Over the course of 2020, we’ve seen a drastic shift in attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) efforts at organizations. And while these have been important initiatives at many organizations for years, they’ve taken on a new level of urgency as we see regular occurrences of injustices make the news. DE&I initiatives often fall on the shoulders of HR leaders to create a plan and champion it. But as we know, it takes a comprehensive strategy and buy-in from every member of the workforce to exact this type of change at the organizational level. So, let’s start by looking at the workforce we recruit.
Recruiting for Diversity
Your recruiting process is the first part of the employee lifecycle, and it’s also your first chance to find and attract diverse individuals to join your workforce – if you get it right. From the details that go into the job posting to the people involved in the decision-making process, every aspect of your recruiting strategy can either work to help or hinder your efforts to hire diverse candidates.
Attracting a Diverse Applicant Pool
The CEO of Wells Fargo recently lamented that there’s a limited pool of Black talent to recruit from. (He later apologized after the comments were met with backlash.) But it brings up the important point that building a diverse workforce is an intentional effort, and it starts with the recruiting process.
For many applicants, your job posting will be the first impression they get of your organization. The way it’s written and presented may determine how interested an applicant is in the position and how likely they are to apply. Consider that a Hewlitt Packard report revealed that men will apply for jobs when they meet 60% of qualifications, while women apply when they meet 100% of qualifications. Now look at some of your own job postings. Are they packed full of qualifications and must-haves that are essential for the job? Was the number of years of experience required picked at random?
These seemingly innocuous details that describe your dream candidate may be exactly what’s preventing your dream candidate from applying. Even the type of language used in job postings can deter certain pools of candidates from submitting an application – and it’s generally women, minorities, veterans, and other diverse groups that are deterred right off the bat. Taking a hard look at what’s in a job posting and aligning it more closely with what’s really required for the job may help you attract a larger and more diverse applicant pool to draw from.
Let’s Talk About Bias
We can’t work toward a more diverse and inclusive organization until we’re able to address our own bias. And yes, we all have our own biases. Some of it may be conscious; some of it’s unconscious. But it’s always there. Recognizing and acknowledging it is a step toward improving it. Leaders at all organizations across all industries should look into resources and training programs that can help with conscious and unconscious bias.
In addition to raising awareness and educating ourselves, we can put mechanisms in place to help reduce bias in the recruiting process. A simple step in this direction is standardizing the recruiting process. Every candidate should have the same experience and go through the same steps. Of course, variations are necessary based on the type of position, the department, and so on. However, for a given position, having a standardized process and pre-determined list of questions can go a long way in ensuring each candidate is evaluated fairly.
Having multiple decision-makers involved in the hiring process can also be a smart strategy. Getting multiple people involved means getting different perspectives on a candidate rather than one individual’s opinion – and having a diverse group of decision-makers is even better. This diversity is beneficial in both directions. Your organization will be able to make better decisions by having diverse individuals help with the decision, and your candidates will recognize the diversity your organization has already begun to cultivate and incorporate into its unique culture.
Making Inclusiveness a Strategy
Building a diverse workforce is only half the battle – and it’s incomplete on its own. The diverse workforce you just worked so hard to create will disappear in an instant without a culture that promotes inclusiveness and strategies that actively work to retain your workforce.
Creating an Inclusive Culture
Your organization’s culture is a combination of the behaviors and values that create your unique work environment. You can have a culture that’s positive and collaborative or a culture that’s competitive, with everyone looking out for themselves only. The difference is actually more in your control than you think. To build a culture that values each employee, at every level of the organization, you need to ensure two-way communication between leadership and employees.
This means giving everyone a voice and showing that you value each employee’s voice. Collecting feedback is not enough if it’s not followed up with clear and visible action. Creating an open-door policy is not enough if employees don’t feel encouraged or empowered to speak up. Truly listening and giving everyone a voice is just one piece of the puzzle. Truly valuing the input you receive – whether positive or negative – and using it to effect good change within the organization is a necessary next step. Doing this regularly and committing to continuous improvement is the strategy that will sustain this culture in the long-term.
Equity and Belonging
D&I as an initiative has grown to encompass more and mean more than just diversity and inclusion. It’s now joined by additional letters – sometimes an “E” in the middle or a “B” at the end. These stand for equity and belonging, which go hand-in-hand with diversity and inclusion. Building a diverse workforce that is truly inclusive won’t happen without equity and belonging.
Equity refers to treating people justly and fairly – in pay, promotions, and other opportunities at work. Think back to earlier when we discussed conscious and unconscious bias in the recruiting process. The same holds true here.
Belonging is the sense of feeling like part of the organizational community. This should happen naturally in a culture of inclusiveness. While similar, belonging puts the focus on the individual employee’s feelings toward the workplace, while inclusion is more about the organization’s efforts to create that sense of belonging. They’re two sides of the same coin, but understanding the nuances that differentiate them can help inform your overarching D&I strategy. (Or DE&I or DEI&B strategy, if you prefer.)
Leveraging Tech for Your DE&I Efforts
While discussing and understanding diversity, equity, and inclusion at a high level is important, we also need to look at real, actionable solutions that can help your DE&I strategies thrive. In many ways, your human resources system and the technology that powers it is the key to successful organization-wide DE&I efforts. If you’d like to learn more, check out our follow-up blog about leveraging technology for your DE&I strategy here.