Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Hiring: 6 Long & Short-Term Strategies
22 May 2021
"Less than 50% of employees feel that their employer is doing enough to promote diversity"
Companies with ethnically or gender-diverse leadership teams are more likely to outperform others — by 25% and 36% respectively. And companies with a 50:50 gender split across all employees consistently produce a better quality of work than organizations with fewer women.
Since the population as a whole is — by definition — diverse, diverse teams are better aligned with the demographics of the people they serve. This means that employees can better understand their customers’ concerns, desires, and pain points, and can use this knowledge to deliver more effective customer service.
And people from different backgrounds can also bring new perspectives and ideas to the table, resulting in greater innovation for your business.
Despite this, less than 50% of employees feel that their employer is doing enough to promote diversity — which, against a backdrop of social justice movements across the world, is simply no longer acceptable.
Here are six ways you can integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into your hiring strategy.
3 strategies you can implement today
While it’s always important to think of your long-term goals when considering DE&I in your hiring processes, there are some quick-fix solutions you can start using as part of your broader strategy straight away.
1. Update your referral system
Candidates coming from referrals are four times as likely to get hired than other candidates. And well-designed referral programs can be set up to support your diversity goals.
If you have successfully implemented your diversity hiring strategy from the top level, it’s easy to emphasize the importance of DE&I to your employees. Some companies have even found success in offering higher incentives for referring successful candidates from underrepresented groups.
However, it’s important to note that referral schemes have to be handled carefully when it comes to DE&I. Research shows that we’re more likely to recommend people similar to ourselves, so relying entirely on a referral scheme could result in a pretty homogenous team.
2. Leverage events and partnerships
A quick search on Eventbrite will pull up hundreds of events targeting minority groups locally and worldwide — and attending these events can allow you to learn about these groups’ experiences so you can better serve them in your hiring process.
You could also consider having someone from your organization speak at an event, or even hosting one yourself — Meetup is a great platform for this.
Sponsorship, especially of large events, can be expensive but can deliver real results. Sponsors of the largest conference for women in computing, the Grace Hopper conference, get access to CV banks and can network with attendees before and after the event.
It’s also worth looking into partnerships with local nonprofits or community organizations. Through these partnerships, you could organize career days, mentoring, or even internship programs for underrepresented groups.
3. Think about non-traditional career paths
Think of the career path of a typical engineer: a computer science degree and summer internships through college, and then straight into a junior software engineer job. But this path doesn’t look the same for everyone, and you could be missing out on opportunities if you’re only looking at this type of profile.
Although women only make up 14% of engineering jobs in the US, they’re fairly widely represented in STEM fields in general. Graduates of other science subjects like physics or computational biology are often great coders, so looking for candidates with this educational background — followed by engineering or coding roles — can be a great way to increase your gender diversity.
Another option is to consider hiring from coding boot camps, since college courses are often prohibitively expensive for underrepresented groups. These programs equip graduates with the practical skills for a variety of roles. Some of the top coding schools to consider include:
Coding schools offering courses worldwide
US-only coding schools
Lastly, ethnic and gender diversity is much better in students of technology subjects than in the professional tech world. This means that schemes that target students — such as apprenticeship schemes or internship programs — can be a great way to increase diversity if you do it with a specific DE&I target, such as hiring on a 50:50 gender split.
The big picture: 3 longer-term strategies
While the strategies outlined above certainly require work and careful thought, they’re relatively simple to implement.
If you’re serious about bringing about real change to your company’s hiring processes when it comes to DE&I, you need to go further.
The below strategies have the potential to completely revamp your DE&I hiring processes and result in better performance and greater innovation for your company — but they require both time and significant buy-in from your organization’s senior leadership.
Develop your junior talent
Too many companies focus entirely on acquisition when considering their DE&I targets. Instead, create opportunities for advancement for current employees from minority groups. After all, women and people of color comprise 64% of entry-level roles but only 32% of the executive suite.
Instead of focusing solely on tracking representation within your organization, track mobility. This will give you a bird’s-eye view of who’s getting promoted (and who isn’t) and how long this process takes for various groups.
You also need to accurately benchmark so that you can set meaningful and actionable goals. In the past, diversity reports were only released on a company-wide level, which didn’t give much insight into competitors’ DE&I achievements — knowing that 46% of a company’s workforce is black or Hispanic overall isn’t much help if you don’t know where they sit within the organization. However, thanks to new sources such as LinkedIn Insights, you can now track far more nuanced data from tens of millions of workers worldwide.
Lastly, to tap into existing talent within your organization, you need to build talent escalators that allow underrepresented groups to advance. This might mean creating more “feeder” jobs for each role, such as generalist junior roles or internships in specific departments.
You could also look at talent pools that sit adjacent to higher-level roles and determine the skills needed to bridge the gap. This means you can laser-focus your resources on providing the right training where it’s needed.
It’s important to note that building such a ladder isn’t enough on its own — it’s vital that employees understand the paths available to them and what they need to do to advance.
2. Eliminate “othering” of minority groups
Too often, anyone who isn’t white, male, and heterosexual is seen as a “diverse” hire. This is not only a linguistic problem — a person can’t be “diverse”, only a group can — it creates a dangerous “othering” of employees from underrepresented groups. Even worse, employees might see new colleagues as “diversity hires” and value them less.
What’s important isn’t smashing your DE&I hiring targets, but creating an environment where people of all sexes, gender identities, races, sexual orientations, and educational backgrounds can thrive.
Companies who are serious about making meaningful changes need to avoid the temptation of a quick fix, and take real action. For example:
- Start with education. Companies whose senior leadership understands racial inequity and why it persists are much better placed to create truly inclusive environments.
- Use the words you mean. Instead of talking about your “diverse” workforce, talk with specificity and use terms that actually represent your staff, such as black, Hispanic, or gender non-conforming. These terms reflect who your employees are, so it’s important to use them correctly.
- Measure more identifiers. The world is made up of people from hundreds of different races, and grouping them together with terms like POC, BIPOC or ethnic minorities is unuseful at best, and harmful at worst.
- Name and value inclusion. Do this in hiring, performance reviews, and everywhere you can. By specifically calling out the importance of inclusion to your company, you can create an environment where everyone understands its importance.
3. Foster a learning-oriented culture
A study of 19,000 employees by the Harvard Business Review found that one cultural aspect differentiated organizations that ranked highly in terms of DE&I: a learning-oriented culture. Fostering this kind of environment takes time and work, but can deliver valuable results.
These organizations seek out and value individuals with different perspectives, as they can bring fresh ideas to the table. And it’s not hard to see how this can go hand-in-hand with diverse hiring practices.
Leaders should be encouraged to demonstrate a commitment to this approach by holding company-wide conversations on the importance of learning, modeling it in their own behavior, and being open to new ideas, failure, and feedback from their employees.
Many people within an organization can also work to design institutional systems, structures, and processes to support the evolution toward a learning-oriented culture. Recruiters, for example, should consider adjusting hiring and interviewing processes to favor candidates who show curiosity and a desire to learn.
Performance targets and reward systems should also be tied directly to innovation, and employees should be allowed a degree of appropriate risk-taking without fear of reprisal.
Integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion practices into your hiring strategy can be a time-consuming process. And, since simply increasing your workforce’s diversity doesn’t automatically equal improved performance, you might not see results straight away.
But by making DE&I a key part of your overall recruitment strategy, you can pave the way to improved performance, better employee retention, and a boost in innovation for your business.
More importantly, you can create a truly inclusive culture where people of all ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds are empowered and able to thrive.
If you’re interested in learning more about building a more diverse and inclusive workforce, download our ebook “A Guide To Inclusive Hiring Practices” here.
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