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.