With diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as an increased business focus across the board, more are setting a strategic DE&I goal to hire a diverse workforce (aka DE&I hiring”).
Multiple studies have shown that companies with diverse workforces and diverse leadership:
- Perform better, likely as a result of reduced groupthink and more innovation
- Enjoy greater financial returns
- Achieve stronger employee engagement and improved morale
Many business leaders want to attain these benefits at their companies, which has driven DE&I high in popularity as a critical hiring strategy to pursue.
The role of recruiting in DE&I
Recruiting and hiring are central in supporting DE&I initiatives. After all, recruiting and hiring are how business leaders get the right people – that optimal blend of demographics, beliefs, backgrounds and experiences – in the door. You can’t have inclusion and equity without diversity – it all starts with intentionally cultivating a workforce that:
- Represents the communities and customers your business serves
- Introduces new perspectives to your teams
- Enhances your workplace culture
DE&I matters to job seekers and employees as well, and therefore makes attracting top talent easier. A Glassdoor study found that 76% of survey respondents consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. For younger workers, particularly Generation Z, a company’s DE&I commitment is especially important
Adapting the recruiting and hiring process for DE&I
With this in mind, how can a company’s DE&I and human resources (HR) teams work together to accomplish the overall DE&I hiring strategy?
1. Complete an internal assessment
You can’t set a realistic strategy without first understanding your current state of affairs. You also need to be prepared to discuss your current DE&I progress with job candidates if they ask about it.
Conduct an honest assessment of where your organization is on its DE&I journey. Ask your team:
- Have you defined what diversity means for your organization? So many people automatically think about gender and race when they hear the term diversity, but it’s much broader than that. Diversity could also focus on age, religion, disability status, cognitive differences, skills or educational background, for example. Figure out what makes sense for your organization.
- How diverse is your organization according to your company’s own definition, and how does this compare with where you’d like to be?
- Do you have a DE&I strategy that’s connected to business goals? Do you have dedicated, internal DE&I professionals or access to external DE&I expertise to help implement the strategy?
- Do you have any internal mechanisms for improving the visibility of diverse employees and encouraging employee collaboration and knowledge-sharing about DE&I? Employee resource groups are a great example of this.
Talk with leaders and managers, as well as employees. With employees, you can use focus groups or collect feedback via employee surveys. Ask respondents about the organization’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement as it relates to DE&I.
2. Establish your goals
Now that you have data from your research, where do you go from here? What do you want to accomplish? What will you prioritize? Which goals are most feasible to start with?
This is when you set your DE&I strategy so you can align recruiting and hiring efforts and establish goals. As mentioned, recruiting and hiring are instrumental for your DE&I strategy and are often the first, most common areas that employers prioritize in enhancing DE&I efforts. At this stage, you need to obtain buy-in from senior leadership, because the following actions must be filtered from the top of the organization down:
- Communicating that DE&I is a top priority
- Educating leaders and employees alike on why DE&I is important to the success of the business
- Informing your workforce about strategies and goals
- Modeling desired behaviors and language
3. Create the process
Map out a recruiting and hiring process that is consistent for each candidate, and that will help your company achieve its DE&I hiring goals. Aim to make the recruiting and hiring process as open, accessible, fair and free of bias as possible to break down barriers and capture the largest possible pool of qualified applicants.
4. Encourage collaboration between recruiters and DE&I professionals
HR teams and recruiters should be in regular communication and partnership with DE&I professionals. After all, there’s much that DE&I professionals can teach recruiters about introducing a DE&I lens to the recruiting and hiring process. Furthermore, DE&I professionals can help to ensure that HR professionals are set up for success in a world in which job seekers want more information about DE&I.
For example, DE&I professionals can:
- Review recruiting and hiring processes and suggest changes to better align with the DE&I strategy
- Offer trainings on topics such as:
- Awareness of all types of diversity
- Identification and elimination of unconscious bias as well as any other subtle barriers to job candidates
- Legally compliant interview practices and consistent questions
- Inform about concrete organizational DE&I achievements to date and goals going forward
- Provide materials that recruiters can use to promote the company’s DE&I activities to job candidates and prospective applicants
- Assist in preparing DE&I and accommodation statements (more on this below)
Furthermore, not everyone who may be involved in the recruiting and hiring process is trained in human resources, much less DE&I. For example, in smaller companies the hiring manager may simply be the individual who will directly oversee the position being filled – someone without HR or DE&I expertise.
That’s why it may be beneficial to form a larger, diverse hiring committee that includes HR, recruiters, DE&I professionals and any other key constituents who will interact with a certain position. These individuals can share responsibilities for reviewing applications, interviewing candidates and making hiring decisions. The people who are part of this committee should reflect the company’s desired brand of diversity and should undergo more extensive DE&I training.
This reduces the risk of any single individual allowing their bias to influence the recruiting and hiring process, and helps to avoid any unintentional mistakes.
5. Prepare DE&I and accommodation statements
In any marketing materials that job candidates and prospective applicants see, particularly job postings and the career section of your website, it can be impactful to include DE&I and accommodation statements.
A DE&I statement goes beyond the standard Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) verbiage. It proactively communicates a company’s unique commitment, beliefs, values and philosophy on DE&I. This should attract the attention of job seekers looking for this information.
An accommodation statement describes how your organization meets the unique needs of employees and even job candidates. It invites job candidates to notify your company of any accommodations they may require during the application and interview process. For example, maybe someone has a physical issue climbing stairs. If they let your organization know, you can remove that barrier when they come on-site for an interview.
These statements can help to make the process feel more inclusive and accessible for job seekers and encourage the greatest number of qualified applicants to participate.
6. Reconsider your candidate pipeline
Think about where your recruiters typically find job candidates. Chances are, you’re posting to your website, LinkedIn and a few job posting sites such as Indeed, CareerBuilder, Glassdoor or Monster.
Consider how you can expand your recruiting efforts. What else could your recruiters do to connect with a more diverse pool of candidates? How could your company build better relationships within the surrounding community to raise organizational awareness? Are there other sites or industry groups you haven’t reached out to yet?
7. Rethink “good fit”
For valid reasons, hiring managers are concerned with finding a candidate who is a “good fit” for the organizational culture.
But what does that mean exactly? Often, it falls into: “This person is like me. I see myself in them.” In other words, it’s an opportunity for familiarity bias to creep into the recruiting and hiring process. Unfortunately, this can lead to a homogenous workforce.
DE&I hiring can help recruiters redefine the concept of “good fit.” Ideally, this is a candidate who aligns with a company’s mission, vision and values, but also contributes something new to the culture and enhances it. It could be as simple as a different way of thinking or a different life experience.
8. Evaluate candidates outside your preconceived notions
When engaging in DE&I hiring, you may need to consider other types of candidates you may not have thought about before or take steps to make your workplace more open and inclusive to greater numbers of people. This is especially true in a competitive labor market.
- Decide which skills in a position are an absolute must versus skills that could be trained over time.
- Re-evaluate the level of education that’s truly necessary for a position.
- Determine whether a position really calls for a full-time schedule versus a part-time schedule – or even if a flexible schedule is possible.
- Consider other forms of support your workplace could offer employees – for example, childcare support for working parents could encourage more women to return to the workplace.
- Don’t rush to overlook candidates you may (wrongly) assume lack the required knowledge and skills or have an irrelevant background, such as veterans or candidates with criminal records.
9. Remove bias from the hiring process
We all have unconscious biases – our personal preference for or disinclination toward certain qualities in another person. It influences how we stereotype and engage with others, and can be so ingrained within us that we may not even be aware of it.
It’s critical that you learn how to identify and eliminate bias in the hiring process to reach DE&I goals. In addition to the thorough anti-bias training that DE&I professionals can provide, here are a few tips:
- Think about the language you use within job postings and on the career section of your website, or the interview questions you ask. Are you unintentionally excluding or turning off any candidates with your word choices? Are you communicating, non-verbally or verbally, any undesirable messages without meaning to?
- Consider conducting an initial blind screen of job candidates.
- Leverage automated tools, such as an applicant tracking system (ATS), to initially screen candidates and deliver a consistent application experience.
- There are prose and cons of utilizing an ATS – it provides consistency but may make it more difficult for hiring managers to consider alternative experiences or education, creating the potential to miss out on strong talents
10. Protect against charges of tokenism or discrimination
DE&I hiring can be a delicate balance between hiring for skills versus diversity. You know that you want a diverse and inclusive organization, but you don’t want to lose out on the best person for the job either – if the best person turns out to not be a diverse hire.
From job seekers’ and employees’ perspective, no one wants to feel like a token hire either. That’s a surefire way to damage morale.
Remember: Your recruiting and hiring process isn’t about filling quotas for a characteristic, such as gender or race. Instead, it’s about reaching more people, removing potential barriers and offering a welcoming and inclusive environment. Once you have a more diverse applicant pool, skills and qualifications are always the most important considerations.
However, diversity goals may be a final, decision-making factor when all other things are equal – maybe one candidate is selected because they bring something new and unique to the organization at that time.
But couldn’t that expose your company to charges of reverse discrimination? The best ways to avoid these claims are:
- Don’t get overly specific with DE&I goals (example: X% of our workforce will be a racial minority). Instead, generalize your goals and aspirations.
- Ensure consistency throughout the recruiting and hiring process – even asking all job candidates the same interview questions.
- Introduce more objectivity into the recruiting and hiring process, such as a candidate-rating system or the diverse hiring committee we mentioned earlier.
- Continue collaboration with your company’s DE&I team to learn best practices.
Summing it all up
To carry out your company’s DE&I strategy, it’s critical that your recruiting and hiring processes are aligned and supportive. After all, recruiting and hiring are all about creating the workforce you want to have. Therefore, it’s also important for HR recruiters and DE&I professionals to collaborate over the long term to share knowledge and make your recruiting and hiring processes open, accessible, fair and bias free. Here, we’ve outlined several steps to accomplish this.
Want to learn more about obtaining the most qualified, skilled applicants from the broadest possible pool of candidates? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attracting, recruiting and hiring top talent.