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How to hire for diversity in the workplace

How to hire for diversity in the workplace

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Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is something every company should aspire to achieve within the workforce. Talent Works is dedicated to changing the recruitment conversation, challenging conventional thinking and propelling organizations to new heights in the race to deliver the best talent. Intelligent CXO spoke to Jody Robie, SVP, Talent Works, who told us how these could be achieved in the workplace.

A few months ago, Talent Works surveyed 200 tech leaders to determine the state of hiring tech talent in New England. What they found was a real contradiction in claims towards prioritising diversity. Just 90% of leaders said they were dedicated to hiring diverse and female tech talent. In the same survey, 80% of respondents surveyed indicated that they prefer to hire from their alma mater or previous companies.

It’s a contradiction in terms and by only hiring individuals who share the same university background or the same employment history, businesses risk limiting viewpoints, skills, opinions and insights within an organisation. Limiting your talent pool in this way is likely to perpetuate a lack of gender diversity, racial diversity and overall diversity of thought.

However, through research and adapting your hiring processes, your business can take a step in the right direction. Organisations who want to truly diversify may need to now redefine their hiring strategies and be more open-minded.

Commit and comprehend: Diversity isn’t just a side project for HR

Diversity needs to be a commitment for all of your organisation. It needs to start at the top. Leadership must define what the company stands for as an employer and incorporate it into its Employer Value Proposition (EVP), ensuring values and commitment to diversity run throughout the organisation at all levels.

It’s about making commitments and being intentional about how you build your culture. Creating a diverse workplace doesn’t begin and end with hiring; to create truly diverse workplaces employers need to consider education and learning opportunities in the industry. This includes not only hiring candidates from different backgrounds but also giving them a chance to build a successful career and grow with you.

These practices will no doubt help you to attract diverse talent in the future. There is plenty of research over the last two years showing that more diverse organisations are growing more quickly and adapting to change more successfully.

A diverse employee base allows for diversity of thinking, conflict and productivity. I mean conflict in a good way, that allows someone to say, ‘that doesn’t feel right to me’ or, ‘have we considered X?’ From a business standpoint, customers are becoming more stringent on supplier diversity and ensuring they are supporting businesses run by women or other underrepresented groups.

Your diversity mission should unify your organisational direction, from marketing and customer strategies through to talent acquisition, learning and development, CSR and rewards.

Above all, it should evolve. Hiring for diversity now goes far beyond culture to encompass gender, neuro diversity and age. As a strategy, it cannot stand still.

Consider diversity as you recruit

Regardless of whether businesses are using sourcing technology or proactive sourcing, there needs to be a constant focus on having a diverse panel of candidates. Screening candidates based on past employers or colleges alone will only bring further issues to your organisation.

Case in point, in a recent Reddit thread, after facing a lot of rejection from tech companies, an engineer cited an experiment in creating a fake resume that name-dropped some of the biggest tech employers around, all the while linking ‘experience’ through to Rick Astley videos rather than actual companies. The engineer got a 60% response rate from the likes of Airbnb and Dropbox and others, all excited to speak to him about open positions, despite the obvious fabrication.

It’s an important lesson: if we can’t see the forest for the trees or in this case, spot the Rick Astley videos because we are waylaid by mentions of Microsoft and other tech giants, what hope do we have in achieving a diversity-driven mindset to hiring?

If you only want candidates who have worked at a FANG company, for example, your organisation may inherit its diversity issues. You need to ensure that there are humans in the loop in your candidate screening process, to learn more about candidates’ backgrounds and help you to consider those who may not have a traditional background.  

Diversity should start at the screening process, and if that means getting help with ensuring that screening process picks up on those who have gained experience at start-ups or in non-traditional education, then it’s time to line up some help for your hiring team.

Break the cycle

Hiring only people from your network or those who are like your existing employee base is likely to hinder your recruitment efforts too. If a female comes into an organisation that is 90% male and the office environment doesn’t make her feel included, chances are she’ll take a job elsewhere where she feels more welcome and comfortable.

As well as lacking in diversity, hiring only from your network isn’t scalable, especially in a candidate-driven market. Companies are already engaging in bidding wars for the best candidates and if you limit your talent pool you will struggle to hire at scale as you try to grow your business. For scaling businesses, who may not have the benefit of reputation and brand recognition, it’s harder to differentiate yourself in the eyes of these in-demand candidates and talent acquisition becomes even more of a challenge.

To extend your talent pool you need to be both open-minded and strategic. Working in conjunction with outsourced providers who have experience accessing diverse recruitment pools may help set the balance objectively. A good Recruitment Processing Outsourcing (RPO) provider should be able to provide a wide array of candidates, covering both those that may fit the job more traditionally and those that may come at it from a different angle.

They will also learn your business, understand the culture and handpick the right talent to fit your organisation to ensure the best quality hire. By talent mapping, they can gain an understanding of where relevant talent is located and the nature of required skills and experience. With this understanding, you can formulate digital attraction hiring strategies, such as targeting passive candidates using paid media based on skill type.

Try to appeal to a wider variety of candidates

Consider whether your job descriptions appeal to different profiles beyond your normal hires. For example, single parents and chief caregivers may not value what are seen as travel ‘perks’ by other candidates.

This also means creating job descriptions that aren’t off-putting to entire groups. From a gender perspective, female candidates often won’t apply unless they feel they meet 90 – 100% of the criteria. Studies have shown that male candidates may not be so concerned and may apply regardless. If your job description is too daunting, you risk alienating representative groups in the process and hiring from the same pool without even realising it.

Diversity in the workplace isn’t a programme or an initiative – it’s a cultural definer. A truly diverse organisation will, 100% attract more diverse candidates. It’s a constant cycle that is hard to get into, but once the hard work is done, companies will reap the rewards of having a wider variety of perspectives, a broader skillset and even potentially higher employee engagement and reduced turnover.

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