Written by: McKenzie Brower | Diversity Inc.
When we don’t prioritize recruiting and obtaining a diverse group of employees, we lose the benefits that diversity carries – a variety of viewpoints with equally varied ideas for innovation, strategic familiarity with more representative populations of society at large, a positive reputation, and perhaps even happier customers.
Diversity in the workplace is a positive variable in the effort for long-term organizational sustainability and prospects for growth.
Despite such benefits, acquiring a diverse workforce is challenging. Fortunately, there are several hands-on practices and approaches available to ensure that your organization can find and retain diverse talent. No system will be perfect; consistently prioritizing diversity is a dynamic process, so it is worth revisiting your methods and processes routinely.
Here are five powerful tips for guaranteeing diversity in your hiring practices.
1. Examine your own biases
The unfortunate but vital truth is that we all have some degree of underlying biases that we’ll never be able to overcome or compensate for them by simply denying their existence. Pinpointing such biases can prove difficult. It can take some serious introspection and purposeful self-critical thinking.
A tool designed to help you understand and recognize inherent biases is the Implicit Association Test. Take it yourself. Have your team or department take it. It can be a starting point.
Owning both one’s individual and your overall organizational biases can take many forms. Bias awareness training can spark dialogue among employees. Be open about the process – your own biases included, in the most appropriate and respectful manner, of course.
Does your organization have a diversity policy or established goals?
If the answer is no, start there. Create or update a specific diversity policy. Develop and establish quantifiable metrics for reaching diversity goals. The most important action in the beginning is simply that – to take action. Always be open to feedback from employees and stakeholders.
2. Use metrics and optimize your job descriptions
Numbers and metrics, when accurate, speak volumes. Depending on your organization size, needs, and goals, there are various software available that can measure certain diversity targets for interpretation and goal revision.
Examples of such measures are the current level and changes in various minority group representation (both overall and between departments), retention rates of minority staff, and sources of your candidate pool. Coupling numbers with phenomena can help identify patterns of bias or unfairness. Making this information available to the public also boosts credibility and can motivate further change.
Before hiring, ensure your job descriptions have been reviewed for bias and optimal phrasing. Seemingly minor word discrepancies can affect pools of applicants in varying ways. Research has found that some words like “challenge,” “confident,” “independent,” and “objective” are typically more appealing to male candidates whereas descriptors such as “cooperate,” “interpersonal,” “support,” and “together” tend to attract female candidates.
Experiment with word choice depending on your specific goal. Furthermore, ensuring that essential and non-essential job qualifications are separated and avoiding industry jargon can help level the playing field. This ensures an array of competent people with transferable capabilities aren’t discouraged from applying for the position.
3. Establish networks with community organizations
An organization’s workforce should aim to be representative of the community in which it operates. Speak with existing underrepresented members of your workforce – in an appropriate manner.
Never put someone on spot or single them out. Don’t press someone who is noticeably uncomfortable. Ask them their thoughts on their hiring process, what drew them in, and what has kept them there. Be tactful and mindful of your existing relationship with the individual before asking any involved questions.
Part of the expanding network process includes placing job ads in the right places. Efforts should extend beyond the typical online posting or job boards. Look for local newsletters, papers, specific local job boards, and physical boards in various community centers. The higher the visibility, the better your chances of reaching a diversified pool of talent. There are also minority recruiting events, professional associations, and job fairs; perhaps host a table at one of these events.
Of course, it’s not enough to simply get the word out. Candidates should understand the value they receive in applying and working for your organization. Be mindful of the imagery your company uses on job postings or anywhere in its physical presence. People won’t apply somewhere that looks like they might not have a chance of finding their place.
Reaching out to various communities starts dialogue and helps create understanding and awareness of issues faced by vulnerable or underrepresented populations. Understand the issues these populations may face in their job searches – what they typically look for, what deters them, and how to make them feel comfortable.
4. Use recruiting software to reduce bias while sourcing and screening
Consider purchasing recruiting software that reduces bias at the sourcing and screening stage. One feature of bias-removing software is ignoring or removing names, addresses, emails, and essentially all personally identifying information from resumes to minimize the risk of unconscious bias prior to the interview process.
Is software isn’t an available choice for you, consider having an employee (who’s uninvolved in the interview process) be responsible for receiving application materials. This person can mark out the same information that the software does as a form of blind hiring – gender, names, education, interests, age, so on. This process might not always yield optimal results for your goals, but it’s worth experimenting.
Or try forming a hiring committee. While still imperfect, you have a better shot at creating a more diverse workplace by assembling a diverse team to make hiring decisions, rather than a single individual. A collaborative team can discuss policies and goals, receive bias awareness training together, and work to keep each other in check to arrive at the strongest end decision.
5. Implement practices to standardize the interview process
Using an interview team or committee can be effective for the same reason it helps the sourcing process. Standardize interview questions, who asks each question, and the metrics for evaluating the candidate’s responses (perhaps with a scorecard).
This ensures all individuals can pass through the interview process in the same consistent manner. Another option is to provide all interviewees with a work sample to be completed during their visit, such as a handwritten task or a 10-15 minute assessment to see how each candidate performs at a job-related function or skill.
A standardized task requires a hiring manager or committee to examine a candidate’s explicit work in addition to their answers in the interview.
Every organization faces unique challenges in its diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives or programs. Make a policy and plan, set goals, be willing to adapt, and take it one day at a time.
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