Diversity consciousness in the corporate world has come a long way. In recent history, countries have had laws in place that actually protected the rights of employers to not hire people from different backgrounds.
The definitions of diversity have also evolved. What was once limited to race and sex has been expanded to physical ableness, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs, native language, economic background, and much more.
Real inclusion or splashy PR?
Celebrating diversity (at least on the surface) is a part of today’s company culture. From celebrating gay pride month to publishing internal diversity reports, many organizations across the world claim diversity as a core value.
But splashy PR efforts and real commitment to diversity are two different things.
The first place where you can tell if a company is serious about diversity is to see how they recruit and hire.
What is diversity recruiting and hiring?
Diversity recruitment happens when organizations put emphasis on hiring from a diverse pool of candidates and have procedures in place to make decisions free from bias based on age, sexuality, gender, religion and other characteristics that are unrelated to the job seeker’s performance.
Most organizations assume you should hire the most qualified candidate. While this may seem like the right thing to do, it will not help your team, as a whole, in the long run. Think of it like choosing a software stack for your company. What may be the best solution for each individual problem may not leave you with the right overall software stack. As Melissa and Jonathan Nightingale say, it’s not about hiring the best person, but building the best team.
Why diversity recruiting should be your top priority
Building a diverse culture is a lot more important than compliance or just being able to say, “We are an equal opportunity employer.” It’s not just an item to be checked off on your list. It’s a mentality that needs to be ingrained in your organization’s psyche.
Diverse teams consistently outperform homogeneous groups. Each person in a diverse team has been exposed to radically different ideas and has a wide range of experience and skills. When surrounded by people who are similar in one or more ways, it’s easy to slip into groupthink and not question things. But when a team is made of people who bring a variety of perspectives and insights, they think harder about their decisions, leading to better decisions.
9 tips to better diversity recruiting
Talent acquisition teams are becoming more and more sensitive to diversity hiring. In a study by Ideal, 57 percent of respondents said they have a recruiting strategy in place to attract diverse talent. You could start with something as simple as changing the language you use in your job posting. Every step you take toward diversity recruiting is one step closer to a more diverse workforce.
Here are a few things you can start doing right now to help you with your recruitment process:
Tweak your policies
Start by creating a company culture that promotes diversity and inclusion. Where might you be able to change your policies to demonstrate more open-mindedness? Gender-neutral restrooms? Private nursing areas? Flexible time off for religious holidays?
You will likely not be able to spot all the issues with your current policies. Instead, ask people from different groups to look over them and point out areas you can improve.
Also, don’t create a separate section of your handbook that says, “These are policies about diversity.” That makes it seem like you view it as a separate problem. Having nursing areas and respecting other religions are just part of working, not a quarantined-off section that is just for diversity.
Establish key metrics
Once you’ve reviewed your policies, you need to decide on key metrics that reflect your diversity hiring goals and to evaluate if your strategies were successful. The overall minority representation (especially in leadership roles), the number of diverse candidates recruited, their retention rate, and pay disparity are a good place to start.
Having actual numbers in place is a good way to judge how effective you were at your efforts. But remember Goodhart’s Law: as soon as you focus on achieving a particular metric, it no longer becomes a valid metric.
The goal is a more diverse and inclusive space. Numbers can be a good indicator of that, but they are only a proxy. If you only chase the numbers, you will often miss out on the bigger goal.
Widen your talent pool
Employee referrals are the top source of potential candidates. However, if your employee base is pretty homogeneous, your referral network is likely the same. When your talent pool looks exactly like your existing workforce, you don’t have much hope of becoming more diverse organically.
Companies need to actively seek and hire candidates from different sources. There is usually some representation of the marginalized community in an applicant pool, but you want to increase the numbers. Try recruiting at colleges with a diverse mix of students and posting to unique job boards dedicated to a marginalized group.
Let candidates know you value diversity
A diverse workplace is one of the key things millennial candidates look for when considering a job offer. You want to be public about your commitment to diversity, without making people think you are pursuing them out of a sense of tokenism. You must find a balance between the indirect, “We think you have a unique perspective,” and the direct, “We really want to have a gay Latino man on this project to help us think through everything.”
Most of this is accomplished by being genuine and humble, and always willing to listen and be corrected.
Work against your natural biases
Resumes with ‘white’ sounding names receive 30% more callbacks than other ethnicities.
The first step to moving beyond biases is to admit that you have them. You can’t make it to 21 without having some firm impressions about groups of people–some you’ve met, and many you haven’t.
Being honest about stereotypes and speaking them can be powerful to externalize them and then you can work against them. Imagine looking at two resumes, one belongs to a young black woman from Mississippi State and the other belongs to a white male from Stanford. Acknowledging the natural biases that you have openly with others can be a great way to disarm the situation rather than trying to skirt around the elephant in the room.
Experiment with blind screening
There was an experiment conducted by Stanford where the same resume but with different names was handed to a number of scientists. The “male” was perceived to be more competent despite every other piece of information on the resume was identical, indicating an implicit gender bias. Try to redact the names and photographs on resumes and proceed with the usual screening process.
While these are some common biases, there are many hidden ones such as the names of the universities and former companies. Relying on these signals is being complicit in systemic systems that keep marginalized people out of these places.
Find a way to assess abilities that don’t necessarily have to do with these factors. Alternatively, you can use technology to automatically screen candidates to help you succeed in your diversity recruiting strategies.
Have a diverse interview panel
When your hiring managers are diverse themselves, they bring a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. This balanced panel brings out unique exchanges and makes the candidate feel more comfortable and perform better.
After requiring at least two women or members of underrepresented communities in their panel for any new hire, Intel saw a 41 percent rise in women and employees of color in just two years.
However, this alone doesn’t fix things. You can’t just add a Japanese man to the hiring team and then claim that all hiring decisions are anti-discriminatory.
Consider offering remote work
Opening the doors to remote work automatically exposes to candidates from hard Siberian ice to sunny Florida beaches. If you don’t have a culture of remote employees, start with one team and experiment with policies and tracking results. Mike Knoop from Zapier says, “It’s very difficult to add one or two people remote because the culture of the office is not often set up to support it. The best thing to do here is really taking a bigger stake than just one person.”
Bring underprivileged people to leadership roles
It’s not enough to just focus on entry-level recruiting. If all you are doing is adding diverse people to the bottom of your organization, it may be decades before they take on senior leadership roles (if they last in your culture) and bring about a balance in power. You need to think about inserting people at high levels, bringing in diverse consultants and agencies, and bringing on diverse board members.
Toward a more inclusive workplace
Diversity recruiting and hiring is a good beginning, but you can’t stop there. Just because you hire diverse people doesn’t mean they will feel welcome and stay. If the atmosphere is toxic and you don’t prepare others for a more diverse workforce, your new hires may leave, and those from the majority culture who stay get to add the word ‘uncommitted’ to their stereotypes.
Have the diversity discussion with everyone in your company long before you start bringing people in.
Diverse candidates bring a broader skillset and experience, increase cultural awareness, and are a perpetual source of diverse talent pools. Taking the first step towards diversity hiring can lead you to starting a more inclusive workplace.
If you have more tips or have a story to share, tweet to us @workminus. We’d love to hear your thoughts.