The Black Sheep values personal and professional development across the organization. One of our ongoing initiatives is a monthly book club culminating in a group discussion about how it applies to our lives and our business. On the docket: Inclusify, by Stefanie K. Johnson.

This generation’s hiring arms race has become more cutthroat than ever. The pandemic turned the professional landscape on its head: people were suddenly forced to work from home, furloughed, or even unexpectedly unemployed. Many employers could suddenly open their figurative doors to anyone around the world and this presented an incredible opportunity to find top-notch talent. Despite all that potential, leaders have a responsibility to acknowledge that our biases still rear their heads during the hiring process. No matter how much our culture claims that hard work can get you anywhere, we do not live in a meritocracy.

That’s why Inclusify, by Stefanie K. Johnson, is an important book for any hiring manager or corporate leader to spend some time with. The book begins by hammering home that everyone has unconscious bias, it’s normal. The faster you can accept that fact, the faster you can combat it.

Johnson says that leaders should not ignore differences in the workplace and that true “Inclusifyers” “create a team where everyone belongs because they know that acknowledging everyone’s unique talents and perspectives strengthens the organization.”

The book doesn’t just talk about why being an inclusifyer is important, it also provides actionable steps for one to become an inclusifyer at their company. One of the most important seats an inclusifyer can occupy is that of a hiring manager. Johnson laments that most hiring practices have bias baked in. People involved in the hiring process seek to hire people most similar to those that are already in the organization. Naturally, if your organization lacks people of color, your hiring practices will most likely exclude them.

One step hiring managers can implement is anonymizing assets. This is when names and other cultural indicators of applicants are removed from resumes, cover letters, etc. This ensures hiring managers and others reviewing the documents have no way to know the demographics of each applicant, preventing implicit bias. While Johnson believes that meritocracy is a myth, she does acknowledge that anonymizing assets allows decision makers to more objectively review the credentials of the applicants in front of them.

Johnson also suggests clearly defining the criteria by which applicants will be assessed throughout the hiring process. This allows you to have an objective means of reviewing applications against the actual job requirements.

It is critical for leaders, and organizations as a whole, to acknowledge the privileges that have brought them to this place in life – especially when creating applicant criteria. This can help leaders review applications with more empathy and consider taking a chance on an applicant who may not have had the same opportunities presented to them.

Diversity is one of the hallmarks of a great company. Johnson highlights data that shows diverse teams are more productive than homogeneous teams. She cites a Deloitte study that states inclusive organizations are six times more likely to be innovative and meet financial targets. Those facts alone should catch the attention of all hiring managers and leaders. If they seek diversity, it will benefit their organization.

We’re not strangers to the fact that businesses need to make money to thrive. For too long that’s been an excuse to do the right thing for the business rather than the right thing. Johnson clearly outlines how business leaders can no longer ignore that diversity and inclusivity are not merely “the right thing,” they are also the right thing for their business. Becoming an inclusifyer doesn’t happen overnight. Inclusify provides a path for each business leader to start their journey towards embracing diversity and helping their company become more inclusive.