Fostering Inclusion and Diversity: The Predictive Power of Personality

by Keith Francoeur

As Vice President, he is responsible for training and managing PCI’s global assessment team, designing and updating the Talent Success Prediction™ process (including the research and selection of the test battery and interview format), and handling custom competency mapping.

Now, more than ever, organizations are focused on fostering an inclusive and diverse culture.  Much of this focus is on aligning organizational values, providing training, and hiring diverse team members.  However, pre-employment and developmental assessments have received less attention, perhaps because of a lack of awareness of how to do it.  Can you answer these questions?

  1. Are you hiring people who are likely to engage in Inclusive or Exclusive Behaviors? 
  2. Among your current team members, who is more likely to engage in Inclusive versus Exclusive Behaviors? 

Fostering an Inclusive and Diverse culture starts with the INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE you hire and the talent you grow. Thus, having an assessment that helps you to answer these questions is a critical component of a successful Inclusion and Diversity strategy. 

Drawing from Social Psychology research on biases, various assessments have been designed to measure a person’s propensity to think and behave in ways that serve to Include or Exclude members of “outgroups” (i.e., groups of people who are dissimilar to us in some way).  But the validity and utility of these tools varies, so knowing a little about the science behind them will help you to choose the right one.

Unconscious Bias Tests

The Implicit Association Test (IAT)¹ and similar indirect measures purport to identify “unconscious biases” by assessing an individual’s reaction time to pairing various words and pictures.  While these tests are widely popular because they are intuitively appealing, research² does not support their use because, among other things, they have low test-retest reliability (i.e., different results when taken more than once) and low predictive validity (i.e., results don’t correlate with the person’s actual behavior toward outgroup members). 

These serious psychometric shortcomings suggest that implicit measures are not theoretically sound and thus will be an ineffective tool to help companies with their inclusion and diversity goals.   Fortunately, there is a more effective assessment that can be leveraged, in the form of using a theoretically and psychometrically sound personality measure. 

Personality Traits that Influence Inclusiveness

Research3, 4, 5 has shown that personality is an important predictor of an individual’s propensity to have biases towards people who are not like them.  Of the many different personality traits, research³ suggests the following two may be most important:

  • Tendermindedness: The extent to which a person experiences compassion for others
  • Open-mindedness: The extent to which a person is willing to consider values that differ from their own

People who are higher on these traits are less likely to hold biases towards others and more likely to think and act in a way that fosters inclusion.  By hiring and promoting these individuals, you are helping to maximize your chances of fostering an inclusive environment that welcomes and celebrates a diverse workforce.

PCI’s Inclusivity Index

Using objective, psychometrically sound personality surveys, PCI’s assessment measures these two powerful predictors.  The person’s scores on the two traits are plotted on a grid, as shown here.  Interview questions and developmental suggestions are provided for individuals scoring in the yellow and red areas, to help you with next steps post-assessment.

Practical Implications

  • If you manage to attract diverse talent, they won’t stay long if their leaders and peers do not make them feel valued, understood, and care about.  To attract, retain, and grow diverse talent, you need to make sure that the people in your organization are thinking and behaving Inclusively. 
  • Using a theoretically and psychometrically sound measure of personality traits, like the PCI Inclusivity Index, can help you to hire people who are more likely to think, feel, and act in ways that foster Inclusion.  And if there are any red flags in the data, PCI provides interview questions to probe deeper.
  • Undoubtedly, every organization has a mix of people who are exhibiting varying degrees of inclusive and exclusive behaviors.  However, aside from blatant exclusive behaviors that are reported to HR, it is difficult to gauge how widespread of a problem exclusion is for an organization (or pockets within it), and just as difficult to know how often inclusive behaviors may be occurring.   Assessing your current team can shed light on these issues and guide your training and development efforts at both the group and individual level.

To learn more about how PCI can help you hire and develop people who are most likely to foster an inclusive and diverse culture, contact Dr. Keith Francoeur at: kfrancoeur@thepeoplecompanyintl.com.

Citations

¹ Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. L. K. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109, 3-25.  

² Oswald, F. L., Blanton, H., Mitchell, G. Jaccard, J., Tetlock, P.E. (2013). Predicting ethnic and racial discrimination: A meta-analysis of IAT criterion studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 171-192.

³ Ekehammar, B., & Akrami, N. (2007). Personality and Prejudice: From big five personality to facets. Journal of Personality, 75, 899-925. 

⁴ Sibley, C. G., & Duckitt, J. (2009). Big-five personality, social worldviews, and ideological attitudes: Further tests of a dual process cognitive-motivational model. The Journal of Social Psychology, 149, 545-561.

⁵ Miller, A. K., Wagner, M. M., & Hunt, A. N. (2012). Parsimony in Personality: Predicting Sexual Prejudice. Journal of Homosexuality, 59, 201-214.

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