The following article discussing workforce diversity was originally published in October of 2015. It has since been updated to reflect new and improved statistics on building a diverse workforce as of October 2017. For more information about any of the topics mentioned, take a look at these related articles:
- How to Balance Cultural Fit with Diversity
- 12 Diversity Hiring Statistics That Will Make You Think
- 8 Things You Can't Miss About Employer Branding Before 2015 Ends
Higher revenue, better job performance, a more trusted employer brand, and increased customer base are just a few of the benefits of a diverse workforce. Not to mention, according to Glassdoor’s 2015 Top 50 HR and Recruiting stats, 67% of active and passive job seekers say a diverse workforce is important to them when evaluating companies or job offers. The need for companies to diversify their workforce continues to grow. It’s not just about what’s the right thing to do. It’s about nurturing a brand that will attract the best employees to your company before your competitors do.
It’s been a long struggle for companies to build a diverse workforce. Though women make up over 50% of the workforce, only 14.2% of women hold leadership roles at companies in the S&P 500. There are only 4 black CEOs within the Fortune 500 companies, a number that was once as high as 12. It might not be for lack of trying, but, clearly, diverse recruitment strategies need to be re-examined. Perhaps the strategies themselves need a little bit of diversification. If companies want to attract the best talent and reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, they should take a look at what they’re currently doing and integrate some (or all) of these tactics.
In 2016: Women currently hold 23 (4.6%) of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.
#1. Up the Ante on Diversity Branding.
As diversity issues are being put to the test in what has been referred to as the New Civil Rights Movement, everyone’s actions, especially employers, are being put under the microscope. For this reason, employers would be wise to integrate diversity into their employer brand. Ways employers can integrate diversity into their branding include:
- Build up diversity content on the Careers Page by including things like a diversity mission statement, diversity images and any diversity awards.
- Use social media to spread the word about your diversity efforts. Share pictures from any diversity events, anything that shows what kind of efforts the company is making.
- Update print materials to embody a diversified company. This could include workforce demographic statistics, related images and information about employee resource groups.
To be seen as a diverse company, diversity has to be genuinely woven throughout the entire company. Otherwise, efforts could be interpreted as hollow and ingenuine. For companies that don’t have a diverse workforce yet, projecting a diverse image will be challenging. A great place to start is to emphasize how your brand values community and functions much like one. It should be made apparent that the company’s culture is open to diversity and seeking new perspectives and ideas. If the company's employee demographic isn’t diversified there’s a possibility that the culture doesn’t express interest in the idea. Use job seeker trends to help shape your employer brand. In the meantime, work to develop a diverse workforce by using techniques like the ones discussed throughout the rest of this article!
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#2. Use Keywords to Source for Diverse Candidates.
Recent research reveals that many existing job titles and job descriptions are crafted with overly-masculine terms which can drive away female candidates. For example, the masculine word determined is not as receptive to women as the word dedicated. The same research found that altering the vocabulary to more feminine terms had virtually no influence on men’s decision to apply.
According to a recent study on how vocabulary affects diversity in recruiting, masculinely-worded online job ads were less than half as appealing to female participants as femininely-worded ads. The same study revealed that ads for stereotypically male-occupied jobs, are made up almost entirely (about 99%) of masculine words. If you’re a company that wants to reach more female candidates, try using words like cooperative, honest, loyal and understanding in your job postings and avoid phrases like “requirements” which can drive away women that don’t meet them 100%. Avoid masculine words like competitive, confident, and outspoken. Look at this study for even more examples.
LinkedIn is one of the most effective ways to recruit great candidates. According to a recent survey, there are over 10 million jobs posted on LinkedIn as of July 20th, 2017. They provide employers with steps on how to maximize keywords to find diverse talent. Here are ways you can take advantage of this resource to help you recruit diverse candidates:
A: You can pick and choose which keywords will maximize diversity sourcing efforts. Build them into your recruiter search strings to narrow down which kind of applicants you want to connect with. For example, if you want to attract female candidates, add professional women’s organizations and schools to your keyword search like “American Business Women’s Association.” To find minority candidates you could add, “LGBT in higher ed,” or, “Blacks in higher ed,” and so on.
B: Build relationships with diverse candidates by joining diverse groups on LinkedIn. After a relationship is established, you can start to post relevant jobs to the groups that most closely match the target demographic.
C: Establish contact with school campus groups such as sororities, organizations and clubs that embody or promote diversity. Using LinkedIn to connect shows these academic groups that this is a legitimate and professional relationship being made. Having these connections opens up a world of opportunities for collaboration. It could be in the form of directly recruiting individuals, offering your company to assist with school initiatives or simply to gain exposure and influence to a diverse audience.
#3. Breed a Culture of Diversity.
Even the best diversity efforts will be lost on companies that don’t breed a workforce that invites and supports diversity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the technology industry. In a recent study done on 716 women in the tech industry, respondents left their technical jobs for a variety of reasons like issues with maternity leave policies, flexible work issues and not enough pay to cover childcare costs.
27% of respondents cited discrimination related to their gender, race, ethnicity or sexuality as the reason they not only quit their jobs, but exited the industry altogether. In fact, 87% of all the respondents said they would never return to the tech industry. This shows that not having a culture that accepts and supports diversity doesn’t just negatively impact turnover, but damages how employers (or entire industries) are perceived by diverse workers. Ways to help nurture a receptive, diverse workforce include:
- Diversity training that teaches employees how to embrace diversity through inclusion efforts and team dynamic exercises is critical to developing a culture of diversity. Accenture is one example of a company that covers many different elements of diversity by offering a variety of diversity training outlets that include: employee resource groups, ethnic training and cross-cultural training.
- Unconscious bias training initiatives should be explored like Unitive, which is a technology capable of catching unconscious bias before it can do any damage. It tracks things like job descriptions, resume screenings and performance reviews as they are being created to detect biased wording and any biases that are irrelevant to whether or not the person being reviewed can do the job.
- Reinforcement by leadership, particularly CEOs, should be made. For example, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich spoke out about a $125 million dollar investment the company is putting towards diversity initiatives saying, “You have to build the whole ecosystem.” His efforts show that the company recognizes the value in diversity, the importance of the entire organization embodying diversity, and that they are taking significant steps to remedy it.
For more examples, Great Place to Work and Fortune recently compiled a list of 2016’s Best Workplaces for Diversity. According to Fortune, the 50 companies on the 2016 Best Workplaces for Diversity list average 24% higher year-over-year revenue growth than non-list winners. A true focus on inclusivity and the development of a diverse workforce can help a company build sustainable growth. The article additionally presents several practices members of the list executed to deserve their ranking.
- (Michael Bush, Kim Peters, 2016)
- Create employer resource groups for different communities that hold regular events and advocate for diversity awareness
- Provide training on cultural sensitivity and recognizing unconscious bias
- Use suppliers that also are committed to diversity and inclusion
- Seek to improve diversity in recruiting and their talent pipeline through partnerships and scholarships
The unfortunate truth is that the fight for diversity in the workplace isn’t universally pursued. Often companies will diversify just to avoid criticism or not do anything at all. In 2017, 400 of the Fortune 500 provided no data on the gender and ethnicity of their employees to Fortune. Furthermore, only 16 of the 100 revealed all of their data. But as previously mentioned, every company on the 2016 Best Workplaces for Diversity list has had higher revenue growth each year. 12 of the companies on the list also are ranked as Fortune 500 companies themselves.
A diverse workforce can’t be defined as the sole factor to a company’s success, but it is apparent that there are benefits to having multiple perspectives and personalities in a workplace. It is equally apparent that a diverse workforce can be a noticeable differentiating factor for a company. Job seekers will look for a workplace atmosphere that they are comfortable in. As the internet continues to shrink the world, they will be more aware of what diversity means to a company before even applying.
#4. Collaborate with Colleges.
Companies can partner with schools that have large minority numbers to establish a solid source of recruiting. The National Association of Colleges and Employers provides diversity resources to employers such as a list of minority institutions and diversity statistics for minority schools. Employers can seek out these groups to form meaningful and equally beneficial relationships.
In addition to creating a more diverse workforce, close collaboration with colleges can result in the development of a young workforce that is better tailored toward fulfilling the needs of the company. With students, it is easy to position them to provide fresh eyes to longstanding tasks or problems. Project sourcing or internships are both simple ways of getting new people in an office and immediately diversifying the workforce.
Pepsico is a wonderful example of this initiative. They participate in on-campus recruiting at some of the countries most minority-permeated schools. In fact, they are lead sponsors in 5 different diversity recruiting conferences. In 2014, 35% of Pepsico’s workforce were people of color and 19% were women. Not only do they have significantly high diversity numbers (compared to other big companies anyway), but their Board of Directors is comprised of 27% women and 36% people of color. Not to mention that their CEO, Indra Nooyi, is an Indian American woman. Take some hints from a company with a solid diversity strategy.
#5. Explore Emerging Recruiting Methods.
As job seeker trends evolve, so do recruitment methods. Many new solutions cater not only to job seeker trends, but to diversity recruitment. Employers should consider these types of methods:
- “Blind Interviews” are becoming more popular as a need for diversity and unbiased hiring decisions is growing. GapJumpers is a new type of job board that allows employers to recruit applicants by posting projects for them to complete before meeting them. An applicant can view all the projects and choose which one sounds like the best fit for them, all without having to see or speak to an interviewer.
- Mobile ticketing platform company, Bytemark, recently transformed their recruiting process to be completely anonymous. Candidates have to make it through two initial interviews on instant messenger before they are brought in for a formal face to face. During these interview stages, their name isn’t even disclosed to the company.
- Now that attitude and work values have become more heavily weighted factors when hiring, companies recognize that skills are much easier to teach than attitude. So why not focus this same principle on acquiring diverse candidates? Seek out the desired target candidates and build up diversity by training them internally for the job at hand.
What’s beneficial about changing certain recruiting and interviewing methods to be more anonymous is that it diminishes the chances of bias taking over and can provide the candidate with the chance to prove they know how to do the work you are asking of them. Alternatively, grooming diverse candidates to fit the job rather than the other way around can help procure a more diverse workforce.
It seems that no matter how hard some companies try, they don’t seem to be reaching their target demographics in recruiting. One major issue is that diversity recruitment efforts are wasted on companies that don’t have supportive cultures. Whether it’s recruiting methods, culture, or problems with bias, it’s time for companies to look at what they’re doing and make some significant changes.
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As the head of a department in the midst of a sustained period of rapid growth, Sara has spent thousands of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.