From multinational corporations to mom-and-pop corner stores, the need to have a diverse workforce has never been greater. Whether your online presence rivals Google or you have none at all, you need to meet the demands of a diverse customer base.
Employers work in a global economy, and barriers to commerce are only slightly limited by language. Your workforce has to mirror your customer base if you want to stay relevant — if not, the competition will happily fill the void.
In its "Global Recruiting Trends 2018" report, LinkedIn revealed the top four trends identified by talent managers and recruiters as "shaping the future of recruiting and hiring." Diversity, identified as a priority by 78% of the 9,000 respondents, took the top spot. When asked why they chose to prioritize diversity, 78% of respondents sought to improve culture, 62% wanted to boost financial performance and 49% intended to better represent customers.
What is diversity in the workforce?
For starters, it’s more than a list of demographics and personality types to put a checkmark next to. Diversity is a goal, but it relies on action to come to pass. If diversity is the noun, then inclusion and belonging are the verbs that make it happen.
You can hire as many people from disparate backgrounds as you like, but if they don’t believe they belong, or if their points of view are not included in the culture, you’re just checking off items on a list. In the LinkedIn survey, companies have recognized the difference: while 51% are very or extremely focused on diversity, 52% are on inclusion and 57% on belonging.
Ken Bouyer, director of inclusiveness recruiting at Ernst & Young (EY) Americas, knows diversity’s value.
“It is important for businesses to establish a framework to deliberately foster an inclusive environment where differences, talents and perspectives of all people are maximized to create the highest performing teams," he said. EY has found that teams of mixed gender, ethnicity, age and other divergent points improve decision-making solutions for clients because they include a variety of viewpoints and a wider range of experiences.
“By maximizing the power of differences, we are able to build the highest-performing teams,” Bouyer adds.
Getting there from here
To expand their workforce, companies are looking at the basics and beyond. In addition to gender, race and ethnicity, a new focus on age and educational diversity is coming to light. Disability status has also come to the fore.
Mark Lobosco, VP of talent solutions at LinkedIn, talks about the data from the survey as well as diversity initiatives at his company. “Diversity used to be thought of as a box that companies checked. Today, it’s table stakes.”
To achieve a representative workforce, he says, “Companies are making changes not only to where they look for talent, but to how they market themselves to diverse candidates.” LinkedIn research shows companies are expanding their efforts at diverse schools, trade schools and community colleges, as well as ensuring diverse employees are featured in recruitment materials and interview panels.
One way to expand your diversity recruitment is to simply expand your recruitment reach, according to Jamie Nichol, marketing and community manager at CultureIQ. “Relocation packages will geographically expand your potential talent pool while commuter benefits will make your company accessible to individuals of different life arrangements," Nichol said. "Offering a flexible work policy (flextime, telecommuting), child care subsidies, and generous parental leave can attract parents or those hoping to start a family.”
Bouyer knows the value of starting younger these days. “We really believe that building a diverse pipeline of talent starts at the high school level or before, and the onus falls on businesses to attract students from a young age, from all backgrounds, and maintain relationships with faculty and administrators.”
At EY, recruiters attend internal inclusiveness and leadership training sessions, in addition to individual coaching and strategy sessions at least three times a year, to make sure teams are recruiting inclusively. “Through this,” Bouyer says, “we hope that the more we talk about inclusive recruiting out in the open, the more we can disrupt biases and enact long term changes in the workplace.”
Making it stick
“At LinkedIn we are working to create a work environment where employees not only feel included, they also feel like they belong," Lobosco said. "Hiring diverse candidates won’t help if the company culture isn’t shaped to support them.” Employers must go beyond respecting differing opinions. Put value on and encourage a wide range of viewpoints: that imperative must come from the top down.
Recruitment is just the first step in the diversity chain, Nichol says. "In addition to prioritizing diversity during recruitment, it’s essential to 'walk the walk' by creating an inclusive company culture." She advises employers to consider all angles — formal policies and programs, informal customs and everyday behaviors. “Be proactive and consider providing sponsorship programs or partnering with external networks to connect underrepresented groups with resources and support," she added.
To cement inclusion initiatives, EY does just that. EY Unplugged is a two-day event of onboarding sessions taught by high-performing staff and partners that provides the opportunity for Black, Latino and Asian professionals to come together and connect during their first four months. The company's Ally2Advocate program, primarily targeted to LGBTQ staffers, helps people work together, learn from one another and increase individual effectiveness, advancing their support from ally to advocate.
When employees have a voice, they’re engaged. When they’re allowed to express their genuine voice, the hires you make today become the long-term, invaluable team of tomorrow.