How to develop and maintain a focus on diversity in hiring
Over the past few years, diversity and inclusion have entered an increasing number of business strategies. There has been a hyper-focus on bringing diverse talent into businesses, often accompanied by bias training and the attempt to remove bias from recruitment processes. These are all important pieces of the puzzle and can lead to a successful outcome of increasing diversity in your company - but only when they sit within a wider EDI strategy that is anchored in targets that get measured, tracked and adjusted regularly can you expect lasting change.
However, little is talked about how to maintain a high-quality diverse recruitment process. How can we ensure a consistent focus on diversity in hiring even if the urgency decreases or other topics rise to the top of the priority list?
After all, humans are creatures of habit. Whilst a focused approach on recruiting for diversity can lead to different results for a period of time, there is a risk of reverting to old patterns once the target is reached or in sight. This can be the beginning of a reverse trend - a deprioritisation of the topic. If a diverse hire decides to quit or move on, and the recruitment focus has reverted to old patterns, then there is a risk that you have to start from the beginning.
Being consistent and embedding a diverse and inclusive recruitment strategy pays off in the long term as it will save time, effort and recruitment fees.
To embed an inclusive recruitment process long-term, there are two crucial stages that we recommend to every recruitment team:
Process review and update
- Process review and update
- Process maintenance
Analysis and reflection:
First of all, you need to understand the current situation and decide what you want and need to achieve.
Commitment and communication:
- Check your recruitment process: does it reflect your company’s current needs and ambitions?
- What are the diversity targets your company gets measured on or has committed to?
- Have you conducted a thorough needs or requirement analysis for the role? What are the crucial skills and qualifications for the role, and which attributes are nice to have but risk limiting the diversity of the talent pool?
- What can you do to increase the range of talent in a recruitment process?
- At which stages of your recruitment process do you rely on human decision-making - is there a way to improve this system by simplifying the process and building in more checks and balances to rely on data rather than individual judgement?
- Do you need to make any adjustments to the existing process?
- Do you have buy-in from the key decision-makers in your firm to kick this change process off?
Recruitment is a complex web of process steps moving between identifying, attracting and retaining talent. If you are serious about increasing the range of diverse talent in the business, levelling the playing field for candidates from minority backgrounds at all stages is crucial.
Be prepared to:
Review your recruitment process for bias:
- Tell people why you are doing this and why it matters. This is crucial to create acceptance for a different talent pool to enter the organisation.
- Make adjustments to your existing processes. This might mean running a campaign to demonstrate the need for change with relevant stakeholders.
- Have uncomfortable conversations with people who resist the change or prefer the status quo.
The more you can simplify and systematise your process, relying on individual data points rather than your memory or impressions, the better the outcome will be in terms of skills and fit for the role.
Widening the funnel:
- Ensure diversity in the hiring panel
- Assign clear roles and responsibilities throughout the process
- Be transparent with your candidates about process steps
- Prepare for structured rather than conversational interviews
- Define a simple scoring and record-keeping system for better comparability between candidates
- Never make a decision based on someone’s “gut feeling”. Instead, discuss the final candidates, taking scores and feedback into account as a group (hiring panel)
- Final hiring decisions should be made by the hiring panel - not one single person
“There are not many women / ethnic minority candidates who have the credentials we are looking for in this industry.” “We always hire the best, there is not much diversity that makes the cut.” Sounds familiar? We have all heard this statement in a variety of guises time and time again. It is a defensive statement, which means you care more about maintaining the status quo rather than investing time and effort into creating a potentially better outcome. This is a classic case of loss aversion bias. Holding on to something even though the alternative outcome is statistically proven to be better.
Committing to diversity means:
Be ambitious but realistic:
- Challenging your understanding of the current system
- Daring to innovate
- Adapting existing processes for an optimised, different outcome
What is the target? What does a balanced talent pool look like for your firm? Naturally, some roles or levels of seniority are harder to fill with equal numbers of candidates of both genders, for example.
- Consistency is key. Every job opening is an opportunity to re-balance your workforce. Set a diversity target for all processes and treat them equally to embed new process structures and habits
- Set realistic and sensible targets to avoid frustration and risk of retaliation
Diverse talent is by definition harder to attract for a number of reasons.
Forget about shortcuts:
- Plan for extra time, effort and resources if you want to attract diverse talent to your business or are asked to achieve a diverse hiring target
- The combination of time pressure and diverse hiring targets is dangerous as the risk increases that unqualified talent enters the process. This never goes well and you risk disgruntling existing team members.
Go beyond the well-trodden path (universities, high potential programs etc.) as this leads to a very narrow talent pool.
- Be open to flexing your search criteria - what are the actual needs for the role, which skills are crucial and why can they not be found at different universities, for example?
- Allow for a wider funnel of talent to enter the process. A larger talent pool increases diversity by design, as well as the chances for diverse talent to actually be successful.
Traditional ad-hoc recruitment processes defined by a narrow time window and occurring only when the need arises, encourage biased decision-making. When time is scarce we tend to fall back into default mode, reach out to our usual, “reliable sources” to obtain recommendations, and turn to tested and proven talent pools. This will not lead to surprising numbers of diverse candidates entering the process.
Investing in creating a diverse network pays off in a number of ways:
- Partnerships with diverse networks and initiatives are a good way to increase your network for the long term and inspire new ways of thinking
- Depending on the roles you recruit for, there may be “diverse feeder” programs to keep supply up. For the Venture Capital industry, Diversity VC’s internship program Future VC is a good example
- Promoting your work with diverse networks sends a message into the market that you are opening the doors for diverse talent. This has the effect that diverse talent feels more welcome and wanted at your firm, and might inspire those to reach out who would previously not have seen a place for themselves at your company
- Make an effort to reach out to a diverse network to source talent recommendations: Using the same network of people will lead to the same results and recommendations. The reason behind this is the “like-me bias”. People tend to refer to people that look and sound like themselves, whose behaviours and communication styles they understand. To achieve diverse referrals you have to ask a diverse group of people to access their diverse networks
Now that you have some of the building blocks in place to be able to identify and attract diverse talent, the challenge is to uphold the new process steps and embed them into your day-to-day routines.
In the second part of this series, I will write more about process maintenance.