If you’ve been following the news lately, you might have noticed a growing conversation in the tech and business worlds about a lack of diversity at major corporations. And when you look at the numbers, it isn’t pretty: Only 24 of Fortune 500 CEOs are female, while only three are African-American. Worse yet, only 3 percent of those companies are fully transparent about their diversity numbers.
This isn’t just an unfortunate reality for women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community — it’s also a wasted opportunity for the organizations themselves.
Employee diversity raises the bar on business success, innovation and overall brand impressions. Research has shown that increasing the diversity of a company makes it more innovative and more profitable overall.
The world has changed, and our approach to building a workplace culture, especially with regard to hiring practices, must change along with it.
Rewriting the Playbook
A diversity-and-inclusion-focused approach can change everything about the recruiting and onboarding process. It can cause people to expand beyond their comfort zones of where they recruit, how they recruit, the questions they ask and who’s involved in the interview process.
But there’s work to do before you recruit: You have to assess your current state and define what you want to accomplish. For example, if your board and staff aren’t diverse, candidates won’t believe you value diversity. If your company has prestigious awards, do the winners represent diversity? And take a look at your vendors — do you make an effort to source vendors that meet your diversity objectives?
You’ll need to play the long game. Your marketing objectives and sourcing processes could change, but over time you’ll discover a range of unique, qualified candidates that disappeared in your previous screening — or never saw your job posting at all.
The goal is to identify and remove potential biases when sourcing, screening and developing a slate of candidates who might otherwise have been ignored or discriminated against. By doing so, you open your organization up to a whole range of exciting new possibilities.
Diversity by Design
So how do you make hiring for diversity a priority? These strategies will get you moving in the right direction.
Make Sure Your Leadership Is on Board
When I was one of the founding members of a diversity leadership council for General Electric, we worked with a diversity consulting firm to facilitate sessions among executives and minority employees. One of the questions asked of those of us on the executive team was “When was the first time you felt different from others in your work environment?” Out of 14 executives — all of whom were white men — I was the only one who could relate to the question because I’m a woman. None of the men ever felt different from other people at work.
It led to a serious and illuminating discussion. The men were trying to justify that they never felt different, which led to one of them asking “How often do any of you feel different?” A black female attorney stood up and said “Every damn day!” The rest of the employees gave her a standing ovation.
If leadership doesn’t get involved in fostering an inclusive workplace, it will never happen. The rest of the organization can’t make up for the company’s leadership ignoring the cultural challenges, so don’t let executives and hiring managers off the hook. Help them see the value in diversity and inclusion to increase the success of your recruiting.
Add Structure to the Process
Making diversity in the workplace a priority doesn’t simply begin and end with intention. Put structure in your program by setting clear and measurable metrics to monitor your inclusion efforts.
Dr. John Sullivan, an internationally known HR thought leader from Silicon Valley, has developed metrics for individual recruiters’ effectiveness. This includes the percentage of diverse candidates who are presented to hiring managers, how many receive an interview or offer, the eventual turnover rate and how satisfied those candidates feel after going through the process. Tools such as these can demonstrate your organization’s priorities and make inclusivity more ingrained in your hiring practices.
Look Outside Your Normal Paths for Recruitment
When I started at Beta Gamma Sigma, our diversity rate was 0.06 percent. Over the next three years it rose to 33 percent. This happened because we started recruiting beyond our previous sources. For example, we partnered with the Diversity Awareness Partnership in St. Louis. We were able to learn from other organizations’ diversity hiring successes, network in a diverse business community and post our open positions on their job boards.
Participate in virtual or in-person career fairs for targeted minority groups. Likewise, social media is a powerful tool for both sourcing candidates and marketing your company. If your ads, website pages or social media don’t contain diversity, candidates won’t believe you value diversity. If you truly don’t know where to start, ask your employees who are minorities for recommendations on how to improve diversity recruiting.
Partner with Diversity-Focused Organizations
Partner with organizations within your community that value diversity. Like BGS saw with Diversity Awareness Partnership, these organizations can have a positive, lasting effect on your company.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the most common sources for diverse recruiting are historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions. Partner with schools serving minority populations to access a well of strong, qualified candidates. For high-achieving undergraduate and graduate students, a proven source is through the Association of College Honor Societies, which sets the standards for honor society excellence. Most societies are international organizations with members who are recognized for their academic achievements, leadership skills and service.
Jodi Weiss, a board member for Beta Gamma Sigma and the practice leader for nonprofit and higher education at Korn Ferry, specializes in recruiting for C-suite positions. She uses the same tactics herself. “To find diverse candidates for the C-suite level, recruiters must employ a sourcing strategy that also targets diverse boards of directors at impactful companies and organizations,” Weiss says.
It’s never too late to create a pipeline to ensure your successful future. Companies that don’t understand or respect the diverse needs of their customers — or that ignore the opportunity to include all voices — will decrease their likelihood of sustainability. Instead, improve employee morale, productivity and loyalty by building a team that’s truly worth celebrating.