As we’ve seen in recent years, even the most well-meaning or well-funded attempts to improve diversity numbers can come up against a brick wall and wind up with little to show for it. Many companies struggle to turn intent into results, and many of the world’s foremost organizations have acknowledged that fact. Yet many others still insist that they are too busy for diversity initiatives.
During his appearance on Hiring On All Cylinders last month, Pandora’s Marvin Stickel chatted about his successes and challenges implementing a sourcing diversity program at Google. After experiencing considerable success on his team, they took a step back to look at Google’s overall numbers and realized they had not actually made a dent, percentage wise. As Stickel explains, it was a deflating moment. Despite their success at a team level, translating that success to a company-wide initiative remained elusive.
Diversity is a competitive advantage. Yet many of the companies that genuinely tried to build a diverse company miss their goal. It all begs the question, can hiring candidates with diverse backgrounds be achieved at scale? And if so, how can more organizations achieve true diversity?
The answer, of course, is yes. Here's how.
Engage First, Then Enact
It’s difficult to figure out how to do something if you’re not certain why it matters. Too many organizations follow a top-down approach to diversity that focuses on mandatory diversity trainings, job tests, and grievance systems designed to protect the company from getting sued. The problem is, diversity through coercion doesn’t work. Worse, it backfires, because it alienates the very people at your company that you need to actually make an impact and makes diversity sound like eating your vegetables.
Positive messaging is a far more effective strategy, especially by engaging employees desires to help the company. Instead of saying “You need to interview more diverse candidates”, say “Help us achieve finding people from more varied backgrounds.” Rather than mandatory trainings, create voluntary education sessions about the value of diversity. The key is to make your current employees feel like they are part of the process, not merely subject to it. That’s when you’ll get the buy-in you need to make diversity hiring a company-wide imperative.
Start With Your Pipeline
First things first, are you tracking candidates for diversity? If not, do it! You can’t do much without good data. Things can get thorny here, since you don’t want to misidentify anyone, but simply adding a self-reporting options to your application can do the trick.
One tip, also track candidate education levels and which higher ed institutions they are from. It will help you further map out your candidate pool to learn if your team historically. Now, understanding that these numbers are approximate, compare them to the demographics of your staff (you can do a similar self-reporting study for them, too), and then compare them to the greater demographics of your city, region, state and country.
Odds are that your numbers will be lagging your surrounding community. That’s okay. You’ve gotta start somewhere. The bottom line is this: If you aren’t getting enough candidates at the top of your recruiting funnel, you’re never going to make enough hires to move the needle. That means you need strategies for identifying and pursuing a more holistic talent pool. Here are some suggestions: Create a college recruiting or internship program focused on underrepresented groups or collaborate with local nonprofits to reach out to more people from underrepresented groups in your local communities.
Creating these kinds of focused, specific pipeline strategies is an absolute must. It introduces you to other stakeholders near you invested in diversifying workforces and it helps you find people outside your typical talent streams.
Start Small, Then Expand
Specific goals are essential. Once you have a baseline, create specific, escalating targets for each quarter and incentivize your hiring teams to find, interview and hire candidates from underrepresented communities. Regularly review progress with your team and analyze any roadblocks or challenges that arise. Attack problems together to ensure that the responsibility for sourcing, recruiting or hiring diverse candidates belongs to the entire team, not just a few people.
By creating smaller more readily achievable goals, you offer your team the opportunity to develop innovative tactics and effective best practices that can be shared with one another.
Here’s a handful of good ways to start:
Create a mentoring program pairing managers with new hires or interns. This creates important links between senior managers and junior employees that leads to more equitable promotions and professional development in the medium and long term.
Develop a program where managers and contributors from separate teams have lunch together. Studies show that giving individuals the chance to engage with people they don’t normally engage with makes them more open to difference in general.
Create a diversity task force to look at the company’s diversity statistics and evaluate bottlenecks and points of failure. This builds greater social accountability across the organization and empowers team members to lead the push for greater diversity.
Each of these initiatives help drive greater awareness, exposure and accountability throughout the organization, which has a measurable effect on employee’s openness to the cause and value of diversity. As your team’s aptitude and openness improves over time, escalating goals and targets will allow them to scale their efforts at a reasonable clip, while also keeping them motivated.
If you’re part of a large company, it makes sense to have managers meet to compare results and notes. Managers of high-achieving teams can explain their approaches to specific problems and those tactics can be circulate throughout your recruiting organization. By maintaining separate units all working on the same problems, you’ll see the development of different tactics to find, recruit and hire candidates from underrepresented communities. Then, by blending together all of the best tips and tricks, your entire organization will benefit.
Preach and Practice
Don’t be shy about your commitment to diversity. Enterprise communications company Slack has been shouting about their efforts from the rooftops at every opportunity. Why? Because it tells the world that they’re invested in growing a workforce that reflects the world around us. From their CEO on down, Slack is open about their successes and their challenges creating a diverse team. It’s an admirable approach, and it works.
Slack’s diversity numbers are among the best in tech, and their employer (and consumer) brand has flourished. Concrete policies must be implemented at every level to actually generate meaningful results. For instance, Slack adopted a Rooney Rule for senior leadership roles to drive more diverse hires. But it can also be a matter of promoting from within. Studies show that organizations with women in visible leadership roles receive more female job applicants. Not sure how to make that happen? Mentorship programs are another proven way to make leadership more diverse.
Stick It Out
Nothing happens overnight in recruiting, and diversity initiatives are no different. The one thing absolutely necessary above all other things, is that your commitment to diversity has to be lasting, because it’s a process that takes time. Monthly, quarterly, and annual reviews of your strategies and their effects will drive scalability.
Achieving true scale will take years, if not decades, which is why nurturing diversity at all levels is so important. Your program must target professionals at every career stage, from entry level to experienced. Not only that, but creating and sustaining a diverse environment means retaining the talent you have, promoting from within and allowing diverse networks to flourish. That can’t happen if minorities within your organization feel isolated, alone or otherwise sidelined.
You’ll have hiccups and bumps along the road, and there will certainly be almost always be people within your organization who think focusing on diversity is a waste of time and money. It all comes with the territory. The more success you have, the more support you’ll have and that’s when things really get fun.