As the world rapidly globalizes, the idea of diversity has become increasingly present in our lives. In fact, the Pew Research Center predicts that by 2055, “The U.S. will no longer have a single racial or ethnic majority.” It’s no surprise then that workplaces are growing more diverse and HR leaders are eager to know how to hire diverse candidates.
Vice President Al Gore’s National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) Diversity Task Force defines diversity is defined as “all characteristics and experiences that define each of us as individuals.” These qualities include the entire spectrum of dimensions of an individual such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and more. A lot of companies also consider differences in personality, skill set, experience, and knowledge base as elements of diversity as well.
Benefits of a Diverse Workplace
There are both human and business reasons to build a diverse workforce. Below we go through all the benefits, starting with the most important.
Achieving diversity in the workplace is the right thing to do as part of creating an equitable society. If we are to fight systemic inequality, businesses must be proactive about counteracting the inequity built into our culture.
Workplace diversity also affects the bottom line. McKinsey’s 2018 study of diversity in the workplace shows that companies that have gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above average profitability than companies that do not. At the same time, companies with a strong ethnic and cultural diversity are 33% more likely to perform better financially than companies with a less diverse workforce.
People from various social and cultural backgrounds also bring with them a variety of new ideas, knowledge, and approaches. This fosters more creativity and innovation as individuals are challenged to question their own perspectives and step outside their respective comfort zones.
An inclusive work environment makes for a more comfortable and welcoming workplace for a broader spectrum of employees. This naturally increases team morale—and happier employees make for more productive employees.
Having a diverse business gives you better insight into your customers. If you only employ people from a certain demographic, you could be inadvertently alienating an entire customer base. Being able to relate to your customer base will offer better customer service.
Challenges of a Diverse Workplace
Despite all the benefits that come with a diverse workforce, increasing diversity can also introduce some challenges. Since diverse people means diverse ideas, bringing them all together can increase interpersonal conflicts. People may have different opinions, thoughts, and values which can lead to workplace tensions. Some employees may simply be slow to come around to a greater appreciation of the value of diversity because they may never have considered this perspective before. Others may be prejudiced and consequently attempt to undermine the success of diversity initiatives in general.
Whatever may be the case, the negative effects of diversity in the workplace can be reduced with some strategic planning. Leaders should clearly communicate with the entire company the advantages of diversity in the workforce, and provide proper accommodations and training to turn differences into something positive. All of this should be brought into play when figuring out how to hire diverse candidates.
The Role of HR
HR has an important part to play in workplace diversity. For one, they are charged with fostering a respectful, inclusive organizational culture where each employee has the opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to the organization’s success. There are many ways to do this, as shown in the list below.
Abide by Employment Laws
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws regarding employee discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. It investigates discrimination claims by employees and applicants. HR must be familiar with the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws and stay compliant.
Develop Affirmative Action Plans
Companies that do business with the federal government, employ over 50 employees, and sell more than $50,000 in goods or services to the government must have an affirmative action plan in place. The requirements of this plan focuses on specific groups because of historical discrimination, such as people of color and women. HR is in charge of incorporating Affirmative Actions Plans into the company’s policies, keeping them on file, and updating them annually.
HR staff are also involved in cultivating diversity leaders throughout the company. This includes conducting training to help employees become as aware as possible of their hidden biases. Diversity training can come in the form of formal education programs, company events that incorporate discussions around diversity, employee surveys where employees can share their thoughts on diversity in the workplace with each other anonymously, and more.
Recruiting Diverse Candidates
Workplace diversity requires hiring structures and process that ensure all applicants have an equal opportunity. Part of the role of HR is to identify where there may be bias in the recruitment process and and strategically redesign the steps to mitigate it.
If you want to hire more diverse candidates, it’s important to consider all aspects of the recruiting process from recruiting to interviewing to hiring. Below we cover how to hire diverse candidates for a more inclusive workplace.
How to Hire Diverse Candidates: Recruiting Process
Assess your current diversity hiring.
Before creating a diversity hiring strategy, you first need to get a sense of your current diversity hiring practices. Conduct a diversity audit of your current workforce to see where you need to improve your diversity efforts the most. Look at your hiring data and identify any potential bottlenecks and discrepancies.
Showcase your existing workplace diversity.
A 2018 Yello Diversity study reports that about 82% of employees consider diversity as a component of the ideal workplace. With this in mind, don’t be shy about promoting your company’s diversity culture. Include photos and voices of diverse employees on your career site to establish your diversity brand. If your CEO has a diversity statement, share it on social media so potential candidates are aware of your company’s commitment to diversity.
Cast a wider net.
To fill your recruitment pipeline with more diverse candidates, you need to cast a wider net. Rather than just sticking to your traditional channels, consider reaching out to minority advocacy groups for career fair opportunities. Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) are also great recruiting ground for underrepresent minorities. Virtual recruiting platforms like CareerEco are also gaining ground with iconic events like Bender Virtual Career Fair, which provides an opportunity for employers and job seekers with disabilities to connect online.
Rewrite your job posting.
The language used in your job posting can attract or turn off some types of candidates from applying to your open role. For example, masculine-type words like “ambitious” and “dominate” are less appealing to female applicants, and “synergy” is a turn-off for ethnic minorities. To analyze your job postings for noninclusive language, you can use a tool like Textio that includes a “Bias Meter.”
Another strategy is to explicitly encourage underrepresented candidates to apply to your job posting. For example, Slack has the following statement in the body of their job posts as part of their initiative around diversity:
“Slack is an Equal Opportunity Employer and participant in the U.S. Federal E-Verify program. Women, minorities, individuals with disabilities and protected veterans are encouraged to apply. Slack will consider qualified applicants with criminal histories in a manner consistent with the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance…
Ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace where we learn from each other is core to Slack’s values. We welcome people of different backgrounds, experiences, abilities and perspectives. We are an equal opportunity employer and a pleasant and supportive place to work.”
Do away with unnecessary qualifications.
The requirements that you include in a job ad can also influence the candidates applying for a role. According to a Hewlett-Packard internal report, men will apply for a role when they meet 60% of the qualifications, whereas women will only apply if they meet 100% of the qualifications. Therefore, you may want to rethink what you consider to be essential qualifications rather than desired. By lowering the barriers to entry, you will attract a larger pool of candidates, who will still be as qualified to thrive in the advertised role.
Try blind hiring.
A 2003 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, subconsciously or not, recruiters tend to discriminate based on candidates’ names and assumed race/gender when screening their resumes. Using a technique like blind hiring that anonymizes a candidate’s personal information can prevent unconscious bias from impacting the recruitment and hiring process. Currently, software that anonymizes resumes by removing names, schools, and even addresses as well as software that anonymizes pre-hire testing exist and are showing promising signs of reducing unconscious bias.
Use social media.
Using social media platforms is another way to improve your company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. With over 3 billion people using social media each month, social media provides access to one of the largest talent pools to reach diverse candidates. Social media platforms are also an easy channel to build your employer brand around diversity. Twitter, with its conversational stream of posts, is particularly conducive to sharing everyday photos of employees and an authentic look at your diversity culture.
How to Hire Diverse Candidates: Interviewing Process
Employ a diverse set of interviewers.
Bringing underrepresented employees into your interview process is another way to increase diversity in the workplace. Since requiring that all interview panels include at least two women and/or members of underrepresented minorities in 2014, Intel has seen its diversity numbers climb dramatically. “Implementing diverse hiring panels has enabled us to cast a wider net at the outset of the hiring process and systematically help reduce unconscious bias in our hiring,” says Danielle Brown, Intel’s vice president of human resources and group chief human resources officer.
Use an interview script.
Having interviewers stick to a script helps remove unfair bias by only asking questions that are relevant and appropriate. Asking the same questions for every candidate also ensures that the candidates are being evaluated by the same objectives. You can even include questions specifically about diversity and inclusion in your script to further reflect your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. For instance, you can ask the candidate to describe his or her experience with diversity and inclusion in past workplaces, or give an example of a time where he or she helped resolve an issue or conflict related to diversity and inclusion.
How to Hire Diverse Candidates: Hiring Process
Foster employee engagement.
Knowing how to hire diverse candidates isn’t enough, it’s what you do with the diverse candidates that matter. In the past, diversity was more or less centered around the idea of tolerance. Now, diversity is less about tolerance and more about inclusion. As the Harvard Business Review article “Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion” puts it: “In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.” Creating “inclusion councils,” networks open to all employees to have conversations about diversity, is one way for employees to have meaningful engagement with each other and develop more understanding about each other.
Collect and evaluate your data.
Just as you start by looking at data before any diversity hiring initiative, it’s important that you end by evaluating the data collected after the initiative is completed. That way you can assess the success of your strategies and reiterate what’s not working. Of course, this means that you need to be tracking your progress along the way. A few key metrics to focus on are percentage of underrepresented candidates at each recruiting stage, percentage of underrepresented candidates at different levels in your company, retention rate among minority employee groups, etc.
The Way Forward
Now that you know how to hire more diverse candidates, it’s time to spread the knowledge. Achieving diversity and inclusiveness in your workplace is a process that requires motivation from leaders at all levels of the business. It’s a worthy message to be spreading because the more people know how to hire diverse candidates, the better off your organization, culture, and people will be.