Recruitment Discrimination in India
A recent study by the Princeton University found a high incidence of Caste and Religious discrimination in India. The research calculates that an upper caste Individual has significantly higher probability of being shortlisted for an interview when compared with scheduled castes or Muslims. This assumes that the only difference in the resumes of the three groups is their name with a clearly identifiable caste surname. Whatever the accuracy of the research, it does highlight the larger issue of recruitment discrimination in India.
Types of Discrimination
I have noticed that religious discrimination against Muslims has increased over the last few years. Amongst many HR managers and other recruiters the unsaid agreement is that Muslims should be 'recruited as a last resort'. I have never understood the reasons clearly but I suspect most of it is related to Muslims perceived of being 'different culturally' and hence not a fit to the organisation's culture. The other is a general hatred that is quite pervasive amongst many Hindus across the nation.
Married women are discriminated by many organisations. I know so many managers who are reluctant to hire women (given a choice) because of prejudices about their performance or the pain of replacement in the event of pregnancy. The performance perception is obviously unfair. The fear of being unable to replace is an organisational problem that needs an HR solution.
The third type of discrimination is regional/caste based. There are many companies in India that hardly have any diversity at the management level. Example: I know a company based in Hyderabad that is packed with Andhraites and another, a Delhi based organisation in Hyderabad would that is packed with Punjabis and Marwaris. It is silly both ways. In this example both organisations positively discriminate on the basis of perceived attributes. The irony is they are in the same location and are very similar in performance. Instead of filling up the best person for the job the organisations are filling up the best Andhraite/Punjabi/Marwari for the job. This is no doubt a recipe for lower performance than feasible.
Caste based discrimination as highlighted by the research is new to me. Unlike other forms of discrimination highlighted above I have never heard people speak of this openly. The design used to carry out the research has many flaws in it and I think more research is needed to understand this issue better.
There are other kinds of discrimination that are contentious. One of them is 'Pleasing Personality'. This is very similar to matrimonial ads. Nobody knows what pleasing personality means and if indeed there is a linkage between pleasing personality and business performance. The other prejudice is about non-metro ('Provincial') folks. Some senior managers ask HR to eliminate folks from small towns because of perceived lack of attributes. Then there is 'Family background'. There are enough examples to show how kids of 'not very educated' parents from very small towns are doing extremely well. Other forms of discrimination that are contentious include IITs versus rest, IIMs versus rest, graduates versus technical graduates and so on.
What can Organisations do?
Firstly, I need to state that much of what I say is anecdotal. I say this from having consulted with many clients across 3 regions of the country (excluding Mumbai). The second aspect I need to point out is that such discrimination is on the wane primarily because of Shortage of skilled people anda very mobile workforce that provides many positive examples contrary to prevalent prejudices and lastly all managers and all organisations are not discriminatory.
I believe that the some or all of the following measures will help
a. Industry associations like FICCI and CII have a role to play in making people aware that these kinds of discriminatory practices are unacceptable. CEOs are an obvious target. The impact of top down communication on these issues can be very impactful.
b. Recruiters will need to go through special orientation courses to sensitise them on the need to do away with practices highlighted above
c. Organisations and recruiters will need to attempt diversifying the workforce at various levels. I admit this is tricky but a few successful executives of some of these groups will serve as a wonderful example for others to look at.
d. Process consultants will need to design better ways to deal with unique needs of various groups of employees. For example: Designing better processes to reduce turn around times to replace people on maternity leave will be of great help.
e. The education system itself will introduce chapters/ courses that reinforce the pitfalls of discrimination to potential managers
f. While many MNC organisations have clear cut policies on discrimination, that is not the case with most Indian organisations. This is a basic piece of document that reiterates the intolerance for any indiscrimination
g. Recruitment discrimination like the ones highlighted above should be deemed as illegal through special laws enacted by the Central Government.
h. A more radical suggestion will be to have recruitment practices are subject to audit by internal auditors who represent multiple interest groups. This will mean a higher degree of documentation within the organisation. a. Resumes cannot be thrown away for until 2 years, b. Back ups of e-mails sent to recruitment IDs, c. Access to scoring sheets across the interview process etc.
i. One important point for discussion is regarding asking candidates about 'family background'. There are many who believe that this piece of information is sometimes used to eliminate candidates even if it has limited impact on the Individual's performance. There could be a case for this question being banned completely.
I think the lesson for all of us is to get rid of prejudices and instead rely on facts of the case during recruitment. This will go a long way in building more efficient organisations and in turn a better society in general.
Recruitment Discrimination in India
- » Published on November 10, 2007
- » Type: Opinion
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