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Brain-Friendly, Data-Driven Processes for Inclusion | Hear From DE&I Expert Melissa Majors

Making progress on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging often feels like swimming upstream. We know bias exists, but we fail to comprehend why it exists and the purpose it serves. Our brain’s natural shortcuts and tendencies exist for a reason, and in order to work with, not against, our brains, we need to understand that wiring.  

Melissa Majors, Author, Speaker, Consultant, Coach at Melissa Majors Consulting, speaks to how our brains are wired and how data and processes can help us make progress on DE&I in a recent webcast, Structured Hiring is Inclusive Hiring. Catch some highlights below or listen to the full recording here

Working with our brains 

“The reality is, our brains haven’t evolved that much since we were hanging out in caves… Our brains are still wired pretty much for survival and reproduction, so we are constantly scanning the environment for potential threats,” says Majors. When it comes to meeting new people, Majors points out, our brains determine within a second whether a person is a friend or a foe. We are more likely to perceive someone more similar to us as a friend and someone different as a foe. Though our brains naturally function in this way, it can get us into trouble when making hiring decisions, for example. 

Our brains need hacks to make better decisions. “Structure, discipline, and habits all serve as hacks to overcome our brains’ natural and somewhat outdated wiring.” Majors stresses the importance of structure not just during interviews but also across the hiring process. We need all the help we can get to make more objective decisions. 

Your brain’s not broken. 

“Our processes, companies, and mindsets aren’t broken; they’re just unfinished.” We need to be able to acknowledge our brain’s imperfections if we’re going to move forward and make progress on DE&I. “It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable,” says Majors. But as she has seen in her practice, leaders who embrace their biases and welcome processes and technology that help them overcome and compensate for those biases are advancing and maturing. 

Where the justice case for diversity falls short 

The most commonly cited justifications for businesses taking action on diversity, equity, and inclusion are the justice and business cases for diversity. Though leaders stand behind the justice case as the right thing to do or even as a charitable cause, Majors posits this is insufficient. “Many companies that anchor their why and purpose for embracing diversity, inclusion strategies in morality set themselves up for inaction and resistance.” 

Why is that? “Because companies that prioritize inclusion because it leads to much better bottom-line business results like marketing, sales, operations, and all these other status quo strategies gain much more traction and buy-in.” When your strategy is driven by what leaders view as a moral case, what happens when your business experiences turnover at the top? You have to start all over, Majors observes. On the other hand, bottom-line results are undeniable. “You can’t argue with profitability, higher retention, innovation, risk mitigation, and all these other incredible bottom line benefits associated with getting inclusion right.” 

Why you need inclusive design 

We know processes are important, but how your processes are designed is even more crucial. With a design process that is not inclusive, Majors says, “you risk people not adopting it and adhering to it, and then circumventing it if they feel like it’s not designed for them, that is isn’t intuitive.” 

Whose voices are you involving? Are you addressing actual pain points of users, or are you building something that sounds good in theory? Are your solutions practical? In working with businesses, Majors names adoption as a critical stage where she’s seen many organizations “blow up as they didn’t empathize enough with the people responsible for executing the process.” It doesn’t matter how fancy, complex, or expertly designed your processes are. If they do not practically serve those responsible for using them, they are useless. 

Data informs solutions, not the other way around.

“We have to do a better job defining the problem we need to solve and then use data to inform solutions, not the other way around,” Majors begins. “It’s so much more fun and sexy just to sit around and brainstorm solutions to these potential problems, and often leaders and companies are overinvesting into solutions that still don’t solve the problem.” The theme Majors has seen in coaching C-Suite executives is “we’ve done all this stuff, but people are still not happy.” The reason is, this “stuff” didn’t really address the problem. 

Majors encourages leaders to begin by assessing their organization’s current state. “How inclusive are you? Let’s get some data around that and determine what’s working and what’s not. One of the questions that I’d encourage everyone to ponder is, what data exist that indicate our current state of inclusion? If you don’t have any data, you need to get some, then use that data to inform and prioritize what you focus on.” Use the data you’ve collected as a benchmark and track your progress as you go along. 

Having strategic, data-informed decisions guiding your strategy makes the difference between organizations advancing and moving forward and those that are not. Yet, just as we discussed the importance of the business case earlier, your strategy needs to “align with business goals and business strategy to ensure that it stays a priority and does not get deprioritized when it may take longer to see a return on investment.” 


To hear more from Melissa Majors, you can access the full conversation from the Structured Hiring is Inclusive Hiring webcast here