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Starting and Maintaining a Diversity Recruitment Strategy

Companies are starting to understand the benefits of a diverse workplace. Greater innovation, better results and a bigger bottom line have all been observed by business owners who have diverse teams. But, figuring out how to find people with varied experiences can be difficult. That’s why it’s important to have a diversity recruitment strategy.

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What is diversity recruiting?

Diversity in the workplace is the simple idea that a company’s workforce should reflect the society it exists in. This means hiring people from different backgrounds and with varied experiences and those of different genders, races and religions. A diverse workplace includes people with disabilities and different sexual orientations and those from varied socioeconomic backgrounds.

Diversity recruiting is a strategy you can put in place to find and hire a diverse team. It involves creating a hiring process that gets rid of conscious and unconscious biases so all applicants have an equal opportunity for a role.

Diversity recruitment strategies are still merit-based and aim to find the right person for the job. In fact, this process may even find exemplary candidates who have the potential to be company stars but might have been overlooked if biases in hiring exist.

Generally, diversity can be divided into inherent and acquired forms. Inherent diversity includes race, gender, age and other characteristics people are born with. Acquired diversity encompasses things that are gained over time, such as education, experience, skills and values. Both types of diversity are essential in the modern workplace.

Why diversity is important in organizations

Workplace diversity often comes up as a moral requirement for companies. People from certain backgrounds have been traditionally shut out of some industries, or out of jobs completely. Diverse recruitment can be a step toward equality in the workplace.

Taking this moral stance comes with concrete benefits for organizations. Firstly, today’s consumers want to do business with organizations that share their values. If customers see that you have a diverse workforce, they may be more likely to purchase goods or services from you. This is likely one of the reasons why 85% of CEOs say that increasing workforce diversity improved their bottom lines.

A more direct influence on business revenue can come from the increased innovation found in diverse workplaces, where a wider range of perspectives and backgrounds can result in new ideas. Studies have found that diverse workplaces are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their industry, paving the way to new technologies, strategies and customer bases.

Openly embracing a diversity recruitment strategy can bring in a larger and more varied pool of candidates, which may result in a greater likelihood of finding exceptional employees. With 70% of job seekers now saying diversity is important when they choose where to work, diverse recruitment should be an essential part of any employer’s talent acquisition plan.

Creating a diversity recruitment strategy

A strong diversity recruiting strategy should encompass all aspects of your organization. Although most of the work is done in human resources as part of the recruitment process, the impetus must come from those at the top of the company. Without a willingness by executives to try new ways of hiring and prioritize an inclusive workplace, any attempt at embracing diversity is likely to fall short.

This is why the first step in your diversity recruitment strategy should be to define your goals and put them in writing. Once your goals are in place, you can make a commitment and begin creating a pathway to a diverse workplace.

As part of designing your plan, it’s important to identify who’s responsible for implementation. This should go beyond the HR department; instead, aim to create an environment where everyone is responsible for diversity. Make sure the entire workforce, from department heads to project leads and team members, understands the plan’s goals and the steps they can take to help the organization achieve success.

You should also identify barriers that your organization may have when it comes to hiring a diverse workforce and take steps to overcome them. One such barrier may be HR team members who don’t understand why or how to try new approaches to recruiting. Overcoming this barrier can involve arranging diversity training for key recruitment team members and providing information on how to recognize unconscious bias.

Tips for diverse recruitment

Once you have a plan for diverse recruitment in place, you can take concrete steps to achieve your goals. If you want a diverse team, you first need to create a diverse applicant pool and then work to overcome biases in screening and interviewing. Finally, you should ensure that people want to continue working for your organization.

Sourcing for diversity

Inclusive talent sourcing is the first, and most important, step in creating a diverse workplace, as it can give you a more varied pool of candidates.

  • Improve your job postings: Write job descriptions with as much detail as needed to attract the right candidates. However, consider keeping your requirements, such as experience and education, soft. By doing so, you’ll attract a more diverse pool of applicants. Use gender-neutral language to avoid alienating potential candidates.
  • Seek out diverse candidates: These candidates may not be looking at job postings in the usual places, so go to where they gather and point them toward your openings. For example.
  • Network broadly: If you always source talent from the same networks, your applicant pool is likely to always look the same, so you should push your boundaries when it comes to networking. Look for opportunities to speak to diverse groups of people through conferences, forums and social events.
  • Encourage employees to leverage their connections: Your existing employees can be a great source of diverse candidates. Most people’s professional networks look similar to themselves, and this includes your diverse employees. A candidate referral program can encourage them to recommend your company to potential new hires.
  • Offer targeted internships: Diverse candidates may miss out on internship opportunities that help them make connections and improve their resumes. This is due to the same issues that impact diversity in employment. If you reach out to schools and community groups in your area, you might offer internships to these groups and encourage up-and-coming talent to participate in your business. This lets you give people much-needed experience while you benefit from the innovative ideas of young, fresh talent that you might hire once they’ve finished their studies.
  • Showcase diversity with your brand: Make diversity a part of your company culture, and be open about it in your communications with the public. If you have a reputation for valuing diversity, you’re more likely to get more diverse applicants for jobs.
  • Have policies that appeal to diverse candidates: Implementing diversity-friendly policies can not only keep current employees happy, but it can also let potential applicants know they’ll be supported at your company. For example, family leave availability may be valued by parents who want to reenter the workforce. Likewise, flexible hours and remote working options can be attractive to people with disabilities who may need to schedule doctors appointments or take time off to manage their health.

Screening for diversity

Screening processes that encourage diversity are generally focused on removing unconscious biases and can include:

  • Blinding resumes: Blacking out names, addresses, school names, dates of birth and anything else that suggests personal information can effectively blind resumes. Doing so can let the person assessing resumes look at the skills, experience and qualifications of applicants, rather than rating candidates higher based on certain attributes, such as graduating from an Ivy League school.
  • Conducting blind interviews: It’s impossible to do final interviews in a blind manner unless you have someone sit behind a screen and use something to change their voice. However, in first-round interviews when you’re still screening, you can provide questions, ask for written responses and request that respondents avoid including personal information in their answers. These can then be assessed by hiring managers who don’t have access to the applicant’s personal details.

Taking these two steps may help you ensure that a more diverse pool of candidates makes it past initial screenings to be interviewed for job openings.

Is technology part of the solution?

An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a commonly recommended solution for removing bias from the recruitment process. However, recent studies have found that biases can make their way into an ATS. After all, these systems are programmed by people who may not even be aware of the biases that are sneaking into their algorithm.

A 2021 report from Harvard Business School names the use of ATS as one reason why hidden workers are regularly overlooked when it comes to hiring. Many ATS immediately dismiss people with certain attributes on their resumes, such as those with an employment gap of longer than 6 months. This can mean that mothers returning to the workforce, individuals who’ve taken time off to manage health issues or those looking after an ill spouse or dependent are automatically removed from the candidate pool.

There are benefits to using an ATS, but you can’t look to technology alone to ensure diverse recruitment. Make sure you understand how your vendor has programmed the algorithm and work with them to create an inclusive path forward using the technology. In the case of diversity recruiting, a human who’s aware of their biases and working to overcome them may provide a better outcome than a poorly programmed AI.

Diversity in interviewing

Taking the above steps can help ensure that you receive applications from a diverse range of candidates, and that these candidates make it past screening to the interview stage.

From here, you have to trust that your hiring managers are committed to the process and receive training to remove unconscious bias from their decisions. This can allow them to choose the right applicant for the job, no matter their background.

Maintaining your diverse workplace

A diverse workforce can be most beneficial if everyone has a seat at the table and a voice in meetings. Reaping the benefits of increased innovation and diverse ideas also involves listening to people, making them comfortable and ensuring they remain on the job. Developing and implementing a diverse recruitment strategy is just the first step; creating an inclusive workplace takes a commitment to continuing the work once a vacancy is filled.

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