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Meritocracy Sucks!

Busting the myth of meritocracy is a must. That's the strong opinion of inclusion and belonging specialist (and proud Gen X'er) Joanne Lockwood, and she's on the podcast to educate a couple of white dudes on why it's so important if we're going to have workplaces on inclusion and diversity in the future. "The best man for the job," is evolving and Jo breaks it all down in this NEXXT exclusive.

INTRO (1s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel (20s):

Oh yeah. You know, we love the Brits, so we had to have another one on. What's up everybody? You are listening to the Chad and cheese podcast. I am your trustful cohost Joel Cheeseman joined as always by Chad Sowash.

Chad (33s):

Well hello.

Joel (34s):

And today we're joined, we're honored to bring you Joanne Lockwood Inclusion and Belonging Specialist. And I'll note by the way, because her LinkedIn profile says that she's a proud gen X-er, which, which we obviously, yeah,

Chad (51s):

Maybe so. Okay. Wait, stop, slow down a little bit Inclusion and Belonging specialist. I've never seen belonging. We've I mean, we've talked about logging specialists need some belonging. What is Joanne right out of the get? What does that mean? Inclusion? We get, what is the belonging specialist to help us out with that?

Joanne Lockwood (1m 9s):

Well, for me, I think we wind the clock back maybe 20 or 30 years, we were all talking about equality where each country had the Equality Act this, the Equality Act that, equal pay, gender, race, et cetera. And then as we matured, we started talking about all the inequality, we want to have diversity, wants to make sure we have people in our organizations and we still have diversity programs. And now if the buzzword became inclusion, wherever it needs to make the people who are different diverse, give them some gel about making sure they had an identity. And now what organizations are realizing is, it's not enough just to give people a job enough, enough to have people coming into work, turning out, doing their thing.

Joanne Lockwood (1m 50s):

They need to feel a part of it. They need to understand the values and vision and culture of an organization and make sure there's a real alignment between your own personal values and the values for an organization. So belongingness is that intersection where people kind of feel that safety, that sense of that's that sense of belonging, where they feel they have a voice, they feel respected. They feel a part of the bigger organization and they're aligned with those values. So that's, that's where I come from.

Chad (2m 16s):

Okay. So, so they do that through meritocracy basically, right? Because the best person for the job is, is that's what, that's what meritocracy is. Right? Well, that's what I hear. And I hear it often, but I often do DNI talks or inclusions talks to hiring managers, to hiring teams. And there's always somebody that stands up and says, well, yes, but we always hire the best person for the job as if that's the kind of the get out clause. You know, they get out of jail, free monopoly card that says, yeah, where if we do the best person is going to get the job. And that's this myth, this that's this kind of mantra that people put out. Cause if that wasn't what's happening, the whole system of fairness would be undermined.

Joanne Lockwood (2m 59s):

You can fall back on the fact that the best person got the job. And that's what is portrayed. I question sometimes how we decide who the best person for the job is, who decides what is the meritocracy? Who decides what makes up the best person. And often I see it's in someone's image. You know, you have a person called Frank and Frank leaves. You want another Frank or you think, well, we want, we've got couple of Frank's. We like another Frank. So you you're, you're judging the skills and attributes of the role often by the incumbents or by what's being done already.

Joanne Lockwood (3m 39s):

And what we don't tend to look at, is other skills. We tend to base it on time served degrees, qualification, college education, or whatever it may be or someone you know. We've got to start looking at is for the future. You know, we look at the future of work. You know, you guys talk about this a lot. And I know the listeners, listen to this, talk about this a lot is that the work is changing. No shit Sherlock, you know, as we were saying, the UK and no shit Sherlock, the work is changing. The whole COVID situation going on right now, if we hadn't noticed, does this on be apocalypse is upon us. But we having to deal with this change and people working from home they're working differently. So what was meritocracy six months ago, a year ago has completely changed.

Joanne Lockwood (4m 21s):

What is the best person for the job? It used to be bouncy, extroverts, go getty, salesy, people that would sort of like drive and drive and drive. And now what we want is people who are more focused, more methodical, more self-starting were able to work on their own. So what we value in people now is changing. And I think we need to reflect that in what is meritocracy means and what it is? Is it just a way of propagating this status quo of people like us, Yale U. People like us, because that's what we say. How does someone who, someone who has someone who's different break into?

Joel (4m 57s):

Joanna? It seems to me like, this is, this is the, for lack of a better word, the best argument that people have against sort of what you're, what you're pushing. And for me personally, you know, my father was a coach growing up, right? And I'm a sports fan and which to me is sort of the ultimate meritocracy. And I think one of the beautiful things about sports is it really doesn't matter your color, where you came from your religion, anything like that, if you can perform and win, you get to be a player. And here in America, I think in particular, there's, there's a rugged individualism of, you know, you pull yourself up by the bootstraps, you get yourself through your you're gauged by your, you know, your own efforts and government isn't supposed to help you.

Joel (5m 43s):

A lot of that is myth mythology. But to me, this is the best argument against it. And in, in, in contrast, it's going to be the hardest wall to break down. Am I wrong about that? And if I'm not, are we breaking the wall down? Can it be broken down? What, what should, what should government's role be? There just seems to be like such a mountain to climb because we have such ingrained in our brains where the best person should get those jobs and those opportunities, but we're learning more and more that that's not the case.

Joanne Lockwood (6m 13s):

For sure. In some cases first past the post, is the winner. And we recognize that as you say, in sport, in the a hundred meters, Usain Bolt gets across the line. He gets the gold. And that that's kind of how we judge the meritocracy based on that kind of black, white in arguable, faster, bigger, et cetera, et cetera. But in business, we recognize that there are more skills than just being able to deliver something and the quickest way, you know, you're, you're a bookkeeper. You can process more invoices than anybody else in an hour, but you may be a complete jerk. You may have no social skills. You may not, you may not be aligned with the company culture. You may be a racist.

Joanne Lockwood (6m 54s):

You may, you may have all these other attributes that are undesirable for the company, but we looked at just looking at fast first past the post, are you the best person who can knock out these invoices quickly? And you may not care about their personality. You may not care about the other skills. You may not care about how they can help their colleagues and how they can add value to the organization above and beyond their basic requirements. So when we're looking at meritocracy, we've got to think about all of the factors that make a great employee, a great person, someone who's going to be, feel the sense of belonging, someone who's going to want to be with the organization for a long time, because we're not looking to have high turnover. We're not looking to make, we want to make people stick beyond three years If we can, to get value out of the investment we've made in onboarding them and hiring them, avoiding that empty chair.

Joanne Lockwood (7m 41s):

If we're just focusing on someone who could do something quicker, bigger, faster, then we lose all that richness of humanity around them. And I'm not, I'm not suggesting for one minute that you hire the worst person for the job, but what we need to start doing is valuing diversity, valuing difference on a par with bigger, stronger, faster.

Joel (8m 2s):

So you're saying a lot of, you know, we need to, we need to who, who is where, who are, who are the most important we's? Is it just society at large what's what's government's role? Is this a PR battle? Does media play a role or technology? Like what if you're, if you're, if you're creating a strategy, like who are the most important players to make this change happen?

Joanne Lockwood (8m 26s):

It comes down at the end of the day to power and privilege, the people with the power of decision, the people who are constructing the hiring process, deciding what that meritocracy in it. I mean, if we're talking specifically around in an organization, a business, even a government, even a government organization, where people have a hired, fired promoted, recognized, than those are the types of organizations we'll talk about. So the, we, would be the institution of an organization, the institution of the public body. I don't think government per se necessarily needs to legislate this. I think what it should be is organizations see the value of different, see the value of other skills, adaptability, learning, ability, flexibility, all these other skills that we sometimes aren't able to objectify a week, but they're kind of subjective, gut-feeling they seem a bit more flexible.

Joanne Lockwood (9m 19s):

They seem a nicer person. So how do we objectify these or make them measurable?

Chad (9m 24s):

Isn't it, identifying it the number one step it has to be identified within the organization that it's actually happening? Meritocracy is, is the best person getting the job. Well, what is, what is your workforce composition look like? And are some of those requirements for a job, like getting into a sales job, like you'd said before, do you really need a four year degree to get into an entry level sales job? Or is that just a filter to be able to create this level of meritocracy? So isn't identification really the first step?

Joanne Lockwood (9m 58s):

Oh, for sure. And we'll be talking about sales. We have to recognize that people buy from people and that's never going to change. You build rapport, you sell ideas, you sell a vision, a dream, and people are more ready to listen to your buy from you if you're like them, which is why we are trying to align customers and salespeople with very similar traits. So I think it is important to recognize that some people are more fit, more fitting to evolve than others. You know, I wouldn't want to suggest that you put some of the Jewish face into a Muslim account all the time or some for Muslim accounts for Jewish account, or you would say, we want to send a young girl or young woman into an account with just old white men.

Chad (10m 43s):

Or maybe you do because they might sell, they might sell better into that?

Joanne Lockwood (10m 47s):

Oh yeah. Okay. Without going to sexist, sort of, kind of.

Chad (10m 52s):

Old white man, I mean, that comes along with old white men. Right.

Joanne Lockwood (10m 57s):

Okay. I was trying not to go into that, to that connotation, but yes. Yes. All right. You got me there. Yeah. Sex does sell and yeah. And unashamedly, some organizations use attractive people to sell their products and yeah. Yeah. We see it in boxing. We see it in motor racing. We see it, all these kind of advertising where young attractive women are often use to promote brands and to promote and to sell. But then we have also, we have our definition of beauty. You know, it's is a, is a, a blonde white woman of a certain age, of a certain figure size, the de facto standard?

Joanne Lockwood (11m 38s):

Yeah. They're the best, or is an Asian woman, or is a Chinese woman, or is a black woman? Equally meritocracy in, in, in this kind of scenario. But we often look at it from our own lens and see what we would find attractive or what we would desirable. This is where we often fall over. We're not using enough lenses to decide what makes up the best person for this role.

Chad (12m 2s):

So talent acquisition is a female dominated career segment. You'd probably agree with me there, right? If this is a problem, why aren't, why are females allowing this shit to happen? Why aren't directors and managers and VPs of talent acquisition saying, no, this job description is total bullshit. Because that's, we know that's really where it all starts, right? It's at the job description, it's at the requirements. Why aren't females inserting themselves into this process and saying, look, we're identifying right now. Meritocracy is happening. It's bullshit.

Chad (12m 43s):

And we're going to stop it. Why, why aren't they, why aren't they doing something about this?

Joanne Lockwood (12m 47s):

You say that females dominate the profession. I don't think females dominate profession on all levels, maybe at the more junior or the, you know, the sort of the day-to-day roles? But do they hold the power to the other privilege as it goes up the organization? Do they have the real power to control the JD? Or are they, towing the line, you know, does, does the higher metric come along and say, well, I want us, I want a slate of these sort of people and watch their crews put the slate together. Do they have any control really about who gets hired at the end of that? Yes you can put a diverse slate with various people, various backgrounds on there, but stats show that often is the incumbent type person that gets hired because they are the ones that are, seem to be more fitting or more suitable to that role.

Joanne Lockwood (13m 34s):

Don't want to take a risk on someone who is less typical. And also, I don't believe the culture is always good. You know, I I've seen situations many times where people are scared or afraid to hire a woman into an all male world, because they don't know how to handle that difference. They don't know how to handle a woman in the boardroom, or they're looking at purely from a, a tokenistic point of view to tick a box or to address a short term need.

Chad (14m 10s):

We'll get back to the interview in a minute. But first we have a question for Andy Katz, COO of Nexxt Andy, if a company wants to actually come to next and utilize your database and target texting candidates, I mean, how does that actually work?

Nexxt Promo (14m 26s):

Right? So we have the software to provide it two different ways. If an employer has their own database of opted in text messages, whether it's through their ATS, we can text on their behalf, or we have over eight and a half million users that have opted into our text messaging at this point so we can use our own database. We could dissect it by obviously by geography, by function, any which way some in sometimes we'll even parse the resumes of the opted in people to target certifications. So we really can dive really deep if they want to hone in on, you know, just give me the best hundred candidates that I want to text message with and have a conversation back and forth with versus going and saying, I need 30,000 retail people across the country.

Nexxt Promo (15m 9s):

And that's more of a, you know, yes, no text messaging back and apply. For more information, go to Remember that's next with the double X, not the triple X

Chad (15m 31s):

So as we talk about job descriptions, I think it would be, and again, just to be able to implement, as we're all looking toward technology today, to try to make our jobs easier, to make our job descriptions better. Why haven't companies embraced the Textios and the Get Optimals of the world, because this helps them degenderfi their jobs for provide better experience, those types of things. Do you think those types of tools help or is it really just kind of like smoke and mirrors?

Joanne Lockwood (16m 4s):

I'm not saying they don't help. I think it is good to look at the language you're using in terms of the JD, and you say Textio, or that those products do a great job. And I know the Textio working on looking at faith and religion and other other terminology, not just gender. So they're boarding out their inclusion type lens on jobs, but I think there's a lot of responsibility into maybe the positive action side. How do you target underrepresented groups? And I prefer the term underrepresented rather than diversity, because since when is a woman being diverse? A woman is 50% of the population. So I prefer women are underrepresented in organizations, maybe black people are underrepresented or under-heard or under-promoted.

Joanne Lockwood (16m 48s):

So yeah, I think the positive action should be about how you fill the funnel up. How do you, how do you target, how do you Spearfish the candidates you want rather than net fish and troll? So looking at how you place that JD, how you frame it away, where you advertise it, who is your sourcer? How you reach out into, into the talent pool, this mythical talent pool, and really reaching out and saying, well, actually we're looking to hire more female candidates where to be at where to be fish, where do we, where we do this, how do we sound more attractive? I don't think organizations are still clear on how to brand themselves, that they're in terms of attracting people from underrepresented communities, whether that's race, faith, or gender.

Joel (17m 34s):

Let's look with technology and, you know, the show and, and who we talked to, we talked to a lot of AI folks. And on one hand, AI is a panacea for unbiased recruiting companies in Sweden are building actual robots to help make that happen, which sure you you've heard that. And then on the other side, we have, we have Amazon who had an AI hiring system that they shut down because when you have people teaching, you know, the algorithm that tends to be biased. So where do you stand on AI and, and having a bias recruiting? Is it a panacea or is it like reality waiting to happen?

Joanne Lockwood (18m 10s):

Well, my soap box on this is kind of along the lines of tech stack is great. Having tech in your organization to LA to, to process at scale, hire at scale for some organizations is a necessary evil in order to, to, to handle the number of wrecks they've got in a certain period of time. But for me, the danger with relying on tech or AI is that it doesn't allow positive action. And this goes against what we're talking about. In order to make a difference and make change in the world we need to hire white men at a lower ratio than women or women of color, women of faith. If we keep hiring at 50/50, the situation doesn't change, we'll always end up with 70% men, 30% women or worse.

Joanne Lockwood (18m 57s):

So for me, we've got a higher 70% women, 30% men to start moving the needle at all. And the danger with unbiased systems is that the theory should be, you get 50%, 50/50, we should get a fair balance of people out the other end. And if you are trying to do positive action campaigns, how can you influence who comes out the end of the funnel? And that's the challenge I would put to people is that, yes, it's great to have these systems. It's great to be unbiased. It's great to give everybody this fair chance. It's great to be objective, but what if you do want to employ more black people, more women, more black women, or whatever, whatever your target under-representation is.

Joanne Lockwood (19m 39s):

If you unbiased the process too much, you lose the ability to put, to use positive action to select and promote and advocate for people that you're trying to attract. And the only way we can then do that is by targeted sourcing, targeted JDs at your target audience to make it an attractive in this role for the incumbent monoculture. And at the moment, people are watching one JD for everybody.

Joel (20m 8s):

How does, what's your thoughts about employment brand and Chad and I talked about Glassdoor, Glassdoor's new feature last week, where they actually have sort of DNI scores for companies, particularly bigger companies. Is that helpful? What's your, what's your stance on sort of employment branding and being able to fill that funnel with diverse candidates?

Joanne Lockwood (20m 31s):

Yeah, for sure. I mean, I've heard people who obviously, employer branding specialists, bigger up and talk about it. I've heard other people who, poo-pooed the idea of employer branding, videos of people on their side, or these kinds of stories as making no difference at all. But my is, it does make a difference if you're underrepresented, if you are coming from my minority represented group background, then you do want to see great stories about the people you're applying to. You do want to know what their LGBT inclusion stats is. You do want to know what their values are, flexible, working women's issues, childcare, health care, inclusive health care.

Joanne Lockwood (21m 14s):

You do want to know where people stand on this. And people are now looking at sustainability, environmental issues. You want to know where your employer stand on these type of issues. And it may not be something that us gen X as worry about so much, but I sure as X is X, the gen Z, the gen alpha is a very hyper-conscious of these, the impact on the world. And they want to work with companies that are going to be ethical, sustainable, and true and authentic.

Chad (21m 44s):

Yeah. Purpose, purpose matters. So Joanne, Jim Stroud and I were having friendly discourse last month, which is a 30 minute debate. And he brought up meritocracy as being the way past diversity goals. Now, Jim is a black man living in the United States, and he believes in meritocracy so much that he said it over and over and over during our debate. The question is, has Jim been duped? Have many people been duped by a very successful quote/unquote "best person for the job" disinformation campaign?

Joanne Lockwood (22m 20s):

Well, my easy answer to that is yes, most probably. Why do I think that? I think if we look at organizations whilst there are a lot of great organizations making huge differences, and we can all name these, the big tech brands that are making very positive statements. This sexism is still rife in many organizations, people of color, black people are underrepresented or under-promoted or undervalued in most organizations. So yes, we can say there are huge strides towards making great initiatives and great action happening. But the evidence is that there's still a long way to go. Men still make up 70 or 80% of the key positions.

Joanne Lockwood (23m 3s):

Women are still tokenized in the boardroom in most of the large organizations. And where they are represented in the boardroom their tenure in those positions is often fraught with challenges and accused of afterwards, because they're a woman they didn't succeed, or they're women will get fed up with the male boardroom environment where they just, they can't succeed in a boys club.

Joel (23m 26s):

Joanne part of it as a curiosity. And part of it is the fact that I'm, I'm cooped up in my house probably for the next year, but you you've done a lot of traveling and you, you speak in a lot of different countries and cultures, and I'm just curious, is, are, do we have more in common than we have in difference? Or are there real distinct challenges within borders?

Joanne Lockwood (23m 45s):

I think each territory has its own weirdos if you like. Well, it's only minority. I'm a great fan of Dilbert. I did. If you come across Dilbert cartoons on one thing, the author Scott Adams says is everyone is someone else's weirdo. And when you look over the fence, it's easy to find someone who is different to you and maybe pink hair, six foot five, too tall, looks too short in a wheelchair, has a wooden leg, so we can all find our weirdos. But what we often don't do is look in the mirror and see ourselves sometimes as the one being judged by others. So we're quick to charge, but not necessarily quick to understand that we we're just a human like everybody else, but yeah, I spent time in Ukraine.

Joanne Lockwood (24m 27s):

And one of the things I was very surprised at is how rife age-ism is there coming off the back of being part of the Soviet union, there was a real culture of lack of it. People weren't weren't rewarded for being educated, people were told to do, as they were told. So there was burning books, there was closing schools, they were, they were basic imprisoning academics. Anyone who dared have any intellect was kind of written off. So there's a whole generation of Ukrainians and then people in the Eastern block over 50 years old, who were basically bought up not to think or not to speak out or not to educate themselves. So that's now manifesting itself in the Ukrainian recruitment system that you immediately you're in the late forties, early fifties, you're seen as old and therefore are able or willing to learn.

Joanne Lockwood (25m 17s):

And I was really surprised at that attitude. And of course, again, in some of these all Soviet union, Eastern Europe sort of locations, the role of the woman in society is very much more, is very much different. It's very much more subservient to a man. The gender roles are more defined still. I was in Tel Aviv in Israel, there's hierarchy within people who have the Jewish faith, whether you're a Russian Jew, a Filipino Jew, whether you were born in Israel, been through a military service, et cetera, et cetera. There's a whole hierarchy of being a Jew within the recruitment. And if you, if you were in military service, you grew up with the cohort while you did your military service.

Joanne Lockwood (25m 58s):

And you're more likely to hire somebody who had, who had been in your cohort in the military and Filipino Jews are seen as cleaners and office workers and low level. And there were real kind of no value to someone who was Filipino in higher management or technical skills. So you look at different countries, we all have something. We all have a different weirdo. We all have a different demon or a different grouping that is neglected. And some countries it's amplified in other, maybe gender is amplified or race is amplified in other countries. It's different in Europe, there's language barriers. You know, there's different dialects in Switzerland, many different languages and Belguim they have different languages.

Joanne Lockwood (26m 42s):

The French Belgians are seen as lower status than the Flemish Belgians. So we'll have, there's so many different differences that is very easy. It's very difficult to sort of generalize as to one particular group or one particular country is getting it right or wrong.

Chad (26m 56s):

There is no doubt there are many different flavors of meritocracy. And from my standpoint, at this point, they're all bullshit. Joanne Lockwood, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us, Inclusion and Belonging Specialists. Joanne, if somebody wants to connect with you, are they want to find out more about what you do to help maybe inclusion and belonging in their organization. Where should they go?

Joanne Lockwood (27m 25s):

Check me out on LinkedIn. So if you search for Jo Lockwood, JO Lockwood, L O C K W O O D, or if you've got your keyboard handy, see change happen, is my website.

Chad (27m 41s):


Joel (27m 41s):

We out.

Chad (27m 42s):

We out.

OUTRO (27m 42s):

This has been the Chad and Cheese podcast, subscribe on iTunes, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts. So you don't miss a single show and be sure to check out our sponsors because they make it all possible for more visit Oh yeah. You're welcome.


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