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Q&A With Prodigy Search D&I Board of Advisor Series

David Zimmerman on “How to Keep the Bias Out of the Hiring Process & Marketing Diverse Backgrounds to the Industry.”

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Before Prodigy Search presented at the 2020 National Sports Forum (NSF) in Atlanta, we collaborated with our Diversity & Inclusion Board of Advisors in devising an industrywide survey focused on “How to Keep the Bias Out of the Hiring Process & Marketing Diverse Backgrounds to the Industry.” This two-part survey focused on a myriad of topics centered on Diversity & Inclusion with employment, hiring, recruiting and career progression as the backdrop. After reviewing the data and discussing these topics and relevant themes with our esteemed panel at NSF, we wanted to further explore the results with our D&I Board of Advisors.

David Zimmerman, one of Prodigy Search’s D&I Advisors, sat down with our own Laurel Keesling to discuss the findings and took a deeper dive into the survey. Zimmerman currently serves as Director of Logistics for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games; last year, he obtained his Master’s degree in Sport Business Management from the University of Central Florida where he worked alongside Dr. Richard Lapchick and The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES).

Keesling: In looking at the results from the Hiring Manager and Employer Bias Survey, 76% said that their companies prioritize diversity regarding the federally protected classes- age, race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and disability. However, the following question asked survey takers to consider if their organization prioritizes diversity in light of unique backgrounds, skills, and education that are untraditional to the sports and entertainment industry. In this case, only 64% reported that this was prioritized in their organizations. Do you think this could be due to employers’ failure to recognize that diversity is not just looking at federally protected classes, but also unique backgrounds and experiences that contend with the norms in the sports and entertainment industry?

Zimmerman: The two thoughts that immediately come to mind are human nature and corporate culture. I feel that corporate culture is, generally speaking, focused on results; therefore, the hiring manager feels their job security is, at least in part, related to the performance of the person(s) they hire. This leads to the human nature element of hiring someone that is trustworthy. We tend to initially place trust with those people that we know or have first-hand knowledge of their performance and behaviors. This then leads to corporate groupthink…a group of people that usually think and act in a similar fashion. If this sounds familiar, then it might be a good opportunity for the company to evaluate its corporate culture by focusing on hiring procedures and employee performance evaluations.

Keesling: The survey also reported that only 30% of respondents knew that their organization had formal policies, protocols, and organizational goals associated with diverse hiring. I think that many organizations out there still view diversity as something required to “check off the box,” rather than understand the importance of diversity and inclusion initiatives. In your experience in diversity and inclusion-driven roles you have had, how can you convey to organizations the value that a diverse workforce brings to organizations in general, and in the sports and entertainment industry specifically?

Zimmerman: I will quote my mentor, Dr Richard Lapchick, and emphasize that ‘Diversity and inclusion is a business imperative’. Diverse thought enables more creative solutions to complex, and sometimes critical, challenges. I feel it is important for the hiring manager to hire someone whose experiences are counter to theirs; however, the next step is to ensure the environment allows everyone to be comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences and has an equal opportunity to share in the success of the business.

It is a really fun experience being a part of a diverse and inclusive workforce. I have felt less stress as the culture swings from “I” to “we”. In other words, I don’t feel the pressure to find a solution. Instead, I have the confidence that the team will work collectively on a solution.

Keelsling: Looking at our current political climate right now, diversity and inclusion has been at the forefront of many organizations’ attention. Do you think this has, or will in the future, have a positive impact on organizations’ D&I initiatives?

Zimmerman: It will have an impact. It has started to open the minds and hearts of those who were not aware. This is allowing them to listen, learn, get educated, and make better decisions. Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and thought.

Keesling: What suggestions do you have for employers, recruiters, and organizations to prevent bias during the hiring process?

Zimmerman: Evaluate your corporate culture. Does your corporate culture have the capability to fully employ and embrace the power of critical thought? If not, review the hiring policies and procedures. One example to ask…Is the supervisor given complete authority to hire their subordinates or can other people in the organization use their education and experiences to be a part of the hiring decision? In my opinion, the more that can be done in a group filled with vastly different education levels and life experiences, the more everyone will learn from each other. The more we learn from each other the better our critical thinking skills will become. There needs to be opportunity for education that leads to capability and capacity for critical thought.

For the full survey results to “How to Keep the Bias Out of the Hiring Process & Marketing Diverse Backgrounds to the Industry,” visit https://www.prodigysearch.net/diversity-inclusion.html

Contact: Megan Meisse, Senior Recruiter | megan@prodigysearch.net

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