However, many organizations struggle to build a truly diverse workforce. Here are three common reasons why, and what you can do to fix them:
1. Your job descriptions are excluding qualified candidates.
Many job descriptions read like a 5 year old’s Christmas list: they list things they think would be nice to have, but they don’t necessarily need (nor expect to get) all of them. As employers screen resumes, they pick out the best fit candidates to move to the next round based on their own internal ranking of which criteria are the most important.
What they don’t realize is how many qualified candidates they’re missing out on by mixing their non-negotiable criteria with their nice-to-haves.
A Hewlett Packard internal report found that men will apply to a job when they’re 60% qualified, while women will only apply when they’re 100% qualified. Job descriptions that list unnecessary qualifications may be excluding women who are, in fact, qualified to do the job.
Certain work experience and education requirements may be excluding these candidates as well. An entry-level job in the San Francisco Bay Area requiring an MBA from a top 10 business school, for instance, would attract a high percentage of UC Berkeley graduates and preclude otherwise qualified candidates with different educational backgrounds.
Make your job descriptions more inclusive by focusing on the qualifications that are truly necessary to do the job, and separating them from nice-to-haves. Then ask a variety of employees to edit each job description so it appeals to diverse candidates.
By looking at the job description from multiple perspectives, you can fine-tune it to produce more qualified candidates.
2. Your screening process is unintentionally biased.
People have an unconscious bias toward others based on their own experiences and perceptions, and may think more highly of others based on where they live, where they went to school – or even what their name is. They feel more connected to people who are similar themselves and the people they surround themselves with.
As a result, diverse candidates have a disadvantage in most organizations—even when they’re just as qualified as other candidates.
The first step toward eliminating unconscious bias is to be aware of it. Train your hiring managers and interviewers on unconscious biases in the screening process so they can make an active effort to overcome them. Also train them to identify fit for untraditional candidates, like military veterans, stay at home parents, and career changers.
Just because someone doesn’t have a standard career path doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified to do the job—interviewers just need to take the time to understand how their skills and experiences translate to the job at hand.
Then, put processes in place to reduce the bias throughout your screening process. Create a diverse hiring team to identify, screen, and interview candidates. During the resume screen, hide the candidate’s name, address, school, and other irrelevant information before passing it along to the hiring manager and interviewers.
Before meeting with candidates face to face, ask them to complete skills and behavioral assessments to determine fit in an unbiased manner. Then, when you meet the candidate in-person, you can go into the interview assuming they’re qualified.
From there, it’s much easier to take an objective approach in looking for validation of the candidate’s qualifications, or red flags that prove it’s not a good fit.
3. Your company culture isn’t entirely inclusive.
Diversity hiring is more than just checking off boxes. If your company culture isn’t consistent with your recruiting initiatives, candidates will see right through you or, worse, will leave soon after joining your company.
To create a great diversity and inclusion program, every aspect of your company culture needs to be consistent and supportive of your initiatives.
This may include:
- Hiring and developing diverse leaders
- Participating in minority associations and groups
- Offering relocation packages to entice and assist diversity candidates
- Providing fair compensation practices to all employees
- Allocating floating holidays to accommodate employees with various religious beliefs (and military veterans!)
- Offering flex work or work from home arrangements to accommodate working parents
A great hiring and diversity program should always be a work in progress, but these tips can help you make improvements to maximize success. Continually ask for feedback from your workforce to identify additional areas for improvement.
Part of an inclusive company culture is understanding that everyone has different perspectives that should be shared. By creating an open door policy for feedback, you can create a work environment that attracts candidates from all kinds of different backgrounds.
These are the workplaces where great things happen, because people are able to learn from one another and reach their full potential.