7 Ways to Jumpstart Your Diversity Recruiting Strategy

While business leaders are recognizing the importance of hiring diverse talent, too many are falling short in their efforts. In a new report, Frederickson Partners offers a guide to implementing inclusionary practices throughout the recruitment process, up to onboarding and employment.

May 11, 2023 – With recent, rising pressure from social justice movements; greater media attention; and growing scrutiny by the public, organizations are greater paying attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce. Data from HBR shows that having exemplary diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and inclusive leadership significantly enhances team productivity and company performance.

While business leaders are recognizing the importance of hiring diverse talent, they often limit their goals to numerical targets such as increasing the percentage of employees from diverse backgrounds, according to a new report from Frederickson Partners. “Such a simplistic focus may set an organization up for failure–for example, by ignoring critical recruitment and selection strategic elements that impact a candidate’s perception and experience of the company and their desire to be a part of it,” the study said. “Through marketing, a company may tout a great aspirational DEI program that champions diversity. However without the right diversity recruiting strategy, they may be failing to attract diverse talent and to meet their goals around DEI.”

“A successful diversity strategy goes beyond metrics and requires a fundamental change in systems and processes,” the search firm said. “Organizations must ensure their diverse workforce experiences inclusionary practices throughout the recruitment stage, up to onboarding and employment.”

What is a Diversity Recruiting Strategy?

Frederickson Partners says that a diversity recruiting strategy is a master plan for how an organization will recruit and build a truly diverse workforce. “It involves prioritizing, tracking and successfully achieving the firm’s goals for hiring diverse talent, and following proven best practices throughout the hiring process,” the report said. “Diversity recruiting is one key aspect of an overall diversity strategy, which includes creating a diverse workplace where employees truly feel like they are included and belong. This recruiting strategy defines goals and identifies success measures for attracting, assessing and hiring candidates from diverse backgrounds and directly links with other internal talent management programs and strategies.”

Why is diversity recruiting important?

A strong diverse recruitment strategy empowers the talent acquisition team to build a diverse workplace. The benefit is that a company gains a wide range of perspectives, increased creativity, greater innovation, and improved decision making. A diverse workforce in turn makes an organization an attractive place to work for other diverse top talent.

According to the latest reports by McKinsey & Company, more diverse companies continue to outperform less diverse peers in profitability. In addition, the greater the diverse representation within the workforce, the higher the likelihood the company will perform well. Despite these benefits, McKinsey reports that progress on increasing diversity has been slow. This is evident across all industries and in most countries: “The representation of ethnic-minorities on U.K. and U.S. executive teams stood at only 13 percent in 2019, up from just seven percent in 2014. For our global data set, this proportion was 14 percent in 2019, up from 12 percent in 2017.” The report also indicates that many companies are battling “the threat of diversity fatigue and backlash.”

Frederickson Partners explains that while organizations and leaders are increasingly recognizing the importance of DEI, many are still lagging and have little representation of diverse talent across the organization, especially in leadership roles.

7 Key Practices in Your Diversity Recruiting Strategy

To remain competitive in an increasingly globalized world and tough economic climate, organizations worldwide are vying for talent. Frederickson Partners says that by building the following best practices into your recruiting strategy, your talent acquisition and talent leaders can successfully meet these challenges by finding, engaging, and retaining top diverse talent.

1. Refresh Employer Branding

Diverse candidates who are seeking a new job opportunity will assess an employer’s brand when considering an open role. “If candidates do not see themselves reflected in the organization’s workforce – due to a lack of diversity in the company’s communications, employee statistics, team or executive photos, statements about diversity, or website and branding – they  may not apply for the opportunity,” the Frederickson Partners report said. “Part of ensuring diverse hiring starts with investigating if you have a reputation as an inclusive employer, and how your brand is perceived. Job seekers often utilize employer review websites like Glassdoor to learn about companies and their brand. Start with assessing your organization’s brand and how it is generally viewed. Aim to present an honest and accurate representation of your company’s diverse and inclusionary hiring practices and culture of inclusion.”

2. Widen Your Candidate Sourcing

When seeking candidates, Frederickson Partners notes to include steps that expand your sourcing, including these:

• Go beyond top colleges and universities to attract candidates from a range of institutions. Due to socioeconomic factors, people of color and those from lower income families, indigenous youth, and members of other protected groups may not have access to top institutions, yet may possess the right skill sets sought by your organization.

How Diversity Initiatives Have Become More Prevalent
There is a quiet revolution taking place that is affecting every company that is looking for transformational leadership. So what is that revolution? Ruben Moreno, HR practice lead for Blue Rock Search, explains that one in which candidates are saying: “I am no longer going to take full responsibility for moving a company’s DEI initiatives forward. I am no longer going to trust promises of change unless I see real evidence of commitment. You say diversity, equity, and inclusion are part of your mission, and yet, there is no evidence you are actually living these values.”

• Conduct a thorough and impartial evaluation of the universities your company is recruiting from, to ensure you are not merely selecting from the same traditional pool of candidates. By expanding recruitment efforts to include a more diverse range of institutions and programs, you can tap into a wider range of talent and perspectives, further bolstering DEI initiatives and bottom-line success.

• Shift the focus from hiring only from the “best” campuses and seeking just the most relevant experience, to considering competencies, skills, and attitude. Diverse candidates may lack the exact experience sought by the talent acquisition team, but they can compensate for this through drive, competencies, and skill-set.

• Prioritize lateral and professional diverse candidate sourcing, actively seeking out qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds who may not have followed the traditional career path. Such an approach can help organizations identify and attract a more diverse pool of talent.

3. Leverage Job Descriptions and Postings

Job descriptions are often written with a particular audience in mind and the language used reflects this audience and can ultimately lead to the best candidates self-selecting out if they do not see themselves as a possible contender for the role, according to the Frederickson Partners report.

“To attract diverse candidates, a job description must be carefully written to ensure people from a variety of cultural backgrounds and communities are able to understand the role and its required competencies,” the search firm said. “To increase the number of diverse applicants to these postings, the talent acquisition team must make it easier for such candidates to find the jobs by going where the candidates are. Think about your target audience and where they spend their time. For instance, if you are looking for more indigenous applicants, consider posting in communities with a greater indigenous presence.”

4. Conduct Structured and Behaviorally-Anchored Interviews

During the selection process, Frederickson Partners explains that many diverse candidates may not make it through the interview stage due to unconscious bias in those they speak with, or poorly constructed interview questions.

“While unstructured interviews may feel more comfortable, they lead to poor hiring decisions and allow unacknowledged bias to impact selection choices. Interviewers may treat some candidates more favorably and others less so, based on unexamined assumptions or past prejudices,” the search firm said. “Structured interviews that are clearly linked to the job description requirements and job-related competencies can reduce bias. In a structured interview approach, each candidate goes through the same interview process, from the initial introduction, interview questions, and response scoring to assessment. This ensures fair and equitable treatment of each candidate and helps support a diverse range of candidates successfully moving through the selection process.”

5. Eliminate Unconscious Bias In Interviewers

“One method of reducing bias during the selection stage is to have a diverse interview panel,” the Frederickson Partners report said. “This can decrease the likelihood of one interviewer’s unconscious bias negatively impacting diverse candidates. Interviewer training can also be helpful as hiring team members are likely unaware of these blind spots.”

Related: Diversity and Inclusion Trends for 2023

According to an article on leading employment testing platform Thomas, interviewers should:

• Avoid asking irrelevant questions that can lead to a biased view of the character of the person.

• Recognize how assumptions can be made about applicants.

• Keep an impartial and open mind and not focus on aspects such as looks or body language that can affect the evaluation of the candidate.

6. Gain Top Leadership Support

The best-planned diversity and inclusion efforts will fail if there is no visible buy-in and ongoing support from senior leadership, according to the Frederickson Partners report. “For the diversity recruiting strategy to be successful, it is essential to establish a business case and ensure ongoing communication with the C-suite or senior leadership of your organization,” the study said.

According to a Harvard Business Review article by the founder of a DEI strategy firm, “executive buy-in can help clear cultural obstacles within a company and build a communal sense of responsibility for programs.” Frederickson Partners says that holding regular meetings between senior leaders and the leaders of grassroots efforts like employee resource groups (ERGs) can help leaders gauge whether DEI efforts are improving the organization’s culture.

7. Hire a Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

A chief diversity officer is a senior executive responsible for promoting and overseeing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within an organization. “Their primary role is to develop and implement strategies for creating a diverse workplace and equitable, inclusive culture,” Frederickson Partners said. “The placement of the DEI head within an organization’s reporting structure is critical to the success of DEI initiatives. While the (CHRO) is often seen as a natural fit for DEI oversight, the DEI head may be better positioned under the CEO’s purview. Placing DEI at the CEO level can signal the organization’s commitment to DEI and provide the necessary resources and support for driving meaningful change. Regardless of the reporting structure, it is essential that the DEI head has the authority and influence needed to effect change across the organization.”

Veteran HR Consultants

Founded in 1995, Frederickson Partners has completed over 2,500 HR executive searches and HR consulting engagements, according to the firm, maintaining relationships with more than 10,000 rising and established HR executives worldwide. Specializing in the placement of chief human resources officers/ chief people officers and their teams for high-growth employers, the firm also provides HR strategy, consulting, and thought leadership.

Based in Menlo Park, CA, the search firm is deeply rooted in the technology sector, with experience in biotech, clean energy, cloud and data storage, E-commerce, fintech, gaming, hardware, IoT, media, semiconductors, and telecommunications. Clients include Alphabet, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Gartner, Gilead, Intel, Pinterest, Qualtrics, Roche, ServiceNow, StockX, The Nature Conservancy, Twitter, Uber, and Workday.

Valerie Frederickson, the search firm’s founder and CEO, has helped hundreds of companies during the past 20-plus years build and improve their human resources organizations. HR executives and C-level executives often seek her guidance and counsel when reorganizing their HR functions. Ms. Frederickson has conducted confidential, replacement, and upgrade searches of HR executives, and placed heads of HR at companies such as C3 IoT, GE, Genentech, Mozilla, Qualtrics, and hundreds more.

Related: Successfully Hiring Your First Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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