Powerful Workplace Diversity Recruiting strategies in 2020
Diversity in the workplace clearly looks to be one of the top three targets for organizational change in most offices and large companies for 2020. However, surprisingly, a lot of managers and leaders outside and in human resources are still struggling with what diversity actually means for their specific company and market — as well as how to implement the concept effectively. That’s because most literature and guidance on the topic is violation-oriented, i.e. only giving case samples of what not to do that gets businesses and organizations in trouble, not how to affect a solid, working program in the first place.
Glad you asked. The primary definition of diversity is easy to find in a dictionary; it’s an intentional mixture of differences versus homogenous grouping. From a society and workplace perspective, diversity involves bringing together specifically different players and elements to work as a team toward a greater goal. Think of it like building a house. A construction team isn’t just all roofers. You have framers, roofers, electricians, plumbers, cement masons, inspectors and supervisors. Each one is skilled in and does something different, but they all produce the combined construction of a new house. For the workplace, two categories of diversity recruiting challenges come into play: inherent and acquired diversity. Inherent diversity includes what people are born with (age, race, gender, etc.). These are often known as protected classifications since many of them are clearly spelled out within equal employment opportunity laws. The second is acquired diversity which involves what people acquire over time and bring to the table as personal resources (education, skills, experience, wisdom, and values). Both types of diversity recruiting strategies combined in the workplace create a fully-diverse team and work environment.
If you’re asking this question, you already know that workplace diversity is a hot issue and has now become a priority for your own organization. Don’t worry; you’re in good company. Almost 60% of personnel recruiters in 2020 are asking the same question to realign their prospects and hires on the same path. And that’s a good thing because diversity is a really positive goal as well as a benefit to your organization. It’s been proven to produce higher productivity, better idea generation, far more comprehensive problem identification and resolution with teams, and increased competitive edge versus other market players. The first step then is simple: commitment. Commit that along with hiring the best candidates available you also want diversity to be a top criteria as well. By proactively pegging diversity as a necessary target to meet, your diverse hiring practices and recruitment processes will be forced to align naturally because the question of whether the target has been met will be asked with every step.
Internal resistance, unfortunately, is the answer to this one. The organization has to be willing to change, and change can be very hard for folks who have been around for a long time or have invested a great deal of resources, time and energy into the way things are. Change represents risk and an unknown, and more importantly, it can change the power dynamics of your organization too. So those who have something worth holding onto will be hesitant to accept diversity if it's perceived as a threat to where they stand currently. Your recruiters and talent leaders have to be push through this internal resistance as a positive force of improvement. You could argue the past should be let go because of right and wrong, but it won’t resonate as much because that means somebody has been doing something wrong for a long time. And acknowledging that in a group isn’t a desired place to be for any manager. So, diversity recruiting strategies have to be presented as an advantage to embrace instead. Instead of focusing on the past, diversity has to be accepted as the competitive means to move ahead further from the baseline. When viewed from this perspective, resistance falls apart. Managers aren’t stupid; they know they need to keep up with the times to stay relevant and increase their influence. Presenting diversity as a means to grow becomes a solution toward an ongoing demand as a result.
Company after company has shown in both market success and financial net profits that regularly bringing diversity to teams produces new ideas, innovation and breakthroughs. And those elements produce business growth which translates to increased net profit. Every literature source from the Harvard Business Review to top school business classes have reiterated the same. Markets that demand ongoing change and revisions and upgrades on fast cycles demand companies have robust product development. The high competition also requires the need for constantly identifying new markets to stay relevant. Diversity produces talent that feeds into both of these drivers. Furthermore, diverse teams have repeatedly shown an ability to outperform teams with the same tried-and-true makeup when compared in real-time applications. Diverse teams simply think of more novel solutions to solve problems faster. Research in both academia and the workplace have conclusively found that increased diverse networks both significantly boost a person’s education and skillset as well as their worth to the organization. Those who stay in the same rut and process eventually age out and become obsolete.
Diversity fundamentally involves different ways of thinking, and that’s going to create a lot of sparks, particularly during innovation tasks as well as feedback loops. A key factor in harnessing this social energy involves keeping it positive so that employee performance increases to the challenge versus shying away from it. Employees should want to learn and grow with differences identified, not steer away from them. The tried-and-true methods that keep diversity energy-positive include:
- Focusing on constructive debate so that every team member is responsible to add to the discussion, not take away from it. Applying rules as simple as contained brainstorming phases, or changing communication methods from using words like “but” when objecting to instead using “and” to add enhancements make huge differences in output and productivity.
- Inherent diversity often goes negative when a player feels ostracized from the group or in the minority. Managers need to be sensitive to this possibility because it can happen quickly with dramatic results. The role of the manager is to be the coach — always keeping the team together and functioning as a group versus letting players peel off on their own. Different ideas are fine, disconnected players are not.
- Proactive efforts must always be in play to shut down discrimination or stereotyping as soon as it occurs. Instead, every messaging should be one of inclusive action. Examples of proving diversity works should be distributed regularly and often as well. And there should always be regular feedback loops on how to make diversity work even better. Don’t settle for just fine right now. Think about tomorrow as well.
First, your job advertisement needs to incorporate clear messaging that diversity is a desirable goal for your organization. Don’t shy away from the topic; be upfront that you specifically want and work toward building diverse teams in your company on a regular basis, pulling people from all backgrounds to make your organization what it is. Note that different words have different meanings to groups as well. While aggressive words appeal to male candidates, for example, they are off-putting to female candidates who perceive an internal competition environment versus group support. Your images tell a powerful story too. If all your photos of your employees only identify one race of people, candidates will quickly assume your messaging is empty and your photos are factual of your real organizational makeup. For example, if all the women are placed up front in a staff photo, but the men are all in the back and obscured, male candidates may take a pass on your job ad just on the photo alone. If your center focus person is white and your side models are people of color, you’re potentially sending a message that people of color aren’t a priority to the organizational leadership. None of this likely is accurate, but that’s what your job ad is saying to a reader. Second, stop advertising old-fashioned job schedules. Different cultures and groups operate on different time patterns and levels. By providing flexible scheduling of work commitment your organization can literally open up entirely new markets of recruits who don’t subscribe to a traditional eight-to-five workday. Youth, parents, seniors, remote workers and similar all represent great repositories of talent that get entirely missed when the job offered requires physical presence at set hours five days a week. Reconsider what you really want your labor resources to produce and when, and you will find your recruitment potential skyrockets with additional choices and talent. Third, open up channels of sourcing in your strategies for recruiting diverse workers. Using the same agent or the same posting board for all applicants arbitrarily narrows who might apply. Applicants often use a variety of channels to find jobs, including references, networks, online boards, forums and groups. Some favor one channel over another. Cast your net wide instead of just one channel and you will naturally see a greater variety of candidates for the same job opening.
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