I recently started a discussion on Linkedin regarding the prevalence of discrimination in the workplace which branched off, as discussions tend to, into a conversation about cultural fit and mirror image hiring. I have already discussed the usage of “cultural fit” in hiring so I want to tackle what a few labeled as “Mirror Image” hiring.
Mirror image hiring operates along the same lines as hiring job candidates for cultural fit. The principal is based on the assumption that if I have a group of employees contributing to the success of my company then surely all future employees I hire should mirror my attributes and those of my successful employees. If you’re the boss you look into the mirror with your winning smile and say with a sparkle on your tooth, “You’re the best! You are who I want to hire for this organization!”
Makes sense right? If your employees think like one another and share the same successful attributes then your organization should have fewer conflicts, employee satisfaction should be high and as a result your turnover should be low. As I write this I’m almost buying into this theory.
Now, as I like to say, here’s the rub. Does hiring “me” cross the line into discrimination? I’m white, fairly fit, and despite my thinning hair, am not yet middle aged. Should I hire only guys my age and eliminate women, minorities, the couch potato and the elderly with whom I might not have much in common? As an employer wouldn’t I run the risk of eliminating some great candidates who don’t fit my behavioral profile?
Not only that but will my organization really make it to the next level if I’m surrounded by “Yes” men who refuse to challenge my directives or at the very least don’t propose fresh ideas from a perspective I had not considered? A team composed of varying people that may offer differing points of view can create a breeding ground of innovative ideas.
I’m reminded of a recruiting assignment for a software company on which I worked. We behaviorally profiled the President, Sales VP and Sales Manager. All three men were extremely bold, assertive, disciplined, and tenacious and guess what, they wanted all their sales people to have the same attributes. Do you think all these bold, assertive and tenacious men got along? No! The exceptionally bold, assertive, and tenacious President managed his exceptionally bold, assertive, and tenacious people in a manner that he himself would not want to be managed. As a result most of the salespeople quit within 90 days.
As you know the cost of replacing a salesperson can often be 2-3 times that salesperson’s salary so the company’s recruiting strategy was disastrous. In essence the boss tried to hire himself not understanding that he would not want to work for himself.
So while mirror image hiring may sound like a keen idea, you run the risk of discrimination, idea stagnation, and people walking out on you.