Embracing all forms of diversity
Addressing the many forms of bias
Educating your team
Focus on continuous improvement
Understanding all types of diversity, eliminating bias from all stages of the hiring process, education, and a commitment to continuous improvement are all essential aspects of sustainable DE&I recruitment. A holistic approach to diversity needs to be practiced and understood throughout an organization. Diversity isn’t a project or even a goal, it’s a process that’s tied to a company’s philosophy and values.
When creating a holistic DE&I plan, it’s important to focus on all aspects of diversity, not just one. There are many ways to define what a diversity candidate is - race and gender are the most talked about, but there are many other lenses through which to look at the diversity of your pipeline and workforce. Let's dive in to the types of diversity...
When writing your job requirements, ask yourself if a traditional undergraduate degree is 100% necessary. Universities can be extremely expensive and financially prohibitive for many individuals. According to NASFAA, at least 70% of colleges were unaffordable for lower-income students without taking federal student loans into account. That is a huge percentage of candidates you could be excluding from job opportunities. Additionally, many people need to bypass college in order to work and support their families.
There are many different ways one can educate themselves beyond traditional degrees. Professional boot camps offer an alternative form of learning that is more affordable and often offer perks like individual mentorship and job placement assistance after completion. Candidates also may already have an extensive work history through internships or apprenticeships where they’ve learned through experience rather than formal education.
Gender identity is specified by the individual and may differ from the sex they were assigned at birth. There are many different types of gender identities including but not limited to non-binary, transgender, cisgender, gender fluid, gender transitioning, and non-gendered. The way you might perceive someone’s gender may differ from how they identify.
Always ask candidates their preferred pronouns before making an assumption and share yours as well. Employers can foster a culture that is inclusive of all gender identities by educating their workforce about different gender identity vocabulary and creating Employee Resource Groups to support LGBTQIA+ employees.
A McKinsey study discovered that LGBTQA+ individuals are greatly underrepresented at every stage of the management pipeline. 46% of the LGBTQA+ community in the workforce say they are closeted at work. Most LGBTA+ workers don’t report negative comments or harassment to HR because they feel nothing will be done about it and fear hurting their relationships with co-workers. All people should feel comfortable being their authentic selves while at work.
Employers need to establish serious anti-discrimination policies for both recruitment and promotion practices. LGBTQA+ friendly benefits are important for job seekers. This includes equal benefits for parental leave, adoption leave, and time off to take care of loved ones. Be cautious of the wording used in your benefits plan and aim to always use gender-neutral language.
Ageism occurs when an individual isn’t hired, promoted, or discriminated against because of their age. Ageism can be difficult to spot and many forward-thinking companies assume that ageism doesn’t happen at their organization. To combat ageism, give all employees regardless of their age the same access to learning opportunities.
When it comes to hiring, ensure people of all ages are represented in recruitment marketing. Older employees have a wealth of industry knowledge and experience and can teach and mentor colleagues with less experience. They also bring different perspectives that can help solve business problems creatively.
Including those with differing physical abilities starts with your job descriptions. They should be examined to ensure the use of inclusive language. For instance, does an employee really need to “walk from station to station?” There are many ways an individual can “move station to station” for instance with a wheelchair or scooter. Avoid using condescending terms like challenged, handicapped, and special. Check out this language style guide for more information about using inclusive language for those with disabilities.
One in 42 men and 1 in 189 girls have Autism in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Neurodiversity also includes those with dyslexia, ADHD, social anxiety, among other conditions. Many people with these disorders have higher than average abilities in pattern recognition, memory, and math that make them instrumental to businesses. Along with recruitment practices, benefits, and workplace accommodations should also be improved to include neurodiverse employees.
Diversity in lived experiences recognizes the unique set of challenges each of us faces in our lives that shape how we see the world. Lived experiences vary immensely from individual to individual. Those with certain life experiences are more likely to be subject to discrimination in the workplace. These include but are not limited to military veterans, immigrants, single parents, those who have experienced incarceration, and those with housing or food insecurities.
Don’t discount the benefits a person with a unique background can have on your organization. Avoid requiring a certain number of years of experience that could exclude the right candidate despite them having the right skills. Also, consider career development and leadership pathways that identify high potential individuals that partner with certain ERGs or community groups.
Location is an important part of inclusion as not everyone is able to relocate for work and where your office is located affects the type of candidates you’ll attract. For instance, if your office is located in a predominantly white suburb, your employee base will mostly consist of those from that community.
When choosing a location for a new office make sure it’s easily accessible by public transportation. Consider which roles can be remote or remote flexible so you can attract candidates from different geographic locations and cut down commute times for employees with the option of working from home some days.
A study conducted by the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation discovered that most Fortune 100 companies do not include religious diversity on their DE&I landing pages. This is despite the fact that studies show the world is becoming more religious.
While candidates and employees should not be asked about their religious affiliation, a good approach is to have policies that support followers of all faiths. Tolerance and acceptance of religious views are imperative. This is especially relevant in creating an inclusive work culture. Depending on their faith, many employees may need time off during the day, certain days off, or special accommodations that pertain to their religious beliefs.
Many of our benefits, and protections that exist for legally married couples that do not extend to their single counterparts. These inequalities exist in the workforce as well. Nearly 40% of single people make less than those in couples.
Relationship discrimination exists when an employer prioritizes married employees’ benefits over those of single employees. For example, leaving early, taking vacation time, or time off when a loved one is sick or has passed away. Microaggressions are also common such as asking unmarried individuals when a partner might “pop the question” or asking a single employee about their dating life. It’s an aspect of diversity that is often overlooked.
It’s important to recognize that “diversity” isn’t just checking one of these boxes and leaning into that as much as possible. That will, again, lead to uniform candidate pools and teams. Only ask questions about the above as it pertains to their ability to do the job. In a lot of cases, asking a potential candidate about their relationships and personal beliefs is not only inappropriate – it’s irrelevant.
While incorporating all forms of diversity into your hiring approach, remember not to make assumptions about someone. Most people don't think they have prejudices, but unconscious bias is where these long-established attitudes and tendencies slip in. It’s important to be aware of the different types of bias that can impact hiring decisions, so you build in strategies to counter each of these types of bias.
Affinity Bias leads us to gravitate towards candidates with similar backgrounds, beliefs, and even appearances. For instance, a recruiter may favor a candidate just because they attended the same university as them.
Perception Bias occurs when we judge or exclude others because of common stereotypes and assumptions we make because of their gender, age, appearance, etc. Perception bias is common with ageism. For example, a recruiter may pass over an older candidate because they assume the older candidate isn’t digitally literate or lacks the stamina for the job.
Halo Bias is a tendency for people to form an overall positive impression of someone based on one’s own positive experience or feeling. A common example of halo bias in recruiting is the assumption that a candidate is qualified, kind, and intelligent because they’re attractive based on societal standards.
Horn Bias is the opposite of Halo Bias. Instead of forming a positive opinion about someone based on a surface-level trait, you form a negative one. Maybe a candidate has a nervous affect during their first interview so you assume they lack confidence and will struggle to make decisions at work.
Confirmation Bias happens when we search for or interpret information that supports our existing beliefs. For example, a recruiter may have a favored candidate and so they only look for qualities and information that supports why they like the candidate.
Groupthink/bandwagon effect is a phenomenon where individuals withhold their opinions in group settings in order to avoid conflict or please their peers. Groupthink can lead to passing on qualified candidates. It often emerges during group interviews or decision-making conversations.
Leave time for decision-makers to individually reflect on a candidate before group decision discussions. Also, when discussing a candidate as a group, have the group leader offer their feedback last so that they don’t impact the opinions of the rest of the group.
Education is the first and most important step when ensuring each aspect of your hiring process is inclusive. While everyone at a company should receive DE&I training, let’s focus on areas especially relevant to recruiters.
Explain what diversity and inclusion mean. Recruiters should understand that diversity is deeper than race and gender. An inclusive culture where all employees feel safe and confident being their authentic selves is crucial to retaining employees from all backgrounds.
Make sure your employees understand WHY diversity in the workplace is essential. Diversifying your talent pool gives you access to a wider range of talent. Employees with different backgrounds are able to provide a variety of insights and relate to a wide customer base.
Explain common hiring biases and how to avoid them. Recruiters need to be able to identify their biases so that they can truly provide equal opportunity throughout the hiring process.
Communicate your organization’s DE&I goals and how they’ll be measured. Being transparent about goals and metrics will hold leadership, and all employees, accountable.
Give your recruiters and hiring managers the opportunity to ask questions and voice opinions and feedback. Many organizations have only just started focusing on diversity and inclusion, so everyone is still learning. Having an open dialogue around diversity will broaden employees' understanding and comfort around the topic and expedite DE&I goals.
Ensuring your DE&I efforts are ongoing will keep them at the forefront of your team's minds. Frequent check-ins are important to make sure your team is moving forward and continuing to take steps towards diversifying.
Additionally, our understanding of diversity and inclusion as a society is constantly evolving so it’s important to stay up to date with best practices in each area of hiring. Frequently measure your goals. When goals aren’t met, examine why you aren’t hitting certain benchmarks and what you need to improve in order to change that.
Remember, these efforts don’t stop after hiring. Creating an inclusive culture and building a diverse workforce will improve employee retention. And, it’s the best way to attract candidates from all backgrounds. Lift up people from all backgrounds and your business with a holistic, purposeful DE&I hiring strategy.
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