How to recruit and retain diverse talent as you grow

Diversity is the battle cry of our generation. The marketplace can be resistant to change but is slowly adapting to this call for diversity at every level within companies. I believe an initial goal is to match the diversity metrics of your customer base, but as quickly as possible to unlock a level of innovation and growth that only comes from creating an environment where people of different sex, race and culture can flourish on the job. 

So how do you obtain that level of diversity? 

Here’s a few best practices I’ve formed on our journey of placing thousands of refugees into jobs with hundreds of companies across the US over the past decade:

  1. It doesn’t happen overnight. Culture and environments need time and attention to develop. Take an assessment of where you are currently so you have a sense of where you can improve. This will help you outline a plan you can share with your team and establish goals to aim for in the coming months and years. 
  2. Bias exists. I rarely think it’s intentional, but unintentional bias still limits diversity. Think about this way: If I’m a white male hiring for a position on my team, without intending to, I’m visualizing someone who will do the things we already are doing the way we already do them. Someone who thinks differently than I do about processes because of their sex or ethnic background may not hit the buzz words I am consciously or unconsciously looking for in the interview process. Potentially their perspective may position them to be the best candidate but I may miss it because I’m looking for someone who will solve the problems the way our current team solves the problems. Consequently, someone who shares a similar background or worldview may give all the right answers naturally. I then feel like I’m forced to make a decision between someone who seems intelligent but not quite a fit for what we’re “needing” on our team and someone who seems like a good fit and could jump right into the immediate needs we have without much hand holding. The risk of the person with a different background seems greater and will require more from me so the decision becomes fairly straightforward. Play this out thousands of times over and we have huge, sterile, change resistant corporations. It’s hard to remove unintentional bias, but here is a simple solution:
  3. Get others involved in your sourcing and interviewing process. Whether it’s people within or outside of your organization, diverse people can validate the perspectives or the expressions of others better than one person can alone and potentially overcome the unintentional bias. You still may end up hiring another white dude, but you are creating a process where everyone can be heard and considered from all angles. 
  4. Separate screening from interviews. I think it’s a good idea to utilize an out-sourced third party recruiting firm or software to screen candidates. This will eliminate bias and increase your belief you are going into an interview process with strong candidates no matter their background. I even like the idea of having a “get to know you call” someone from your company makes as the final part of the screening process before interviewing begins. This way, someone on your team can speak into the candidates alignment with the position in process or a different role they may be better suited for. Either way, after the call, the company can then send an official application link to the individual for the job that best suits them and get them into the normal process. This was the strategy we took with Accenture to help them hire 50 Afghan refugees into several different departments and locations in less than 2 months. It was a beautiful thing to watch play out and a smooth process for everyone involved. 
  5. Tap into marginalized communities of talent. To increase candidate flow among diverse populations, consider doing some research on marginalized communities in your region and developing a pipeline to source candidates from those communities. People from those communities often feel overlooked and devalued but have so much to offer if given a chance to prove it. They often increase retention rates because they are motivated and loyal. You will have to invest time and resources on the front end to get a pipeline like this in place, but you will find it will be worth it in the long run. Not only will this increase your team morale in multiple ways, increased retention will positively affect the bottom line. There will be some barriers, we prefer to call them hurdles, you will need to be involved in helping people from these communities get over efficiently…and it may get a little messy. However, it will be highly rewarding and beneficial for all parties involved. We’ve seen this play out hundreds of times over with the refugee workforce and it almost always yielded amazing results. 
  6. Join our virtual coaching group to walk alongside others who are on the same journey to increase diversity and engage innovative solutions to do so. 

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