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Hiring Diverse Talent: Steps to Build a More Diverse Talent Pipeline

Date Published: April 20, 2023 | Last Updated:September 15, 2023 | By Suraiya Sarwar
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Building a diverse workforce is widely known to help companies spark creativity and innovation, lead to fresh ideas and problem-solving approaches, and provide unique insights. Bringing a wide range of different perspectives together can help to challenge the status quo, promote critical thinking, and foster innovation within the organization.

In fact, there’s evidence to provide that these benefits and bottom-line business results can be realized by companies devoted to diversity and inclusion. McKinsey research, for instance, “reaffirms the global relevance of the link between diversity—defined as a grater proportion   of women and a more mixed ethnic and culture composition in the leadership of large companies—and company financial outperformance.”

But even companies that are firmly committed to building a diverse workforce may struggling along the way—failing to attract and bring on board the diverse talent they’re looking for. Here we take a look at some best practices for hiring diverse talent.

Boost Your Employer Brand as a Business That Values DEI

Glassdoor, a popular platform used by employees to rate their employers—sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly—has compiled a list of 12 companies that are “pushing the envelope with their diversity initiatives.” They are:

  • Invitae
  • General Motors
  • Genentech
  • Salesforce
  • Asana
  • Banner Health
  • Slack
  • Citi
  • Ring Central
  • Ochsner Health
  • Albertsons Companies
  • Prologis

Other companies hoping to develop a brand reputation as inclusive companies committed to diversity, equity and belonging to attract and retain diverse talent can certainly learn from their best practices. Having a strong DEI-focused brand can put your company at the top of candidates’ lists of places they’d like to work.

Take Identity Out of the Process

Using “blind resumes” can help to eliminate some bias during the screening process ensuring a more diverse pool of candidates.

Ryan Whitacre, a partner at Bridge Partners, an executive search firm focused on inclusion, recommends eliminating criteria like first and last names, addresses, and the names of academic institutions on job applications as a “great way to open up your talent pipeline and reduce both perceived and unperceived biases.” These things, he says, aren’t necessary for initial screenings and can be revealed later in the process. By doing this, he says, “you can eliminate biases against ‘ethnic’ names, reduce favorability toward candidates from certain  institutions and, especially for remote jobs, worry about concerns over location for later rounds.” These are all factors, he says, that have been used to eliminate applicants prior to interview.

Cameron Batt, organic business director at Wavemarker UK, a global media network, agrees and notes that “by removing personal information such as names, gender, or educational institutions, you can focus solely on evaluating skills and qualifications.”

Use the “Rooney Rule”

Andrea Nero, PhD, founder and CEO of Nero Strategies Group, says that she likes to use the “Rooney Rule.” It’s a practice popularized by the NFL for hiring football coaches. The rule originally required every team with a head coaching vacancy to consider one or more diverse candidates during the interview process.

“Once these candidates were given a chance to interview, it became clear that they were highly-skilled coaches and, as a result, football coaches are much more diverse than they were 30 years ago,” Nero says. Nero says she likes to expand on this to get even more specific. For instance, “can we bring in candidates from Native American, LGBTQ, disabled and low-income communities?” These applicants, she says, “can bring a lot to an organization if we just give them a chance.”

Diversify Interview Panels

Batt recommends using diverse interview panels to ensure greater inclusivity. “Having diverse perspectives in the interview process can help eliminate bias and provide a more inclusive evaluation of candidates,” he says.

As Harvard Business Review reports: “There have been studies that suggest hiring managers tend to hire people who look like them.” Companies can combat this tendency by diversifying their hiring panels. This also provides a broader range of insights and perspectives to help make more informed, and more well-rounded, hiring decisions.

In addition, Batt suggests, employers can reach out to partner with diversity-focused organizations to broaden their candidate and applicant pools.

Partner With Diversity-Focused Organizations

Collaborate with external organizations that specialize in promoting diversity and inclusion, Batt recommends. “Engage in partnerships, sponsorships, or internship programs with diversity-focused organizations to tap into their networks and access a more diverse talent pool. You could also invite these partners in for talks and panel discussions.”

These organizations might include schools that are known for a high percentage of diverse students—historically Black colleges and universities, for example. Or job boards that are focused on diversity.

Review Requirements on Job Descriptions

One of the reasons that many companies struggle to build diverse workforces is that their job requirements are stacked against certain types of candidates. For instance, requiring advanced degrees that may not really be necessary, or screening candidates based on criminal history when it may not be specifically relevant to the job.

Reviewing job descriptions and the language used in job postings can also help to ensure that these candidate communications are more inclusive and free of potential bias.

Improve the Cultural Competence of Leaders and Employees

In working to build a more diverse workforce it’s important to ensure that employees—and especially those involved in the hiring process—are culturally competent, says Maria Drueco, IPMA-ACP, the founder of The Inclusion Journal Consulting and a talent management and EDI strategist. “Conduct workshops to enhance employees’ understanding of different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives,” she recommends. “These workshops can foster a more inclusive and culturally competent work environment. By providing employees with the knowledge and skills to engage effectively with individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultural competence workshops can contribute to building a more inclusive and cohesive team.”

Having a diverse workforce is increasingly important for companies of all types and of all sizes. There are a number of steps organizations can take to help attract more diverse candidates and ensure that they are part of the candidate pool when hiring for positions at all levels within the organization. Being proactive in rooting out barriers that might be limiting the diversity of your applicant pool can help build the kind of diverse workforce that can lead to business success.

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