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Fake Job Interviews: The Dark Side of DEI Efforts - Wells Fargo Case

Although many companies consider diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) top priorities, it doesn’t mean the strategies implemented to address them are always efficient. Unfortunately, in many cases, virtue-signaling statements of commitments to change by organizations are followed up with little action or not enough effort. Many initiatives, such as diversity training, are only useful for generating awareness in the short term but often fail to create lasting change. The problem with implementing diversity strategies can also be due to poor communication of diversity initiatives to employees who have no or little motivation to be involved in DEI efforts.

There was a recent example of poor implementation of the DEI policy that has led to unpleasant consequences. Wells Fargo, one of the leading American banks, was accused of conducting fake interviews with people of color and women in order to falsify diversity efforts, the New York Times reported. In this article, we will look at Wells Fargo hiring process, its diversity efforts, and offer a solution on how to avoid such mistakes when implementing DEI strategies. 

The Problem with Wells Fargo Hiring Process

In 2020, in light of the national reckoning on race that followed the murder of George Floyd, Wells Fargo became one of the companies that promised to increase diversity. The company adopted a formal policy requiring at least half of the candidates interviewed for positions above $100,000 come from diverse backgrounds.

However, the bank’s chief executive recently told employees that the policy would be put on hold to give the bank’s managers time to make changes. The reason for this is that a former employee in the bank’s wealth management business had complained that he was being forced to interview black people and women for jobs that had already been promised to others, just to meet the “diverse slate” requirement.

Mr. Bruno, one of the seven Wells Fargo employees who complained about the unfair interviewing process, said the interviews were more about helping the company record its diversity efforts on paper than actually increasing workplace diversity.

Mr. Thorpe, a former employee who retired from Wells Fargo in 2019, said he never conducted fake interviews but was required to document that he had tried to find diverse candidates, even though he knew exactly who would be getting the role.

“You did have to tell the story, send an email verifying what you’ve done. You just had to show that you were trying.”

Mr. Thorpe, a former Wells Fargo employee

Why Wells Fargo Diversity Program Failed

This is not the first time the organization has been accused of racially discriminatory behavior. In 2012, the company took part in selling subprime mortgages to Hispanic and Balck borrowers who qualified for prime loans and paid $175 million in fines. So why has the company been making the same mistakes for the past ten years? 

Below are some signs to watch for as they indicate that a company is off-track in its approach to diversity.

DEI is about avoiding the negative

It is no surprise that discrimination is expensive, involving fines, declining sales, falling share prices, and loss of customer trust. However, looking at diversity through reputational and financial risk is limiting. Employers should focus on the benefits of DEI, or it’s unlikely to take the right steps to tap a broad range of ideas and ways of thinking to achieve objectives.

DEI is a box-checking exercise

After making a public commitment to diversity, it’s easy to treat DEI as a complete work. To achieve the benefits of DEI in the workplace, companies must do the ongoing work of self-examination and experimentation in service of an experience that is inclusive for all. 

How to Improve the Diversity Recruiting Strategy

There are numerous benefits of workforce diversity, including higher revenue, improved decision making, higher rates of employee engagement, and increased innovation. However, companies need to put a lot of effort into developing, implementing and maintaining DEI policies to maximize the benefits. 

The internal confusion around Wells Fargo’s policies highlights how even the noblest goals can get warped as they go from idea to implementation, ultimately hurting the people they were meant to help. So, how can a company minimize the risk of making mistakes while initiating diversity in the workplace?

A successful DEI program must be rooted in the culture of a company’s employees and how it recruits, hires, and rewards employees. Training must be the main priority of any DEI program. Small live or online workshops are inherently effective at the moment. Moreover, the staff should only be trained after company leadership has established the how and why of DEI practice. Finally, coupling training with a strong communication strategy is critical to the success of DEI implementation. Organizations should take advantage of as many tools and channels as possible to eliminate bias in the hiring process. 

The use of technology can also support more diverse hiring. HR software like Employa can help companies reduce bias and assist in making objective decisions. AI recruiting analyzes a large amount of data and ignores demographic information about candidates. Moreover, it helps accelerate applicant communication and conversion with conversational AI.

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