I usually don’t listen very closely when the Chief Information Officers at tech companies talk. After all, they’re usually not speaking my language. But when they discuss hiring and developing talent, I begin to pay attention. And when they recommend actually hiring people who annoy you, well, I just have to learn more.
Douglas Merrill is the CEO and founder of ZestFinance, an L.A.-based financial services tech company that uses big data to improve credit underwriting decisions for lenders. He is also the former CIO and Vice President of Engineering at Google, where he helped with the company’s IPO.
I came across this video on HR departments, hiring practices and and talent reviews when someone in my network tweeted it.
He begins, “Back in the days when we had personnel department, it was the job of those people to take little blobs of clay off the street, put them through an extruding machine and the yield would be workers…Going back to the days of scientific management, all those workers would be the same though. All of our ways of viewing the workforce come from scientific management.”
Personnel departments have given way to Human Resources today, but besides a name change, Merrill opines little else has changed.
“The job of HR departments is the same as the old personnel department; take little blobs of clay off the street, put them through an extruding machine and the yield would be workers. Workers who look the same, walk the same, talk the same…The problem with that today?…The people you really are hunting for are not interested in being picked up like blobs of mud, shoved through an extruding machine and turned into a robot.”
“The people you really are hunting for are not interested in being picked up like blobs of mud, shoved through an extruding machine and turned into a robot.”
So, he says, you have to change the way you think about your workforce, and hire and develop talent. And it all begins, in his opinion, with hiring and developing diverse talent.
“You don’t hire for diversity because you want to be EEOC compliant. You hire for diversity because you want to win! That is the key element of hiring. You have to hire differently to ensure you get people that aren’t like you. It’s always easiest to hire people who look like you. It’s always easiest to promote people who look like you. It’s easiest because you like them more! However, that’s a bad way to run a business. To be a high performing company you have to make sure you have those diverse perspectives.”
Why is diversity so important? Merrill, who has Masters and Doctoral degrees in psychology from Princeton, says hundreds of studies show teams that are diverse, teams that think differently, act differently, have different backgrounds, different educational strata, etc., yield better answers every single time.
“Hire people who aren’t like you. Promote people who aren’t like you. In fact, hire and promote people who annoy you, because they are more likely to be diverse. Do whatever it takes to ensure your next employee is nothing like your last.”
“Hire people who aren’t like you. Promote people who aren’t like you. In fact, hire and promote people who annoy you, because they are more likely to be diverse.”
So there you go. Now, it’s your turn. What do you think about all this? Does it resonate? Are you buying the argument? Do you put the same value on diversity Merrill does? Have you ever tried hiring someone who actually does annoy you, for the sake of diversity, or some other reason? I think we can get a fascinating conversation and thread going around this topic. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!