By Nathan Resnick
Avoid common pitfalls that hinder the acquisition and retention of diverse talent.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives have become increasingly commonplace for large and small enterprises alike. But, all too often, even the most well-intentioned companies struggle to create a truly diverse workforce.
In fact, research has found that the unemployment rate for Black and Hispanic populations in the United States is well above the national average. Women represent just 24% of C-suite leadership, a percentage that falls far below their share of the workforce as a whole.
Part of the problem stems from diversity hiring missteps that many well-intentioned organizations continue to make. By identifying and correcting common roadblocks to building a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment, companies can attract more diverse talent and enjoy the results of their skills and insights.
1. Eliminate exclusionary language in job descriptions
Quite often, hiring problems begin with the job descriptions that companies circulate online. A study by Openreach found that biased language in job descriptions was a major deterrent to female candidates, whereas changing the language to remove such bias increased women’s interest in the role by more than 200%.
Quite often, exclusionary language isn’t inherently obvious to the person writing the job description. The use of active or passive language, descriptions of required skills, and the use of gendered phrases can have a major influence on whether women and minorities apply for a position. Even specific career names, such as “engineering,” have gendered stereotypes that could deter diverse candidates.
Tools such as Gender Decoder and Applied Text Analysis are easy-to-use platforms for identifying and adjusting biased language in job descriptions. Words that are heavily masculine-oriented, such as “aggressive,” “analytical,” or “rock star,” should be eliminated entirely.
2. Remove unconscious bias among leadership and recruiters
Unconscious bias often plays a major role in whom an organization decides to interview or hire. Many people are prone to affinity bias, where we naturally desire to surround ourselves with people who look and think like we do. This too easily can lead to a homogenous workforce without leadership even realizing it.
Blind resumes that remove identifying information that may reveal a candidate’s minority status have been found to help increase the diversity of applicants who might otherwise not be called in for an interview. But unconscious bias can rear its head again as candidates are called in for interviews.
“When moving forward into the interview process, consider implementing structured interviews. These help reduce bias by giving each candidate the same set of questions,” writes Ilit Raz, the CEO of Joonko, an automated diversity recruiting solution. “This ensures equitable treatment across the board and gives everyone the same chance to shine.”
She adds, “You may also want to consider conducting blind interviews or even blind hiring. In the world of diversity sourcing and diversity hiring, consistency is key. It is vital to give every applicant the same consideration, attention, and opportunities.”
Many organizations can also benefit by undergoing unconscious bias training, which helps individuals at all levels of the company to be better equipped to recognize and correct biases that could interfere with DE&I goals.
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3. Foster an inclusive company culture
Attracting diverse candidates is an important first step, but when enterprises don’t follow this up by providing an inclusive work culture, it can create a toxic environment that drives away underrepresented talent.
To help foster an inclusive culture and strengthen DE&I initiatives, many organizations form inclusion councils. According to Jennifer Brown, author of Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change, these groups aim to increase accountability by identifying potential shortcomings in the work culture; setting quantifiable goals to hire, retain, and advance a diverse workforce; and reporting the results of their work to management.
Of course, business leaders have the responsibility to listen to and respond to suggestions and feedback from inclusion councils and their diverse employees. Acting on feedback is what helps build trust and allows employees to feel valued at work, even if mistakes were made earlier on.
4. Look to diverse platforms when hiring
Even after taking these steps, some organizations may find that they simply aren’t getting as many diverse job applicants as they’d like. While this may indicate ongoing issues with company culture, unconscious bias during interviews, or problematic language in job descriptions, it could simply stem from not looking in the right places to find diverse talent.
Research has found that when half of the candidates for an open position are non-white or female, there is a 50-50 chance of a diverse candidate being selected; when there is only one underrepresented individual in the pool of finalists, they are almost never hired. By simply increasing the number of diverse candidates you get for an opening in the first place, you become far more likely to diversify your hiring.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using LinkedIn or Indeed to find job candidates, organizations can be better served by connecting with professional organizations that are specifically designed to serve underrepresented groups. Examples include the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR) and the Asian American Business Development Center (AABDC).
In addition to industry-specific groups, diversity hiring platforms can make it easier to source underrepresented talent.
Give diversity more than just lip service when you hire
While an ever-increasing number of organizations are talking the talk when it comes to building diverse workforces, far fewer are actually walking the walk.
However, by following these guidelines and avoiding common pitfalls that hinder the acquisition and retention of diverse talent, well-intentioned companies can ensure that their diversity recruiting efforts actually bear fruit.
About the Author
Nathan Resnick is the CEO of Sourcify, the fastest growing sourcing platform backed by YCombinator that helps hundreds of companies manufacture products around the world. See all his articles and full bio on AllBusiness.com.