There's no shortage of studies showing that diversity improves workplace morale, innovation and more; in other words, it improves employers' bottom lines. And the marketplace has spoken, too: customers want to buy from companies that boast a diverse workforce.
It makes sense then that one of the top recruiting trends this year has been to improve diversity and inclusion efforts, but building a diverse team can be challenging. HR professionals are told time and time again that diversity efforts can neither begin nor end with a post on a board catering to minority job seekers.
1. Map your goals
“If you want something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done before," according to Cindy-Ann Thomas, principal at Littler Mendelson and co-chair of the firm's EEO & Diversity Practice Group. It starts with a commitment to change, she told HR Dive.
Employers need to start by asking themselves what they want to achieve with their plan. It needs to be more than simply meeting self-imposed quotas; to maintain a diverse workforce, inclusion efforts must be part of the plan as well. A good hiring plan doesn't equal a good retention plan.
Start with a holistic assessment of your organization’s demographics, benefits, policies, practices and the support available to employees, says Tarsha McCormick, head of diversity and inclusion for North America for ThoughtWorks. Knowing your baseline, she says, “gives you what you need to set realistic and measurable goals over time, and allows you to tell a more robust story of your efforts and journey towards a more diverse and inclusive workplace.”
2. Rethink sources
If the sources you rely on for candidates don’t net the results you seek, it’s time to cast a wider net. Look to non-traditional colleges, like historically black colleges and universities, and those schools with a wider range of women or minorities. Thomas suggests developing a network with colleges and universities: “Don’t just show up once a year on career day,” she advises; “Create relationships with professors, student organizations and placement officers that place your company top of mind for these entities.”
It's also important to look for ways to cultivate relationships with community groups, like those that serve veterans, older residents or the local LGBTQ community. Radio ads are a good way to reach job seekers in geographic areas that you want to target, too, Thomas noted.
For larger companies with mass hiring needs, a worksite based in a homogenous location can be overcome with some creative thinking. Both remote-work offerings and company shuttles can chip away at this problem, for example.
3. Be on the lookout for bias
It's human nature to gravitate toward a candidate that shares your alma mater, for example, but that's one of many places where biases creep in and systemic discrimination is perpetuated. The same goes for candidates with "Anglo names," well-known former employers and even desirable zip codes.
For HR professionals who are trained to recognize these biases, the point may be somewhat moot. But the same often can't be said for hiring managers.
Redacted resumes can help, as can technology. Blind recruitment software eliminates names, gender references, even dates of employment to mitigate estimating a candidate’s age. Some CRMs can even be customized to target particular areas in which you’ve seen bias in the past.
Want to go even further? Jameel Rush, HR director at Yoh, recommends that before posting openings to job boards, you run an experiment. “[I]t can be valuable to test it out with a small diverse group of people and get some feedback," Rush said, adding that you may find that you're unwittingly using language in your posting that appeals less to certain groups, for example.
4. Analyze your brand
What does your online presence say about your company? Whether you’ve reached your expanded hiring goals or are on the first steps of your journey, it's important that your messaging speaks to your goals.
Prominently outlining your commitment to creating and maintaining a diverse workforce tells potential hires that you recognize individual value. The persona you represent can very much affect your talent acquisition efforts.
“The makeup of your leadership team tells an important story about your company and can help attract diverse candidates," McCormick said. "At the end of the day, candidates want to see people in leadership roles who look like them.”
5. Update your interview processes
Consider the hiring process from the point of view of the candidate, particularly interviews. Are they meeting a variety of employees along the way?
Enough can’t be said about diverse evaluation teams, according to Thomas, and it's not just about attracting candidates in a tight labor market. “You want a group that appreciates different perspectives, and values differences, rather than evaluating through a single lens – whatever lens that is.”
The conversations you have with hiring managers matter, too, McCormick noted. An assertion that someone "isn't a good fit" is no longer good enough, as it is too often code for bias. Training can help, as can a standardized set of requirements and interview questions. Without objective, measurable criteria, bias can again creep in.
Without inclusion, it’s just a numbers game
While these first steps can help you recruit an expanded, more diverse workforce, it’s all for naught if inclusion isn’t part of the plan. And it has to start right at the beginning — onboarding new hires into an environment that doesn’t value their participation will only create a revolving door of missed opportunity and lost talent — and continue through the entire employee lifecycle.
Organizations can engage in all the special and targeted hiring they want, Thomas said, “but your efforts are wasted if you’ve invited them into a culture unready for them.” She quotes Peter Drucker, renowned management consultant and author: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” she says; “It doesn’t matter what your plans are to increase numbers, at the end of the day it’s the organizations roots that take over. You can’t hold on to people without a support system.”
Leaders need to be instill diversity and inclusion values across the company from day one, Rush says, and they need to make it part of the everyday conversation. They can demonstrate their commitment with partnerships throughout the community, diversity events, employee resource groups and more. Take an “active role in getting feedback from team members about the inclusiveness of the team,” he advises.
It’s simply not enough to “hire” for diversity: the goal is a diverse team — with the emphasis on team members and the value they bring to the organization. But you also have to start somewhere. According to Rush, "when organizations focus equally on diversity and inclusion they’ll start to see results from a performance standpoint, from a business promotion standpoint and from an employee engagement standpoint."