How DEI is Impacting How We Recruit and Retain Talent

Forget the old notions of “culture fit.” These days, strong companies are built around a diverse, multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary workforce. Candace Nortey of Slone Partners shares her thoughts on the impact of DEI and culture on the recruitment process.

June 12, 2023 – Until recent years, executive recruiters would often speak about sourcing candidates who seem to be a good “culture fit” for an organization. The idea behind it was that potential hires who were aligned with the look and feel of the existing culture would easily assimilate into it, and would require less time to ramp up and be productive. There was also, perhaps, an underlying feeling that candidates who were a good “culture fit” for an organization would be less prone to “rock the boat,” suiting the needs of upper management. Looking back, those notions seem antiquated because recruiting strategies based around them resulted in hiring people who looked, spoke, and acted like their soon-to-be colleagues, according to Candace Nortey, managing director of DEI at Slone Partners.

“Internal referrals held sway, so the talent pool was concentrated amongst a relatively small circle of people and their networks,” she said. “Workplace culture was defined as the status quo, and hiring strategies were based on maintaining it. We realize today that those strategies are counter-productive and antithetical to the idea of building a stronger, more resilient, and more profitable company by creating a diverse, multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary workforce replete with a range of talents and perspectives and devoid of blind spots and deficiencies. This is also a workforce that more accurately reflects the complexion of the general population and the company’s intended consumer base.”

For certain, the cultivation in recent years of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies, programs, and initiatives in the workplace is impacting the ways that firms like Slone Partners collaborate with their client partners to recruit and retain top talent. “We now talk about how candidates need to be culturally additive to an organization, in short, a culture add,” Ms. Nortey said. “We seek out those prospects who will not only fill skill gaps, but also bring with them different and unique backgrounds and outlooks that will expand and inform the emotional, intellectual, and productivity capacities of an organization in a holistic way.”

We know now just how valuable DEI can be for business. Studies have shown that companies with significantly more racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to outperform their competitors, and inclusive companies are 1.7 times more innovative and 120 percent more likely to hit their financial goals. Diverse decision-making teams deliver 60 percent better results. Forward-thinking organizations are well aware that 83 percent of millennials employed at companies that support DEI initiatives report being actively engaged in their work.

Ms. Nortey says that research is inspiring business leaders and their teams to pay close attention to their DEI policies and goals and is pushing recruiters to implement strategies that will result in successful diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes. Ms. Nortey recently joined Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss five distinct ways that DEI is influencing the approaches behind recruiting and retaining talent in healthcare and the life sciences:

1. Crafting Inclusive Job Descriptions

HR departments and their recruiters are paying much closer attention to the language they use when crafting job descriptions in order to appeal to the largest pool of candidates, and to provide potential candidates from all backgrounds a fair chance at being considered regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity, according to Ms. Nortey. “By scrubbing from job descriptions words and phrases that seem exclusive to people from certain groups, recruiters are casting a wider net,” she said. “This includes educational qualifications. Advanced degrees may be an essential prerequisite for consideration for certain positions, but not all. Relevant experience and knowledge should be equally considered, as should an individual’s potential for growth and development. This is an area of increased focus for companies and their executive recruiting partners who understand that one’s record of past performance is not necessarily a predictor of one’s future success.”

2. Leveraging New and Previously Untapped Networks

The desire to diversify workplaces has enlightened recruiters of the need to expand their scope of vision by seeking candidates from outside traditional homogenous networks. That means tapping into national organizations that track workplace race/ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and military status, and engaging historically black colleges and universities’ (HBCU) career centers and professional LGBTQ+ organizations. “Social media can be an especially powerful tool to amplify the reach and appeal of job postings and elicit interest from people from historically underrepresented communities who have had little or no previous familiarity with the company,” Ms. Nortey said. “LinkedIn and other career sites can also be powerful resources when leveraged appropriately to reach new and wider audiences. It is also critical for organizations to leverage the relationships and networks of existing diverse employees to further amplify the scope and impact of outreach to potential candidates.”

3. Promoting Equitable Compensation Practices

Historic pay gaps between different gender, racial, or ethnic groups are often due to systemic unequal access to career advancement opportunities and/or biases during the hiring and/or negotiation processes, says Ms. Nortey. “To ensure equity and fairness in salary practices, employers should strive for compensation consistency based on functions and experience and perform regular compensation audits to ensure compliance with pay equity principles,” she said. “Complete transparency around and alliance with company-wide salary grade levels is essential to maintaining a fair and equitable workplace culture.”

Candace Nortey is a strategic planner, consultant, innovator, and executive trainer who serves as Slone Partners’ managing director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. In her role, she manages Slone Partners’ extensive line of DEI services and programs, including strategic planning, education and training, and leadership coaching to help companies build and sustain impactful DEI policies and practices. Ms. Nortey also provides operational support for the company’s ENVISION mentorship program, connecting students from underrepresented communities with accomplished professionals in the life sciences industry.

“No company wants to be called out in the media for having a top executive paid 100 times higher than a lower-level employee,” Ms. Nortey said. “So, it behooves organizations to establish goals for across-the-board fairness and alignment with industry best practices.”

4. Cultivating an Inclusive Culture

Recruiting and hiring a diverse set of employees is just one step toward creating an organization whose people and teams can achieve their full potential. Ms. Nortey notes that the next step, and a critical one, is the cultivation of a truly inclusive culture. “This is particularly true in the life sciences and healthcare where strong, healthy, and inclusive cultures nurture collaboration, creativity, innovation, and inspiration – the essential ingredients for product development, effective marketing strategies, and business growth,” she said. “By fostering workplace cultures where employees feel safe, empowered, respected, and heard, companies earn the reputation of being a great place to work. This opens the door to attracting and retaining talented professionals who want to work for a highly functional, people-focused, mission-driven organization and who might otherwise be tempted to work for a different company with a more familiar brand name that offers larger salaries and better benefits.”

Related: The Importance of Culture on Today’s Businesses

The creation of an inclusive culture isn’t accidental; it is intentional, and it involves the commitment of all members of the leadership team, Ms. Nortey notes. “In building a strong and healthy workplace culture, organizations are telling their teams that they are valued and that their leaders want them to develop, grow, succeed, and be happy,” she said. “Research shows that strong healthy cultures help teams bond and collaborate in an environment where taking risks are encouraged, it’s okay to make mistakes, and differences are embraced. These factors are at the heart of creating psychological safety in the workplace. It’s about getting the most out of people by giving them the foundation of support they need and the runway to excel. The research also shows that strong healthy workplace cultures enhance productivity, improve communication and problem-solving, and ultimately boost a company’s bottom line.”

5. Supporting Diversity Initiatives

As part of the process of nurturing talent in an inclusive culture, Ms. Nortey says that organizations must create and support diversity initiatives that demonstrate the value they place on their people and on the different strengths they bring to the enterprise. “These initiatives can be office-based, like culture clubs, affinity groups, ERGs, rewards and recognition programs, and mentorship or internship programs, and they can also take the form of support for diversity-focused community-based organizations,” she said. “Allowing employees paid time off to volunteer for such organizations is one important way that companies can demonstrate they believe in the work that they do and in the value that their employees bring to them. It is also a way for companies to demonstrate the value they place on their communities and their commitment to invest in them, and their desire to create new and better opportunities for residents from historically underserved neighborhoods.”

Ms. Nortey told Hunt Scanlon that organizations that have traditionally built upon core values like trust, accountability, and integrity are now adopting new values like diversity, equity, and inclusion to demonstrate their evolving cultural awareness. She notes that by developing hiring and recruiting strategies that reflect those values, companies are more sufficiently enabled to build the leadership teams they need to edge out their competitors and succeed in the 21st century.

“It is no longer the case that recruiters are seeking out likeminded candidates who will simply fit the mold,” said Ms. Nortey. “They are seeking out disruptors and innovators, people who bring in fresh ideas, different perspectives, and new ways of thinking that will challenge conventional wisdom and push the enterprise forward on all cylinders. What they add to the culture are those intangibles that will make a significant difference in the C-suite and a potentially game-changing impact in the marketplace.”

Related: How Slone Partners Built a Strong Healthy Culture as an All-Remote Company

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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