Advertising and technology clients often ask me how they can build a more diverse workplace. Their intentions are sincere but they’re not sure how to act on them. Here are some potential tactics, but you also need to take a hard look at your culture to make sure that you are ready to support all of your employees and root out any hidden biases.
Please add any other ideas that have worked for you in the comments section.
1. Set quantifiable goals for diverse hiring for 2018. How many people will you hire? How many of them will be women? How many will be people of color? Those should be separate goals – hiring white women doesn’t increase your overall diversity. Tell your workforce about these goals, make sure your HR team and your recruiters know about them, then check in every quarter to see how you’re doing.
2. Use a checklist with numerical values to assess potential candidates. If you don’t have one, then develop one. List every skill and quality you want in candidates and assign numerical values to each of them. Include a value for being female and a value for being a person of color. Too often, diverse candidates are excluded for subjective reasons: “I don’t think she’ll be able to handle the workload” or “he just doesn’t really fit with the culture.” Those ideas can conceal biases that you may not even know you have. What some people call a gut feeling about whether or not someone “fits” in the culture can also be bias or discomfort about working with someone who is different. The more objective your criteria, the better your chance of weeding out bias.
3. The goal is to create a culture where you can not only attract but retain women and people of color, where all employees can thrive. Develop policies that support women and people of color, including generous parental leave, mentoring programs, internships for women and people of color, and paid internships or scholarships to help economically disadvantaged people participate. If you already have these programs, then make sure that they’re on your Careers page. You won’t gain traction until and unless you have the culture and infrastructure to truly support a diverse workforce.
4. If you think that the pipeline for qualified women and people of color is slim, get proactive. a. Connect with colleges and universities in your area; teach a class, speak to groups for women engineers or students of color or host an open house for them.
b. Go to job fairs and conferences geared to a diverse audience; sponsor, speak, set up a table, network.
c. Have women and people of color from your company give presentations and participate in panel discussions, especially those aimed at a diverse audience or students, or actively participate in online forums or groups.
5. Most of all, embrace discomfort. Telling a recruiter who only brings in white candidates to try again can be uncomfortable. You may get pushback when you choose a candidate of color over a white candidate or someone may fling “affirmative action” at you like an insult. Any talk about race can be uncomfortable. It may feel odd to say I want half of our interns to be people of color. But if you can’t talk about race and gender yourself, or with management, or with your HR and recruiting staff, then you’ll never get a diverse team.
The discomfort, the adjustments, and the changes in goals and policy are worth it. New perspectives and experiences enhance your creative work, intellectual property, and process, so you’re not just investing in your staff, but in the long-term success of your business.
The bottom line is that diversity is good for the bottom line.