WPG Summer Seminar 2018: Discussions on Diversity & Inclusion in Global Context

Work Psychology Group (WPG) recently hosted its first industry event and was thrilled to be able to bring together some respected figures working in the areas of Assessment and Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) to share thoughts and experiences gained across a wide range of organisations.

The evening provided a great opportunity for senior professionals and assessment experts to examine how they can support each other in overcoming some of the issues common to all, specifically in relation to D&I, and there were some interesting questions raised.  Not all could be answered – but that’s a reflection of the complexities of the situation and highlights the benefits of these sessions.  

Many thanks to Patrick Woodman, Head of Research & Advocacy, Chartered Management Institute (CMI), Anton Botha, Senior I/O Psychologist, United Nations Secretariat and Phil Wilson, Head of Assessment & Diversity, Civil Service HR Fast Stream & Early Talent, for taking on the mantle of speaking at this inaugural event. 

The event was opened by one of WPG’s founding partners, Professor Fiona Patterson, who said “This was a successful first foray into providing a discussion forum for senior professionals involved in the world of D&I”. 

One area in particular that got the audience talking was the value of the business case for D&I action – we know that there is research to demonstrate the positive impact that diversity has on organisational performance, but does the ‘business case’ argument suggest that we would consider it less important to diversify the talent within our organisations without these positive business outcomes? The debate raised a number of interesting points, albeit without conclusion, but with resounding acknowledgement that yes, there should be an ongoing focus on improvements in diversity, even if the gathering of evidence is still in progress. Indeed, as Phil noted during his talk, the evidence underpinning a business case may currently be stronger in areas such as gender, but there is still insight to be gained elsewhere. There seemed to be somewhat of a consensus that the business reasons are only in addition to the moral reasons for attention in this area. 

Patrick’s talk elicited some lively debate around whether the gender pay gap/lack of gender diversity really is an issue in all industries. Patrick said that some industries (e.g. banking) may experience more of a challenge than others, but also placed emphasis on the fact that these are the industries generally doing more to address the issues. What was evident from discussions is both the interest in learning across industries and an appetite for identifying best practice that can be considered in one’s own content.

Finally, bringing attention back to field of assessment more broadly, Anton’s reference to the fact that we shouldn’t be seeking to solve political issues with measurement solutions highlighted the importance of maintaining focus on fair, valid and reliable assessment methodology as a key driver for solutions. There was recognition amongst the audience of a tendency to attribute ‘adverse impact’ primarily to the assessment methodology being utilised with subsequent action focused on elimination of the inherent bias. However, in recognition of the complex nature of diversity issues, should we be so ready to disregard a method that may in fact demonstrate good predictive validity on the basis of seeking to ‘solve’ a diversity dilemma?

Following some engaging networking discussions, the event also provided a valuable opportunity to canvass the opinion of the audience as to which topics would provide a useful basis for discussion at future events.  Their very topical suggestions included unconscious bias, mental health at work and, particularly, the pros and cons of using artificial intelligence and general technological advances in recruitment and assessment.  

In summary, we were pleased to find that our audience found the event “insightful” and “thought-provoking” and we look forward to future events in which we can facilitate an engaging dialogue that supports senior professionals in addressing some of the key challenges facing today’s organisations.