It’s Not Just About the Numbers: Why Values Are an Important Part of Any Diversity Effort

eBay released its diversity numbers for the first time a few weeks ago and, predictably, their numbers mirrored results common at other larger tech firms: overwhelmingly white and male (particularly in their technical roles) and low numbers of African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and biracial employees.

Although the numbers are similar to other companies in the sector, the differences – in attitude and in the public responses they got – have been huge. eBay released their statistics as part of a calculated, company-wide D & I effort – their first since separating from parent company PayPal – and without a public prompt or scandal. While their numbers were nothing unusual, their approach was.

Rather than being defensive, eBay was open about their need to improve and pro-active about announcing a three-pronged strategy for incorporating diversity into the entire company that tackles the many and varied factors that create or inhibit diverse workspaces. Instead of just relying on unconscious bias training sessions, eBay will transform their hiring systems through a few strategic partnerships. They’re working with a number of universities and organizations to broaden their recruitment pipeline, and they’re working with Unitive to incorporate our software and dismantle bias during the hiring and interview process. They are even finding ways to improve the experiences of employees already working at the company: ensuring everyone has a positive, inclusive, and welcoming workplace.

This practical approach – as well as their open and genuine tone –meant that instead of being excoriated for their low diversity statistics, they became part of the wider dialogue around workforce diversity efforts. Fortune’s D & I-focused newsletter RaceAhead told subscribers to not only focus on the statistics but that “the entire report is worth a read.” They also featured a Q & A between reporter Ellen McGirt and eBay Chief Diversity Officer Damien Hooper-Campbell.

While other companies are working equally hard to change their hiring processes and their culture, eBay’s uniquely positive experience publishing their report illustrates one basic but important point: good diversity initiatives don’t start with already impressive workforce diversity statistics, they start with solid and well-communicated values.

Incorporating diversity into your company isn’t a simple process. It requires you to align every level of leadership with hiring managers and HR departments across your organization. Companies serious about integrating diversity efforts must first begin by uniting their entire organization around a clearly stated and universally understood set of values. This clarity will help them build a complete strategy that empowers their HR executives to make necessary changes to the hiring process; will align teams in every department around commonly-held core values instead of around superficial similarities; and will communicate the seriousness and the sincerity of the effort to everyone involved.

Using values to structure the hiring process will help companies diversify while also giving them the tools to find candidates that will thrive in their organization’s unique environment. In the end, values-based hiring will enable any organization to combine their diversity efforts with their general HR efforts, creating a process that leverages the best in 21st century talent acquisition strategies with a focus on equitable, fair, and bias-free hiring practices.

I’m thrilled to be working with eBay not because they’ve already gotten everything right, but because of their positive, pragmatic attitude towards improving their workplace and hiring practices. eBay understands that ultimately, diversity initiatives are about more than the numbers. They are about building better companies that are stronger, more effective, and more creative. That’s a value every company can and should hold if they plan to be successful in today’s competitive markets.

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