In terms of recruitment, co-optation has emerged as a privileged source of candidates for companies. Not only is recruitment less expensive then, it is also often much better. When an employee recommends a member of his personal or professional network to his employer, the recommendation is relevant because he / she is familiar with the position to be filled, the company and its culture. This is why many solutions are being developed to help companies go further in terms of co-optation.
However, cooptation is unfortunately often a brake on diversity in a company, employees naturally tend to recommend people who are like them. : friends met on the benches of the same schools, former colleagues whose affinities we share or even first cousins who have the same roots as them.
In many ways, the development of co-optation contributes in certain universes to a stronger sociological homogeneity of employees. For example, male engineers tend to recommend overwhelmingly other men rather than women, thus helping to strengthen “ Bro Culture From the tech world. Diversity is lowest in Silicon Valley companies that have developed co-optation the most.
Should we completely deprive ourselves of the advantages of cooptation rather than diversity? Not necessarily. A better understanding of the phenomenon and certain specific policies can make it possible to promote diversity while taking advantage of certain positive effects of cooptation …
Beware of the “army of clones”
In recent years, criticism has become more vocal about the lack of diversity in digital companies or the world of finance. And we point the finger at the deleterious role of cooptation in the phenomenon of ” armies of clones » : « unfortunately, an employee who is asked to recommend someone from their network for a given position will always recommend someone who has the same social capital, the same tastes, clothing habits, degrees, etc. “
Despite millions of dollars invested in programs to increase diversity, companies like Google are struggling to achieve a 30% rate of women in their engineering teams. Often, the proportion is much lower. We also raise the relative absence of African Americans in these tech companies. For recruiters, the problem is ” a pipeline problem Which all companies are suffering from. But the problem is also a snowball problem.
A report published by PayScale in 2017 showed that co-optation systems predominantly benefit white men. In the United States, white males are 12% more likely to be co-opted than any other segment of the population. 53,000 people were surveyed for this study. Each was asked if he / she had obtained their position by co-option. A little over a third of those polled answered yes – which clearly shows the strength of the co-option. Of those people who said they were co-opted, 41% were co-opted through a friend or family member, and 32% through a professional contact. The study also found that women of color were the least represented – only 13% of cooptations, making these people 35% less likely to be co-opted than a white man.
American studies have statistics on skin color that do not exist in a country like France, where, for lack of being able to apprehend this form of diversity, we must be satisfied with the female / male ratios and a few statistics on the social origin (or the place of residence). But even with existing tools, we could see comparable phenomena if we carried out a study of the same type in France: co-optation does not help diversity.
There are several explanations for this phenomenon: women have more difficulty than men in developing and maintaining professional networks ; women from minorities have less support in business. Since people tend to recommend people who are like them, companies that have little diversity to begin with are unlikely to increase their diversity later.
How to counteract the negative effects of co-optation
In recent years, some companies have achieved some positive results in terms of diversity by putting their employees to work. Here are three examples: Pinterest, Intel and LinkedIn.
Pinterest has challenged its employees to recommend people who are not like them. In an article published on LinkedIn, Abby Maldonado, HR manager at Pinterest, explains: “ at Pinterest, we don’t offer bonuses like other companies, and we are developing other ways of sourcing candidates. But we would like co-optation to also contribute to diversity. This is why with our Inclusion Labs program, we challenge our employees to increase the diversity of teams. » The stated objective of Pinterest was to obtain 10 times more recommendations from candidates from minority groups, and twice as many women. And it worked: there was a 24% increase in recommendations from female candidates, and the percentage of recommended candidates who were not white men increased 55-fold, says Abby Maldonado in the article. mentioned above.
For Intel, the solution considered was to create an incentive system different from the others. The bonuses offered to employees for cooptation reward diversity. In 2015, Intel pledged to increase the number of women and minority candidates by at least 14% by 2020. One way to do this was to simply reward more employees who recommend women (or other people from minority groups). In the event of successful recruitment, the bonus was doubled.
These policies seem to have rather worked well because the percentage of hires made among underrepresented groups rose from 32% in 2014 to 41% in 2015. Even at the highest level of the hierarchy, the hiring of women increased in 2015 (33% of women hired against 19 % in 2014). In 2017, Intel announced that targets will be met before 2020. Otherwise, an annual report on diversity and inclusion is transparent about the figures and allows clear sharing of objectives and results with employees and the general public.
Finally, LinkedIn has created open events, from 2017, the open mic nights, to increase diversity in its recruitment. Relaxed evenings – beer, pizza, poetry and music – give candidates the opportunity to soak up the LinkedIn culture and talk informally to recruiters. For these evenings, LinkedIn called on the networks of black and Latino employees, expressly asking them to invite people from their networks. In the first three evenings alone, LinkedIn got 350 new leads, which resulted in 10 hires. LinkedIn’s annual report of 2019 highlights progress in terms of diversity: “ Globally, we have made progress in the representation of women in managerial and technical positions. Today, they represent nearly 41% of the directors of our company. This represents an increase of 17% over the past three years and 56% over the past five. Women occupy over 22% of our technical positions and we have seen an increase of 11% of women in technical positions over the past three years and 16% over the past five years. Women occupy 55% of our non-technical roles. »
A primordial policy today
The period of crisis that we are going through tends to exacerbate income inequalities and inequalities in employment between women and men, or between different categories of the population. Faced with the gravity of the economic crisis, many companies risk overshadowing diversity and inclusion goals. This would be a mistake because diversity is a real performance factor.
More diverse teams are better at problem solving, more innovative and more efficient, as demonstrated by the recent McKinsey report entitled Diversity Wins (2020) : « the relationship between diversity within management teams and the likelihood of better financial performance has strengthened over time. It is therefore increasingly important to develop policies that are more favorable to diversity and inclusion.
Co-option is often essential in business because it is a way to obtain qualified candidates who will be more committed and will stay longer. But at the risk of seeing the diversity of teams reduced, co-optation should not be the only means of recruitment. It is important to vary the recruitment channels and to set clear and ambitious diversity goals. Finally, it is possible to put co-optation at the service of diversity, by setting up the appropriate incentive systems and by associating employees with diversity objectives.