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One of the most common diversity, equity and inclusion strategies over the last decade has been to diversify hiring processes. The temptation to hit the “easy button” and fill front lines and open positions with women, people of color, those with disabilities and other marginalized communities is opportunistic and inauthentic. If you’re not creating an environment for diverse talent to thrive, diverse talent will not stay. This requires a more holistic approach, rather than a simple hiring fix.
To take a more holistic approach to hiring diverse talent, consider:
- Broaden where you recruit
- Remove bias from the hiring process
- Hold recruiters and hiring managers accountable for diverse representation
Related: 10 Ideas to Drive Your DEI Initiatives in 2023
Broaden where you recruit
If you went fishing and didn’t catch any fish would you blame the fish? Or if you were gardening and had trouble growing plants, would you blame the flowers? It is more likely that you would shift your approach to catch more fish or grow more plants. Yet, with diverse talent, we often blame them for not applying or not being “qualified.”
Instead, shift your approach much like you might shift your approach with other ineffective techniques. There are lists of organizations that can help place diverse talent. Folks from diverse backgrounds will check peer-reviewed websites like Glassdoor and reach out to people that work at the organization, as well as comb through the corporate website to see if it’s truly a diverse and inclusive workplace. After many corporate promises were not delivered, there is an increased skepticism by potential employees to be cautious when evaluating employers. Compensation and benefits (although important) are table stakes, with culture and flexibility taking precedence over traditional worker priorities.
And time developing relationships with HBCUs, diverse networking groups and building a reputation for inclusion first before showing up on campus and at events declaring diversity is important. Actions speak louder than words. Candidates from diverse backgrounds have never been so highly sought after and they can be choosy with their employment in ways they have not been afforded in the past. Do intentional and consistent work and candidates might believe it.
A diversity recruitment strategy outlines the organization’s goals and approach to recruiting diverse talent. This strategy should explain outreach efforts to underrepresented communities and track success, pivoting as strategies work or need to adjust to meet candidate needs.
Related: 5 Tips for Finding Diverse Candidates That Make Dollars and Sense
Remove bias from the hiring process
The hiring process is riddled with bias. if we don’t have systems to address bias, then bias is invited into the process. Most hiring managers admit they hire people they would like to spend time with vs. people that are most qualified for the position.
Use inclusive language in job postings to attract a diverse pool of candidates. Avoid using gendered language and be specific about the skills and qualifications required for the position. If a job posting has a requirement that people doing the job do not currently fulfill, it’s not a requirement.
Ensure that the interview slate of candidates and a panel of interviewers are diverse and represent the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. This sends a clear message to candidates that the organization values diversity.
Manage personal bias in the hiring process. There are many biases that play into the hiring process. To find diverse talent, recruiters and hiring managers need to be aware of their potential biases and be prepared to manage them. Bias is not bad; bias is human. Inclusive leaders manage their biases knowing they can never fully remove them. Some include:
- Potential vs. performance bias: Those in the majority group (white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied men) tend to be evaluated on potential. Women, people of color and those from underrepresented groups tend to be evaluated based on actual performance. This means that the starting point is different for people based on identities they can’t control. Be cognizant of this bias with clear objective criteria to evaluate candidates so this bias does not creep in.
- Caregiving vs. providing bias: Women are often assumed to be caregivers whereas men are assumed to be providers. This stereotype may be true, yet it certainly is not always the case in modern culture. The traditional family with men being the primary owners and women being stay-at-home has shifted significantly in the last few decades, yet our brains are still wired to connect women with caregiving and men with providing. This leads to an unfair advantage where men as seen as more committed or stable compared to women. Question assumptions about women’s caregiving responsibilities equitably to men.
- Cultural fit vs. cultural add bias: When people say they’re a good cultural fit, it’s usually code for they like us. Humans have an affinity or like me bias and like to surround themselves with people they feel comfortable with, usually of their identities. This is an obvious challenge if we want to diversify our workforce, we need to look at people from different backgrounds as cultural adds. This doesn’t mean that they’re not aligned with our core values and beliefs, yet they bring a different perspective. Asking the question, “What perspective does this person add?” can help combat this bias.
Related: Business Leaders Need to Take Inclusive Language More Seriously — Here’s Why.
Hold recruiters and hiring managers accountable for diverse representation
What gets measured gets done. Without clear expectations, managers resort to past methods. If we want more diversity, we have to do things differently. The status quo is the enemy of diversity. Accountability begins by:
- Setting clear expectations: Clearly communicate the organization’s diversity and inclusion goals and expectations for diverse hiring to all managers. This can include specific targets for diverse hiring and a commitment to eliminating bias in the recruitment and selection process. The goal is to improve, not set quotas or force diversity when it is not possible yet.
- Establishing metrics and tracking: Establish metrics and tracking mechanisms to measure the effectiveness of the organization’s diverse hiring efforts. This can include tracking the diversity of candidate pools, monitoring the progress of diverse hires and measuring the impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives on employee engagement and retention.
- Incorporating diversity into performance evaluations: Incorporate diversity and inclusion goals into managers’ performance evaluations to hold them accountable for diverse hiring. This can include evaluating managers based on the diversity of their hires, their efforts to eliminate bias in the recruitment process and their ability to create an inclusive work environment.
- Recognizing and rewarding success: Recognize and reward managers who are successful in hiring and retaining diverse talent. This can include public recognition, promotions and bonuses for achieving diversity and inclusion goals.
- Addressing non-compliance: Hold managers accountable for non-compliance with diversity and inclusion goals through disciplinary action. This can include coaching, training and, in some cases, termination of employment.
Despite positive intentions to diversify hiring processes, leaders often struggle to find diverse talent. They cite the lack of applicants as evidence that diverse talent does not exist and is not attracted nor qualified to work at their organization. However, when diversity recruiting and hiring are given a strategic approach, results shift. There are three proven ways to diversify talent acquisition: broaden where you recruit, remove bias from the hiring process and hold recruiters and hiring managers accountable for diverse representation.