“Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not.”
A quote we likely have heard before, possibly and most recently on television while watching a commercial for a university admissions process. As a human resources leader, the quote resonated, and I quickly began to translate it into the employment sector. I felt an immediate need to question and pick apart recruiting and organizational development best practices for a temperature check because human resource professionals are committed strategic partners through the lens of diversity and inclusion.
What diversity hurdles remain in the workplace today after formal inclusions were made a generation ago? How do we tackle any remaining hurdles and reach a true state of inclusion?
Embracing diversity begins through company culture. Leaders choosing to prioritize diversity as a top corporate initiative are paving the way through a concerted effort to drive acceptance and pioneer practices. Generally, this is happening through the preparation and release of a diversity statement. The statement is an excellent opportunity for a company to define what diversity means, highlight diversity as a top priority and commit to practices that equally distribute opportunities throughout the organization.
Educating our teams about strategic values that emerge from diversity are imperative for corporate buy-in. Diversity often produces efficiencies and a competitive edge by elevating the innovation of ideas for products/services, creating collaborative teams with a variety of perspectives, enhanced company acceptance behaviors and offering more sophisticated problem-solving proficiencies. Externally, companies are also able to relate to larger customer bases, elevate a company’s branding and interview a multitude of skilled candidates to fill open vacancies through a larger pool of acquired applicants.
As professional “career match-makers,” have we challenged our organizations within their local, national or global reach to provide opportunities to diverse candidate pools and current employees at all levels of the organization?
Diversity can be achieved through the practice of hiring and promoting employees from a variety of backgrounds, including ethnicity, race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, disability, or veteran status. It also applies to any other perceived difference outside of a professional skill set and work experience that could separate a candidate from a larger group with similar traits. Embracing diversity doesn’t mean that recruiters and decision makers should steer away from the best fit for the role in order to achieve a true diverse state, but rather it means the talent search should be widened far enough to include a diverse candidate pool with the required education and soft/hard skill set so that the company can achieve a more diverse workforce through interviews with the best talent.
How do we go above and beyond to ensure opportunities are being distributed fairly?
Leaders and human resources professionals must aim to spread recruiting opportunities fairly, even if it means shaking up current or comfortable practices in search of better, more diverse ones. It’s not so much an exact science or a formula of ensuring the ratio of males to females is a perfect 1:1 balance. Rather our professional focus should be on how we recruit talent to the organization through the right channels so that selection happens naturally and is achieved more easily. Programs and initiatives to review for a wide diverse reach may include:
- College recruiting. Are we targeting colleges that are diverse or a multitude of colleges that when combined together, provide a diverse pool of candidates?
- Ad and job postings. Are we working with websites and other social media outlets that can show that they’re in turn targeting a diverse audience? What are those metrics? Have we reviewed them and are they all inclusive?
Are we supporting local high schools, vocational schools and community service programs that have a focus on creating opportunities for diverse candidates?
Do employees feel accepted at work despite of who they are or welcomed because of who they are?
These are two very different feelings that can provide dissimilar outcomes, the latter being the only one positively impacting a company’s morale. Inclusion is how the diverse population feels once they’ve settled in at their respective company. Do employees feel welcomed, comfortable fitting in with the team and respected as esteemed team members?
Once we have onboarded our diversified talent pool, we should continue with our organizational process of developing all employees in their chosen career paths. Long-term commitments made to talented individuals create loyalty, increase morale and reduce turnover. Tactical approaches include:
Data reviews. Are we slicing and dicing pay data from diverse perspectives and closing emerging gaps accordingly?
Training sessions. Are we providing enough effective training to all individuals?
Career pathing and promotions. Are we looking at all qualified internal candidates before providing opportunities and making a promotion decision? Are we making reasonable accommodations while remaining focused on the core job expectations?
Embracing diversity and inclusion is what allows leaders to showcase the organization’s best possible version of itself. Allowing the team every opportunity to understand, embrace and reap the rewards of diversity and inclusion enables us to be responsible managers of our best assets, our people.