This article is part of a series of op-eds by CEO signatories who are part of CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-led business coalition focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in the U.S.
By Dr. Art Langer, chairman and founder, Workforce Opportunity Services
“Because we’ve always done it that way.” That phrase is the death of innovation. America is more diverse than it’s ever been before, a trend that the U.S. Census Bureau says is on the rise. Yet, across the U.S., companies are struggling to build a more diverse workforce.
We pass diverse candidates every day — on the street, at the train station, in the parking lot. But accessing them is a much different thing. Time and time again, recruiters and human resource professionals depend on standard methods for talent acquisition and hope for different results. They recruit on campuses at the same elite universities; they utilize online application software to screen for “the right” backgrounds, i.e., cookie-cutter backgrounds; and they trust their guts when assessing culture fit. We know workplace diversity can boost our bottom line, but we’re also aware that utilizing the same tired approaches isn’t yielding results.
We have made progress over the last half-century in terms of diversity and inclusion — there’s no disputing that. But the work is far from done. Companies worldwide are struggling to let go of unconscious biases and trust blind-hiring processes that anonymize demographic information about the candidates, over intuition, which has historically yielded hiring people with shared views and perspectives.
To incorporate greater diversity into the workplace, new approaches to talent acquisition are long overdue, though this doesn’t necessarily mean throwing all of our old processes away. Regardless of which applicant tracking software your company utilizes, or if you continue to heavily depend on on-campus recruiting or internal referrals, simple tweaks to how we use these sources can yield vastly different results.
Leadership In The Driver’s Seat
Shifting cultural climates in the workplace needs to be a top-bottom approach. Leadership at the C-suite level needs to demonstrate that their company is committed to diversifying its workforce and creating an inclusive workplace culture. A great way to start is by adding an equality statement in the company’s mission and values, and providing equivalent benefits for all employees, i.e., doing away with maternity leave and rebranding it as parental leave.
While executive leadership needs to drive an organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts, they don’t inherently know or have all of the answers on how to execute and analyze progress. Start by encouraging CEOs to join collective peer groups, such as CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. Through CEO Action, business leaders worldwide gain access to resources on various D&I trends, as well as opportunities to network with the over 700 CEOs who’ve joined the initiative.
Leave Your Bias At The Door
While it takes more than willpower to overcome all our biases, conscious or not, we can change the qualifications we expect of candidates and how we assess them. To attract talent from marginalized and diverse communities, look beyond their schooling, GPAs and the companies they’ve previously worked for. Assess them by the skills demonstrated through the roles they’ve held; by how they come across when you meet them in person. Companies like Google no longer require candidates to have a college degree. It’s a starting point for shifting societal views about job prerequisites tied to wealth and access to resources.
Studies show candidates with names associated with a particular ethnic group or gender are more likely to be screened out before their experience is even assessed. To combat this, some companies have moved toward blind hiring. Another method is utilizing a scoring system to ensure all resumes are evaluated in a systematic way, i.e., a certain number of points for specific skills or education credentials. Each candidate gets a score based solely on what’s in their resume — and not based on who the hiring manager might think the person is.
Expand Your Sources
On-campus recruitment is a vital part of talent pipelines, but it targets those with college degrees, as well as those who attended specific schools. While efforts should be made to add colleges that cater to specific underrepresented groups, if your organization can’t afford to add more colleges to your roster, a good place to start is by strategic outreach to clubs and groups on campuses that target these populations. Host an information session with representatives of your company reflecting the diversity of the groups you’re reaching out to both on and off campus, i.e., at local places of worship and community centers. Making your presence known boosts your company’s local brand recognition and builds trust among new target demographics.
Beyond positioning your organization to attract more diversity, ensure that you’re not driving candidates away by using noninclusive language in your job descriptions. Recruiting Daily suggests “[avoiding] words associated with male stereotypes, such as ‘decisive,’ ‘competitive’ and ‘dominant,‘” if you want to attract more female candidates. Similarly, it also offers that “avoiding words traditionally associated with female stereotypes, such as ‘support,’ ‘understand’ and ‘interpersonal’ can attract more men to jobs.”
Foster A Welcoming Culture
Once you’ve successfully increased your workforce’s diversity, it’s important to foster a welcoming and inclusive culture. Studies show that an employee’s first three months are particularly challenging and can affect the length of their tenure. Employee resource groups can ease this transition by creating a sense of community so that newly onboarded staff don’t feel lonely or isolated.
With internal mentorship and training programs, diversity candidates can get an up-close look at what it takes to operate as a high-level executive. Take note of IBM. The tech company created a year-long program for women that allows them to customize a development and leadership plan with help from their managers, and shadow executives. Other successful programs include lectures by industry experts and mentorship programs pairing junior and mid-level professionals with senior-level executives. Not only do mentorship programs often make employees feel more comfortable and confident in the workplace, they “force” executive leadership to notice them so they don’t fly under the professional radar.
With these simple tweaks to your talent acquisition and inclusion efforts, you’ll not only attract diverse talent, but you’ll set them up for success. And their success will ultimately be your success.