Organizations committed to diversifying their hiring practices face a variety of challenges. Consciously expanding your hiring pipeline to incorporate demographics that you have been excluding requires an honest look inward and a clear path forward.
While there is no single “right” way to start this project, defining why diversification is important to your organization and what you want to accomplish is a sound place to start. You should also consider how your current employees are going to view this work. Do they feel the need for broader representation, and if so, why? Are people going to think that some employees have “cheated” their way onto the team and violated your culture of meritocracy? You need to anticipate potential pushback in order to frame your project in a way that your current employees can internalize and actively support.
As you’re thinking about your company’s goals, it’s crucial to consider why certain groups are underrepresented in your organization. Although there are many reasons, difficulty finding skill sets within specific demographics is often the most immediate issue. Your recruiting techniques may be unintentionally limiting the number applicants from underrepresented groups, even though many of these people have the skills you require. For example, if you only post to job boards without actively engaging with culturally specific community organizations, candidates in those communities may be skeptical about your commitment to inclusion. You can address this by making deliberate efforts to engage with the organizations that currently serve your targeted populations. Many could benefit from sponsorships, training programs, and workforce readiness efforts that you could provide while building your relationships with the members of those organizations.
Company culture is also an essential component of any diversity and inclusion effort. Improving your recruiting process will help bring people to the party, but having an environment that makes some people feel neglected, uncomfortable, or downright unwelcome can cause chronic turnover and underrepresentation. Obviously, this pertains to blatant instances of prejudice and hostility, but it also includes countless subtle interactions and structural factors that contribute to making people feel like outsiders. For example, do longtime employees frequently go out every week to the same place or activity? Do your team-building events appeal to all employees or just the dominant race / gender / orientation / etc. ? What about language around the office? What kind of people are represented in your branding? What assumptions are being made in your training materials? It’s crucial to engage with people on these matters and train your team on addressing unconscious bias.
Advocating for inclusion is more than just finding a way to hire people that look different than your current team. Finding new ways of working, communicating, and supporting your employees involves ongoing, intentional work, mentoring, training, open dialogue, and embracing discomfort. As a result, it is important to start this work as early as possible so that when you do hire new people, they are greeted with open arms and open minds. As Diana Cutaia of Coaching Peace says, “inclusion isn’t just about making people feel welcome, it’s creating an environment where they feel like you were waiting for them.”
– Written by Paul Brown, President of Cinder