Diversity Hiring: What’s New for 2021

Diversity hiring has been a hot topic in recruiting for at least the past 10 years. The benefits of having a workforce diverse in backgrounds, ethnicity, and gender have been proven. Today’s competitive organizations are made up of high performing employees with different viewpoints. But 2020 brought a new reckoning to employers, with the Black Lives Matter movement not only hitting the streets but also the workplace. Employers that had paid lip service to noble goals of diversity in their workforce now were being scrutinized more closely, and diversity hires and other hires were more empowered to demand more from employers. It’s not just race. The gender balance, especially in high tech companies, has long been a sore spot. Then there is sexual orientation, trans person and people with disabilities – 2020 was a tipping point for these things as well, and it’s never been more important for employers to have a real, meaningful plan for the new term: Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Hiring. 

Diversity, equity and inclusive hiring is not just a feel-good talking point for companies. It impacts the bottom line – more diverse companies drive more innovation, and bring in more revenue. A recent study by Forbes in 2020 found that companies with above-average diversity produced a greater proportion of revenue from innovation (45% of total) than from companies with below average diversity (26%). The Harvard Business Review confirms this: they found diverse companies enjoyed better overall financial performance. Margins for companies with diverse management teams were nearly 10% higher than for companies with below-average management diversity. Why? Simple. Diverse teams are more capable of addressing market segments with demographics similar to some of the team members. 

So How to Get Started? 

One problem is that organizations aren’t always clear about what diversity or inclusive hiring means to them. Recruiters shouldn’t be tasked with merely “hiring for diversity.” And if organizations don’t understand why they are doing it, efforts will fall flat. Here’s where skilled recruiters can provide tremendous guidance to their clients. Some basic questions can get organizations on a path to better and more diverse workforce.

The first thing we ask when talking about diversity with a client, is “What does diversity mean to you?” Often we find people within the same organization have differing views of what this means. It’s critical to establish some common ground and a common language. One hiring manager might be thinking only about gender, while another is thinking about minority representation. 

Next Steps

Ask what problem your organization trying to solve for.  Again, this is where employers need to delve deeper than merely aiming for a generally diverse workforce. Sometimes, after some research, the issue is diversity at the leadership level, sometimes it is balancing gender in a specific area, such as technology. The best recruiters are looking to solve a core problem, not attain vague aspirational goals.

Here’s an example from our own experience: a high tech employer in Seattle set out a gender balance goal, but focused in on one core challenge: getting women into technology leadership roles. They looked at their current hiring, and identified that the majority of their mid-level managers were male. They made a conscious decision to open up all leadership roles externally (rather than filling internally through succession planning). In doing so, they committed to having at least 1 female candidate come in for an in person interview on any given open leadership position. Over the period of a year, this increased the number of female hires in key leadership roles; in turn, these women networked with other women, brought in more talent who saw this company as a great employer, and created a supportive environment for other women coming up under them. By driving change at the leadership level, they changed the culture for the entire organization.

What are We Doing Right (or Wrong) Now?

Another inquiry involves taking an honest look internally at the current organization, and assessing existing diversity efforts or retention rates. The best recruiter can’t create a diverse workforce out of thin air – or one that will last long in any case. An organization needs to examine current hiring processes and any internal programs. Are minority candidates being regularly brought in for interviews? Is the organization losing a high percentage of women from a particular group or at a particular level? Are there any support programs in place to encourage or develop current underrepresented employees, such as Women in Tech groups or minority mentoring programs? Is there true equality in pay across genders? Find the holes in your hiring and retention program and fix them before seeking out new hires. 

In a city with a multitude of large companies all dipping into the same talent pool, the demand for certain skill sets (ie, data science, engineering talent) is a challenge. We also have an extraordinary number of candidates coming from other countries. Diversity is a stated goal of many of Seattle’s major tech players, and they are reaching out to the same demographic groups. Organizations need a unique game plan that addresses their diversity initiatives and a skilled recruiting team to strategize and execute. 

There also needs to be a focus on developing talent. Acquiring top talent is a challenge, so organizations must deliver on creative approaches to continue to develop diiverse talent. Acquisition and retention go hand in hand. Organizations that spend resources to recruit these groups need to make sure their organization continues to support them after hiring. 

Are We the Organization We Want to Be?

Diversity, equity and inclusive hiring should remain a top priority for organizations in 2021, but there must be more than vague aspirations and lip service. Ask yourself if your workforce and your hiring strategy reflects the company you aspire to be. If not, how do you change it? These questions are just a starting point for a robust strategy for the diverse workforce any organization needs to be successful in today’s business environment. The organizations that succeed in this strategy will reap the rewards.

TalentReach’s team has deep experience in recruiting from Seattle’s unique talent pool and can help your organization with a diversity hiring strategy. Call or email for a free consultation.