While many companies recognize the benefits of a diverse workforce, actually creating one is a different story. Federal nondiscrimination laws for the private sector have been on the books for more than half a century, but despite leaders making pacts and plans, progress is slow; recent research indicates that only 12% of organizations are truly inclusive.
And while companies frequently look to improve diversity in various areas, the first focus is often recruiting. It's certainly not enough on its own, but it's an important first step. Employers seeking to attract, nurture and keep qualified employees are re-thinking their previous recruiting methods and implementing new initiatives to make diversity inherent in the recruiting process.
Diversity recruiting trends
Check job descriptions for bias. When job descriptions are worded in a way that discourages candidates from certain demographics from applying, diversity will take a hit. Descriptions using aggressive terms like "rock star" and "guru" can signal a bro culture, some say — one that may be unwelcoming to women and minorities. Likewise, a listing seeking a “digital native” may discourage a qualified but older candidate.
Fixing this is important, but it requires some effort. In the last year, EY, formerly Ernst & Young, reviewed all of its job descriptions for bias — thousands of them, says Larry Nash, the company's U.S. director of recruiting. “It’s important for us to have a diverse workforce and to tap into talent into all different areas,” he told HR Dive. “We went through a review to make sure we weren’t using words that might have masculine terms."
Biased job descriptions limit a company’s access to qualified candidates, Jenn Prevoznik, global lead of intern and early talent hiring at SAP, told HR Dive. “We want as many people of all backgrounds as possible [to apply],” she said, adding that SAP uses text mining and machine learning to weed out loaded words in job descriptions.
Look to new sources. Companies are recognizing that qualified candidates may not come through the traditional recruiting pipeline. Veterans and older candidates may not be found on a university campus, but through different organizations, says Nash.
“Never blame diversity on the pipeline problem,” Prevoznik agrees. Employers may need to look at candidates’ potential, versus their experience, she says. “If they have a math background [instead of a computer science one], how can we upskill them?”
Employers should also look at job descriptions to ensure that the requirements are genuinely necessary for the job, Kathy Goss, senior manager, head of inclusion recruiting at LinkedIn. “We have those conversations — what is truly needed and can we look at other pools?”
Seek a diverse slate. In-group bias is human nature: We tend to like people who are similar to us. But when it comes to recruiting, that bias can limit efforts to seek candidates who are different and who can bring new perspectives to the organization.
When EY brings in executives, they create a very diverse candidate slate that crosses ethnicity, gender and other backgrounds, Nash said, adding that it may take longer to fill a position when you are seeking candidates that may not be as widely available.
But don’t think that requiring a diverse slate means ‘lowering the bar,’ cautions Goss. “I’m not saying that we’re changing the standards. We don’t want to hire someone just because they’re diverse.” There’s plenty of talent available, Goss says. “The vast majority of the time, the way we’re thinking about that job is too narrowly defined.”
Employers are expanding diversity efforts beyond gender and ethnicity, says Goss. Intersectionality is becoming more recognized as companies realize they cannot confine employees into buckets, she said. There’s also a need to help managers build the skills needed to manage different cultures.
Companies also should recognize that diversity isn’t a "recruiting" issue, Prevoznik says. And finding diverse talent isn’t the end game. When employees of all demographics and backgrounds are respected members of the organization, that sentiment shows up when recruiting, she says. Every interaction throughout an employee’s lifecycle should be viewed to ensure it is inclusive, she said.
“There are pockets where there is amazing work being done, and companies are thinking about this in the right way, putting the resources and strategies in place, and moving the needle in the right way,” Goss said. But not everyone is fully on board; some provide sponsorship for diversity events, but little else. “Some companies are just trying to not get sued,” she said.
But even if progress may be slow, there is reason for optimism, Prevoznik says. “This is not a trend, it’s not a hot item of the day,” she says. “The biggest trend is it’s not a trend.”