A new survey of 1,240 registered voters found 68% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans believe diversity and inclusion should be a priority for companies. The same research, by ROKK Solutions and Penn State’s Smeal College of Business and Center for the Business of Sustainability found an overlap with those who believe that company hiring and promotion practices should be merit-based (71% of Republicans and 65% of Democrats). It’s a debunked narrative that you can’t have one without the other. The talent is out there; it is up to organizations to attract it.
Finding this kind of synergy starts with building an authentic system that expands your diverse talent pipeline. Here’s a four-point plan.
Grow diverse networks for candidate sourcing
Diversifying the talent pipeline lays the foundation for the future of company culture and leadership. Relying heavily on the company’s internal networks to source candidates is only beneficial to a certain degree. Unfortunately, too often, these networks themselves lack diversity, perpetuating a cycle of exclusivity that benefits the majority. One way to expand hiring networks is to leverage internal communities that prioritize an understanding and appreciation of company diversity, such as employee resource or affinity groups.
Citigroup exemplifies a standout approach to diversifying their workforce through their 10 affinities, representing the broad demographics of their employees—Asian Heritage, Black Heritage, Citi Salutes (Military Veterans), Citi Women, Disability: Enabling Diverse Abilities, Generations, Hispanic/Latino Heritage, Multicultural, Parents and Pride (LGBTQ+). Each affinity is co-led by a member of the senior leadership team to ensure that employees at all levels are taking ownership in advancing diversity, enabling them to grow their outreach and networks to attract unique groups of individuals to recruit outside their business.
Modernize hiring announcements
Where and how a company advertises job announcements is critical to attracting a diverse set of candidates and encouraging them to apply to vacant positions. This includes, but is not limited to, posting jobs on a broader set of public forums and collaborating with minority-led associations throughout the recruitment process. Historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and other minority serving institutions can be tremendous resources for hiring officers who are tasked with achieving DEI goals. Similarly, many predominantly white higher education institutions have student organizations that provide student and community support for students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and other marginalized groups. In addition to building cadres of talent across industries and competencies, these organizations can support pipeline and networking programs that help match the right talent with the right job.
In addition to where companies post hiring announcements, it also matters how they structure them. The majority of people we polled (54% over the age of 45, 62% of people under 45) found a hiring announcement to be an impactful way to demonstrate progress, specifically toward diversity. Transparency around an organization’s DEI and merit-based hiring practices in these announcements can be a successful approach to attracting talent that bring both unique backgrounds and skill sets to the table.
Companies like Morgan Stanley, for example, are leading the way for corporate partnerships through their HBCU Scholars Program that includes a career readiness component to prepare students for successful tenures at Morgan Stanley, and in the financial industry, to increase diverse hiring practices at the collegiate level. They also work to identify and support diverse candidates as early as high school, introducing women, ethnically diverse, and LGBTQ+ students to the financial industry by increasing opportunities for broadening the talent pipeline and expanding educational opportunities.
Lean on recruiters with their own DEI strategy
By employing the services of recruiters who have a proven track record on diversity, equity and inclusion, companies can develop a process that helps to identify and address biases at the outset.
Nonprofit organizations like Out & Equal are supporting members of underrepresented communities to create workplace equality, using their network to recruit and promote DEI efforts in the workforce. Out & Equal is partnering with Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to create workplaces that both embrace and celebrate LGBT+ employees, providing executive leadership development, comprehensive diversity and inclusion training, and networking opportunities. Their professional recruiting capabilities, in coordination with companies who are actively seeking out diverse candidates, are making immense strides to foster a culture of inclusivity within the corporate world.
The reality is, many people (48%) feel the speed at which companies are working to address social inequalities is too slow, and would like to see faster action on this issue. Employing recruiters who use tried-and-true tactics that increase diversity, equity, and inclusion among their recruiting pool is a way to efficiently achieve company-wide DEI goals. But it is crucial to understand that qualified diverse candidates exist at every level, so business strategies must go beyond outreach for entry-level positions. Increasing diversity in the top levels of company leadership, especially within their C-level and board positions, is part of a DEI strategy that will reinforce success and foster a culture of inclusivity at all levels. Good recruiters know this and can help an organization achieve it.
Expand interview panels
Once a hiring team has selected candidates, the interview process is pivotal not only for those doing the hiring, but also for the candidate to determine if the company is the right fit for them. If a business only has employees of a certain level, area of concentration, and background interviewing candidates, it detracts from efforts to promote diversity early in the hiring process. Building interview panels with a variety of experiences both inside and outside the company creates opportunities to relate to their potential coworkers, fosters a culture of inclusivity, and increases employer and candidate understanding. Most important, though, this structure also breaks down the traditional hierarchy of HR practices that historically has been more exclusive than inclusive.
A majority of people identified transparency of reporting (63%) as an important governance issue when it comes to companies’ ESG efforts. By including a diverse set of interviewers in the hiring process, the candidate can not only interact with a variety of employees that shape that organization’s culture, but it can also allow companies to put action behind their words. Saying and doing hold a different weight, especially when it comes to DEI issues.
While all of these factors and considerations should be taken into account during the hiring process, progress shouldn’t stop as soon as a candidate is hired. DEI is an ongoing effort that requires companies to apply similar processes to promotions and retention. It’s one thing to acquire a diverse employee base, but it’s another thing to retain one. By fostering diverse talent once they’re in the building, organizations can set them up for success, increase exposure to a diversity of thought, and grow broad support for DEI through feeling the benefits of a more representative team.
Lindsay Singleton is managing director at ROKK Solutions, a bipartisan public affairs and strategic communications agency. Dr. Tessa Recendes is assistant professor of management and organization at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business.