5 Unconventional Strategies to Use When Hiring for Diversity

If the last year taught us anything, it’s that we must re-examine any foregone conclusions we have about the workforce. The global pandemic, focus on racial inequity, and a looming “great resignation” are affecting every organization. As a result, organizations must now navigate talent strategies that will still advance their diversity agendas.

We are now collectively writing a new playbook for work. One of the most critical chapters will address how organizations can sustainably ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion—starting with recruiting. To drive change, we will need to break the mold of the way we recruit.

Certainly, unconventional times call for unconventional measures. The truth is that the systems in place led us to today’s lack of representation in the workforce. We need to reimagine our hiring strategies.

During the past couple of years, I worked with my team at Mathison to study the equitable hiring strategies of hundreds of employers and featured findings in my book, Hiring for Diversity. Mathison’s 2021 Diversity Hiring Study revealed that 62 percent of underrepresented job seekers observe bias in the hiring process. Twelve job-seekers communitiesfrom people with disabilities to those formerly incarcerated—are all underrepresented in the workforce.

Here are five unconventional strategies for mobilizing your diversity recruiting. Each of these strategies is not only possible for any organization, but they also require no monetary investment.

1. Clarify what you mean by diversity—and be inclusive.

Research repeatedly shows that leaders have vastly different definitions of diversity. Many only acknowledge physical, visible aspects of diversity, which leave entire communities out. I recommend shifting your emphasis to underrepresented job-seeking communities and building awareness of each group across your organization. These groups include people you may not think of such as older and experienced workers, refugees, and immigrants. You may also include the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, veterans, and formerly incarcerated individuals. Don’t forget to solicit the Black, Hispanic, Latinx, Indigenous, and Native American communities. In addition, women, the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and working parents also merit inclusion.

2. Empower your people to be aware and reach to underrepresented communities.

Your organization’s awareness of and advocacy for different communities really depends on each team member. Explore a more holistic definition of diversity as an organization. Then, prompt each team member to reflect on their personal awareness and have them reach out to each community. Mathison designed a free assessment that your team can leverage to visualize their reach and awareness of each community mentioned.

3. Institute an alignment meeting for every new role.

Much of the bias and inequity in hiring rests on existing job requirements and processes that everyone agrees to upfront. To ensure everyone concurs about the most accessible requirements, host a 15-minute alignment meeting with all hiring stakeholders. In this meeting, ensure that the job role is aligned with the most essential requirements. Also, secure the agreement of everyone as to the hiring process, and the role each will play. Doing so helps drive accessibility and consistency in the process and enables to get buy-in from everyone involved.

4. Send interview questions to job seekers in advance.

This idea might come as a surprise! But the purpose of interviews isn’t to catch job seekers off guard or to test their improvisation abilities. It is to see if they have the skills and experience needed to be successful on the job. Sending questions ahead lets job seekers come prepared, present their best selves, and feel empowered by and confident in the process.

5. Ask job seekers for their feedback on how to make the process more inclusive.

It doesn’t matter whether you extend an offer to a candidate or not, or if they accept or decline. This is the time to ask for feedback—to see where you can make your process more accessible and inclusive. Mathison’s research revealed that 67 percent of applicants reported completing an interview and never receiving feedback. This is a simple step that most employers never think to take. It is the best time to learn from job seekers what is missing—in the job description, hiring process, and more. Not to mention, the nature of asking this question signals that you are listening.

To sum up, these are just a fraction of the creative and unconventional ideas that make hiring for diversity more equitable and inclusive. In the new playbook for inclusive hiring, it requires us to stray from the norm and lead with empathy. There is so much more to discover. I, for one, am excited to see the growth of this new, human-centered list of ideas.

The Harsh Reality of Diversity in Today’s Workplace

Would it surprise you to learn that highly educated black professionals face a widening gap with whites as they progress through their career? Diversity in the 21st century workplace is still a challenge that impacts not only our ideas of fairness and opportunity, but the bottom line as well.

NPR recently highlighted a study by social scientists that outlined the depth of the challenges non-white professionals face when applying for jobs. One of the most surprising discoveries is the widening gap minorities experience as they progress through their career.

Led by John Nunley, an economist at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, researchers sent out 9,000 resumes with both traditional African American-sounding names, and traditional white-sounding names. Applicants with African American-sounding names received a 14 percent lower call-back rate.

If fewer minorities are being interviewed, fewer minorities are being hired. How does that look in the workplace?

The Real Numbers on Racial Diversity at Work

According to analysis by the Pew Research Center, the Millennial generation is far more diverse than the Silent generation was 50 years ago. Millennials are a more ethnically diverse group, and interracial marriage is happening in the U.S. at a previously unseen rate.

How is this diversity reflected in the workplace?

Based on a 2014 Corporate Diversity Study by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, it isn’t–for minorities or for women.

When looking at the boards of directors of 69 Fortune 100 companies, here are some study findings:

  • Women represent 22.9 percent of directors, even though more than half of the American population is female.
  • Non-white people–Latino, African American, Asian, or Native American–represent 18.3 percent of directors.
  • Four of the companies don’t have a single racial or ethnic minority on their board.
  • Women of color represent just 4.2 percent of directors; 41 companies do not have a single woman of color on their board of directors.

When we look at executive teams the numbers aren’t much better, and have actually decreased since 2011. Yes, you heard me correctly–representation has decreased.

As Senator Menendez points out, the purchasing power of Latino and black consumers each exceed an estimated $1 trillion. That should be a real wake-up call to corporate America: If a large segment of your customer base isn’t represented among your decision makers, how effectively can your company do business with them?

Why Corporate America Needs Diversity

Women and minorities are significantly underrepresented in corporate leadership. Apart from the belief that every race and gender deserves opportunity, the facts are that diversity impacts the bottom line.

In his report, Senator Menendez reported, “Studies examining the relationship between racial or ethnic diversity, gender diversity, and financial performance have revealed that companies with more diverse teams outperform their less-diverse counterparts.”

He cites a 2014 McKinsey report that researched hundreds of companies globally: “Companies in the top quartile of racial or ethnic diversity were 30% more likely to have financial returns above the national industry median.”

Gallup has also done research that shows gender-diverse business units in retail have 14 percent higher comparable revenues; in the hospitality industry, that rises to 19 percent higher average quarterly net profit.

We’ve all heard the facts about employee engagement leading to much higher productivity and, therefore, profitability. These studies also show that diversity leads to higher engagement among employees.

How Do Companies Become More Diverse?

Having a diversity plan or chief diversity officer isn’t enough; representation needs to be reflected at the board level as well. There need to be set targets for diversity–and yes, that means setting measurable, numerical goals at an executive level.

We talk about who really drives organizational change often on #Tchat; it is never a sole CEO or C-level executive, but this change needs to come from the top if it’s going to create profound and real change.

How does upper management influence diversity throughout the organization?

  1. Ensure that the board is representative, and that this isn’t a “do as a say, not as I do” situation.
  2. Tie performance reviews to diversity goals, and make sure there are financial implications to reaching goals.

Diversity won’t happen by chance; your recruitment department needs to make sure that minority and female candidates interview for open positions. To truly transform your organization, it needs to be inclusive and represent everyone.

Creating a diverse workforce at the lower rungs of your organization isn’t enough, but it’s another place to make a difference. Beyond recruitment, plant the seeds of diversity early and develop future leaders. A strong, structured mentorship plan is essential to keep younger talent on track; professional development is a priority for Millennials in particular.

Most importantly, openly acknowledge the reality that minorities and women face in the workplace. A recent article by Gillian B. White of The Atlantic outlined the frank reality of workplace discrimination.

Through education, make sure your team understands how very important diversity is to the overall health of the organization.

This article was originally seen on Huffington Post.

Image: BigStock.