as evidence of favoritism having disparate impact on minorities.

There’s nothing wrong with these video interviewing services — ideally they substitute for expensive and time-consuming travel to meet with HR staff and hiring managers. But in practice, some companies now use them along with ATS screening techniques to completely depersonalize all but the last stages of hiring — the candidate does a lot of work, but no one at the company spends any time on their application at all until pre-screened and pre-interviewed. Meanwhile, candidates who contact hiring managers directly or run into them at professional functions or through work at companies in the same industry get the further advantage of being personally known in advance.

It does cost a lot to hire through HR — the arms race of HR automation leads to candidates using automation to contact far more potential employers, leading to avalanches of applications, leading to more ineffective automation. Hopeful noises about AI assisting are so far just that. In principle, AI could do a good job of analyzing resumes and interview videos and deliver the best candidates to hiring managers. In practice, no one is delivering anything more than hype.

Typical of the hype: HiringSolved, a startup promising Siri-like hiring assistance:

HiringSolved will soon unveil what it considers “Siri for recruiting,” an artificial intelligence assistant for recruiters. His name will be RAI, pronounced like the name Ray, and standing for “Recruiting Artificial Intelligence.”

The company has been working on it for five years, and is still perfecting it. The gist of it is you’d ask recruiting questions to a Chatbot-like system. So, instead of checking off a bunch of boxes, you’d type something like, “I need to find 10 female developers with experience using WordPress, within 10 miles of Milwaukee.” Or, perhaps, “What was the most common previous title of a systems engineer at Raytheon?”

Perhaps later, like with Siri, you’d use voice, not typed, commands.

HiringSolved’s RAI tool could also ask you follow-up questions, not unlike a conversation between a recruiter and a manager. If you, say, want a mechanical engineer, it might ask you to narrow your searches. Nuclear? Petroleum? Aerospace?

The idea is that the artificial intelligence will make you a better recruiter/sourcer, guiding you through questions that very experienced sourcers ask themselves in order to chop through a database and hone in on who they want.[7]

Chatbots and Siri, soon to save the day! Smart employers will pay the price to hire good, connected recruiters who have personal contacts in the industry. AI may one day allow applicants to prove themselves worthy without human intervention, but that day is a long way off.

[1] “In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal,” by Adam Bryant, New York Times, June 19, 2013.
[2] “The Science of Smart Hiring,” by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, April 10, 2016:
[3] “How AI and recruiters will work together in the near future,” by Tess Taylor, HRDive, September 15, 2016.
[4] “Can Using Artificial Intelligence Make Hiring Less Biased?” by Sean Captain, Fast Company, May 18, 2016.
[5] “Video Job Interviews: Hiring for the Selfie Age,” by Dahlia Bazzaz, Wall Street Journal, August 16,2016.
[6] “HR Pornography: Interview videos,” by Nick Corcodillos, Ask the Headhunter®, October 14, 2014.
[7] “A Cousin Of Siri Is Coming To The Recruiting Field,” by Todd Raphael, ERE Recruiting Intelligence, September 8, 2016.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits… HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

More reading on other topics:

More Reading:

The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions

“Death by HR” – Diversity Programs Don’t Work


[An abridged chapter from Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

As we’ve seen, HR costs continue to rise because cost savings from outsourcing are swallowed up by increasing regulatory burdens. The hiring of “Chief Diversity Officers” (CDOs), HR executives making a median salary of $162,588 a year to protect the corporate image from attacks by Jesse Jackson-like activist organizations, is just the most visible sign of these increasing costs.

Who are these people, and what kind of organization is hiring them? HBR has a story:

Deborah Elam, Chief Diversity Officer at General Electric, describes her job in expansive terms. “It’s about leveraging the new streams of talent around the world, and responding to the changed face of our customers” she says. Anne Erni, Chief Diversity Officer at Lehman Brothers, has an equally large–and strategic–view. “It’s about tapping into the widest possible talent pool … making sure we create a true meritocracy here at Lehman.”

A few years back, these Chief Diversity Officer positions didn’t exist. Today they’re firmly established in the executive suite across a range of Fortune 500 companies–at Johnson & Johnson, Aon, Citi and American Express as well as at GE and Lehman Brothers….

This title started in government and academic settings, then made its way into very large financial corporations (which are thoroughly under the regulatory thumb). The signature programs of the CDOs tend to be designed to buff the corporate image through favorable publicity rather than directly impacting minority recruiting for the CDO’s organization.

A thriving industry in certification completes the picture of a growth industry. The Society for Diversity’s certification offering suggests these benefits of their certification:

The benefits of certification include:

• Higher wages for executives, employees and consultants who possess CDE or CDP credentials.
• A more productive and highly trained diversity resource for employers.
• Prestige for the individual and a competitive advantage over non-certified individuals in the field.
• Enhanced employment opportunities.
• Assisting employers in making more informed hiring decisions.
• Assisting consumers in making informed decisions about qualified diversity providers.
• Protection of the general public from incompetent and unfit practitioners.
• Establishment of a professional standard for individuals in the field of diversity.

All this, for only $3,000-6,000 for certification good for three years, with continuing education requirements costing more in time and money. This is of course a racket, and these competing certification organizations will work hard to get a certification requirement embedded in law or regulations so they can continue to feed off “diversity professionals,” much as teacher continuing education requirements fund connected apparatchiks. Cornell has also entered the market with its “Cornell Certified Diversity Professional / Advanced Practitioner (CCDP/AP)” certificate program,[4] which is cheap at $1,000 and conducted by conference call and an email exam (which of course can be taken by a confederate.)

There’s even a Diversity Officer magazine!

Brigette McInnis-Day of SAP sounds almost chipper as she recounts how pressure to hire for diversity quotas rather than merit overcame manager doubts:

I have an example I love to share that illustrates setting big goals. We started a sales graduate program in the US and the team was trying to establish goals (not targets—don’t get excited) for diversity. Everyone came with a conservative plan using trends and previous statistics, pointing out all of the risks, and suggested a “careful” target. I challenged the team to think big and differently and reach for a target of 70 percent diversity. Everyone laughed, scoffed at the idea, and told me, “No way!” But I held firm on what I knew we could achieve—and we nailed it. We beat our goal by reaching 72 percent. The lead early talent recruiter said to me, “If you did not put that big goal in my head, I would never have strived for it. Once I believed, it was easy!” Even better, it turned the nonbelievers into believers and they changed their hiring approach going forward.

No doubt these converts were waving little red books as they experienced the epiphany she demanded. How the “72% diverse” new hires did over time is not really her concern — she’ll be on to a new and higher-paying post at another company before anyone is allowed to doubt the results.

Even tech companies are getting into the CDO game. Salesforce, which sells CRM and personnel management software-as-a-service to business, announced creation of a Chief Equality Officer position:

Salesforce has taken a leading role on LGBT issues and now it is taking that one step further. The company next week will be announcing its first chief equality officer, who will report directly to CEO Marc Benioff… While [Benioff] has built charitable efforts and equality into his own company, and he admits there is a self-serving component to this, he believes that companies need to give back.

“We can just focus on our own results, our own tech, but you won’t get the joy that comes from giving, the real pleasure of helping people. You’re not only helping other people, you’re helping yourself,” Benioff says.

The “Diversity and Inclusion” consulting firms suggest documenting the great ROI (Return On Investment) of their programs to convince management to fund more of them. Upper-level management, it seems, would like to see these program costs as investments returning higher revenues and profits. This is another credit assignment problem—how can the impact of costly programs which both generate more fees to vendors and take up valuable employee time for nonproductive counselling and “mind-changing” sessions be measured?

The correct answer: it can’t. Unless there’s a control company which is very similar at the start but does not undergo diversity training and have diversity programs, there’s no way to determine what impact such programs have on the business. Since both direct and indirect costs are high, showing positive profit impact is going to take real evidence. What can’t be openly admitted is that companies feel they must have such programs or be punished, either by the EEOC or lawsuits. The program itself is partly protective, demonstrating the company made a good faith effort to promote diversity.

Your company certainly has a problem if it needs to reduce noose, graffiti, and hate incidents. But as we have seen in academic examples recently, those benefitting from the diversity movement have taken to false reporting or even producing these incidents themselves to get attention. The solution to such incidents is to fire those creating them or falsely reporting them.

There is no way to prove a whiz-bang diversity program has any effect on productivity numbers. Surveys of employee attitudes and satisfaction are useful, and to some extent diversity programs have a kind of placebo effect — “The company is making an effort, they care!” being the effect on employees and outside observers of media coverage and advertising generated about these programs, which is why there is sometimes more money spent on the PR about diversity programs than on the programs themselves.

An overview of the literature on workplace social or cultural training — that is, training intended to change employee’s cultural attitudes and behavior, like sexual harassment and diversity training — shows that most such programs don’t work, or even cause employees to be more cynical and less likely to believe allegations of racial or sexual harassment. Most such programs are mandatory, and many are online, requiring the subject to read every word of an hour or more of slides and answer quizzes before continuing. These programs are often chosen for low cost and minimal work disruption, but are resented by employees as obvious wastes of valuable time, and condescending since most of the employees subjected to them already fully understand the material presented. The abusers among them are not affected at all.

Hypocrisy is another side-effect. At most companies the programs are required by liability insurance companies and quietly resented by both management and staff, but no one may officially speak against them — diversity is a sacred cow.

Prices for diversity training depend on type and length. One site offers half-day facilitated sessions for up to 12 employees for $3750, c. $300 each. Lost work time per employee would add $100-200 to the cost. A company with 80,000 workers would therefore end up paying about $32 million for all employees for this one half-day session alone, and HR will want to repeat the training with the latest and greatest methods in a few years. Online training takes less time and money—a few hours of time of the employee’s choosing, for c. $100-200 per employee in direct costs, but having little or negative actual effect.

A few contrarian voices speak out against the sacred cow of diversity training. The Harvard Business Review piece (“Diversity Policies Rarely Make Companies Fairer, and They Feel Threatening to White Men”) from the January, 2016 issue slams it hard:

Are all of these [expensive corporate diversity] efforts working? In terms of increasing demographic diversity, the answer appears to be not really. The most commonly used diversity programs do little to increase representation of minorities and women. A longitudinal study of over 700 U.S. companies found that implementing diversity training programs has little positive effect and may even decrease representation of black women….

[Shielding effect:] In a 2011 Supreme Court class action case, Walmart successfully used the mere presence of its anti-discrimination policy to defend itself against allegations of gender discrimination. And Walmart isn’t alone: the “diversity defense” often succeeds, making organizations less accountable for discriminatory practices.

There’s another way the rhetoric of diversity can result in inaccurate and counterproductive beliefs. In a recent experiment, we found evidence that it not only makes white men believe that women and minorities are being treated fairly—whether that’s true or not—it also makes them more likely to believe that they themselves are being treated unfairly.

We put young white men through a hiring simulation for an entry-level job at a fictional technology firm. For half of the “applicants,” the firm’s recruitment materials briefly mentioned its pro-diversity values. For the other half, the materials did not mention diversity. In all other ways, the firm was described identically. All of the applicants then underwent a standardized job interview while we videotaped their performance and measured their cardiovascular stress responses.

Compared to white men interviewing at the company that did not mention diversity, white men interviewing for the pro-diversity company expected more unfair treatment and discrimination against whites. They also performed more poorly in the job interview, as judged by independent raters. And their cardiovascular responses during the interview revealed that they were more stressed.

Thus, pro-diversity messages signaled to these white men that they might be undervalued and discriminated against. These concerns interfered with their interview performance and caused their bodies to respond as if they were under threat. Importantly, diversity messages led to these effects regardless of these men’s political ideology, attitudes toward minority groups, beliefs about the prevalence of discrimination against whites, or beliefs about the fairness of the world. This suggests just how widespread negative responses to diversity may be among white men: the responses exist even among those who endorse the tenets of diversity and inclusion.

In another set of experiments, we found that diversity initiatives also seem to do little to convince minorities that companies will treat them more fairly. Participants from ethnic minorities viewed a pro-diversity company as no more inclusive, no better to work for, and no less likely to discriminate against minorities than a company without a pro-diversity stance. (Other researchers have seen more promising results of pro-diversity rhetoric and images, but it’s clear they’re no panacea.)…Currently, diversity initiatives’ strongest accomplishment may actually be protecting the organization from litigation—not protecting the interests of underrepresented groups.

Identity politics applied to personnel, in other words, don’t do much for diversity, but the constant rhetoric makes the company look like it cares more about skin color and sex than performance. This makes the majority of the workers who think of themselves (correctly or not) as colorblind nervous and wary of discrimination. Meanwhile, it does little to truly support minority employees who may find the rhetoric conceals culture-based discrimination.

Many companies would scrap their diversity regimes if they were not required for legal and PR protection. A corporate culture emphasizing Martin Luther King’s standard of “content of character” over color of skin and type of sex organs is both less hypocritical and more easily supported by all employees regardless of minority status. A multicolored, multicultural workforce where everyone shares the goal of winning in the marketplace can be more inspiring for high achievers than one that divides employees by race and sex.

But under current state and Federal law, diversity expenditures and PR are required to protect the enterprise. The detailed followup article in the HBR should be studied by upper managements since it not only blows the whistle on the waste and harm caused by current diversity programs but suggests a path to more cost-effective and productive programs:

Businesses started caring a lot more about diversity after a series of high-profile lawsuits rocked the financial industry. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Morgan Stanley shelled out $54 million—and Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch more than $100 million each—to settle sex discrimination claims. In 2007, Morgan was back at the table, facing a new class action, which cost the company $46 million. In 2013, Bank of America Merrill Lynch settled a race discrimination suit for $160 million. Cases like these brought Merrill’s total 15-year payout to nearly half a billion dollars.

It’s no wonder that Wall Street firms now require new hires to sign arbitration contracts agreeing not to join class actions. They have also expanded training and other diversity programs. But on balance, equality isn’t improving in financial services or elsewhere. Although the proportion of managers at U.S. commercial banks who were Hispanic rose from 4.7% in 2003 to 5.7% in 2014, white women’s representation dropped from 39% to 35%, and black men’s from 2.5% to 2.3%. The numbers were even worse in investment banks (though that industry is shrinking, which complicates the analysis). Among all U.S. companies with 100 or more employees, the proportion of black men in management increased just slightly—from 3% to 3.3%—from 1985 to 2014. White women saw bigger gains from 1985 to 2000—rising from 22% to 29% of managers—but their numbers haven’t budged since then. Even in Silicon Valley, where many leaders tout the need to increase diversity for both business and social justice reasons, bread-and-butter tech jobs remain dominated by white men.

As we saw elsewhere, all HR-imposed systems will be gamed and routed around by hiring managers keen to improve the performance of their teams and promote their own advancement. When diversity is mostly lip service and an industry is clubbish, not much will actually change — high-performing minority candidates who would have done well anyway are promoted, but the corporate culture won’t change much. The article continues:

…companies are basically doubling down on the same approaches they’ve used since the 1960s — which often make things worse, not better. Firms have long relied on diversity training to reduce bias on the job, hiring tests and performance ratings to limit it in recruitment and promotions, and grievance systems to give employees a way to challenge managers. Those tools are designed to preempt lawsuits by policing managers’ thoughts and actions. Yet laboratory studies show that this kind of force-feeding can activate bias rather than stamp it out. As social scientists have found, people often rebel against rules to assert their autonomy. Try to coerce me to do X, Y, or Z, and I’ll do the opposite just to prove that I’m my own person.

In analyzing three decades’ worth of data from more than 800 U.S. firms and interviewing hundreds of line managers and executives at length, we’ve seen that companies get better results when they ease up on the control tactics. It’s more effective to engage managers in solving the problem, increase their on-the-job contact with female and minority workers, and promote social accountability—the desire to look fair-minded. That’s why interventions such as targeted college recruitment, mentoring programs, self-managed teams, and task forces have boosted diversity in businesses. Some of the most effective solutions aren’t even designed with diversity in mind…. Decades of social science research point to a simple truth: You won’t get managers on board by blaming and shaming them with rules and reeducation….

Another reason is that about three-quarters of firms with training still follow the dated advice of the late diversity guru R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr. “If diversity management is strategic to the organization,” he used to say, diversity training must be mandatory, and management has to make it clear that “if you can’t deal with that, then we have to ask you to leave.” But five years after instituting required training for managers, companies saw no improvement in the proportion of white women, black men, and Hispanics in management, and the share of black women actually decreased by 9%, on average, while the ranks of Asian-American men and women shrank by 4% to 5%. Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance — and many participants actually report more animosity toward other groups afterward.

But voluntary training evokes the opposite response (“I chose to show up, so I must be pro-diversity”), leading to better results: increases of 9% to 13% in black men, Hispanic men, and Asian-American men and women in management five years out (with no decline in white or black women). Research from the University of Toronto reinforces our findings: In one study white subjects read a brochure critiquing prejudice toward blacks. When people felt pressure to agree with it, the reading strengthened their bias against blacks. When they felt the choice was theirs, the reading reduced bias.

Companies too often signal that training is remedial. The diversity manager at a national beverage company told us that the top brass uses it to deal with problem groups. “If there are a number of complaints…or, God forbid, some type of harassment case…leaders say, ‘Everyone in the business unit will go through it again.’” Most companies with training have special programs for managers. To be sure, they’re a high-risk group because they make the hiring, promotion, and pay decisions. But singling them out implies that they’re the worst culprits. Managers tend to resent that implication and resist the message.

One lawyer comments on the same issues:

If they are doing it for legal protection, most employers really don’t care whether the training works. It is hardly surprising that training could have counterproductive effects when the attitude often is, “Just do it, and just do it as cheaply as possible.” This approach leaves employees feeling cynical and distrustful of the company and in the worse case sows the seeds for conflict.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool…  to craft counter-revolutionary tactics for dealing with the HR parasites our government has empowered to destroy us. All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

More reading on other topics:

The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front