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How to Develop and Execute an Effective Diversity Recruiting Strategy

Here’s a thorough guide on how to create and implement a successful diversity recruiting strategy...

Gerald Ainomugisha
HR and Tech writer, storyteller, and Afrobeat aficionado
December 22, 2021
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With greater awareness of the systemic hurdles that deny some groups of people a job, the need for a diversity recruiting strategy to level the playing field intensifies. Up to 87% of respondents in a Diversity in the Workplace Job Seeker Survey indicate that leaders find diversity recruiting to be vital.

And employees agree too, with 82% of them saying that diversity is part of an ideal workplace. With this information in mind, you might be wondering which actions have a lasting impact and which ones are mere tokenism. 

Let’s start by defining a diversity recruiting strategy, then discuss the way to create and implement an effective one, and the best practices and tools to adopt:

What Is a Diversity Recruiting Strategy?

A diversity recruiting strategy is the sum of tasks, goals, success metrics and other actions laid out in an effort to attract, evaluate and hire diverse groups of talent for eventual business success. These strategies are often informed by both internal and external data on diversity, and more so, its impact on competitiveness within your industry.

Why Diversity and Inclusion Recruitment Is Important

For starters, various industries face fluctuations in the demand and supply of labor, making it difficult to find enough qualified candidates. A more inclusive recruitment strategy can help you to widen your candidate pool and ensure that you don’t miss out on solid hires due to biases.

Additionally, many candidates’ decision to work for an organization is heavily influenced by that organization’s efforts towards improving workplace diversity. This lets them know just how welcoming the organization will be and whether they’ll face discrimination during appraisals, promotions, and more.

In that sense, diversity & inclusion in hiring can help with employee retention since employees who initially felt like outsiders start to see more of their own kind and feel at home.

How to Create a Diversity Recruiting Strategy

Creating a diversity recruiting strategy entails both the right actions and technologies since you’ll need to make data-driven hiring decisions. Let’s look at some of the crucial steps to take, along with the recruiting software tools that can complement these efforts:

Audit Existing Processes

It all starts with looking inwards and examining your recruitment process for every bottleneck there is. Look at the level of diversity your existing recruitment strategy has historically produced. As you identify the hurdles that candidates face, then find out who they are more likely to affect severely.

Maybe you’re insisting on face-to-face interviews at venues that applicants from certain regions will have a harder time accessing. Or it could be that your organization has been offering lower salaries to women and people of color.

For some discriminatory recruitment practices, it’s easy to trace the path to their negative impact, while others seem harmless, but with extra data in hand, their downside becomes clearer. In some cases, it might be better to get an external and independent entity to do the audit so you can get more accurate results.

Software products like Allie and SurveyMonkey can help you conduct diversity and inclusion surveys amongst your employees to know how inclusive they find your hiring process and workplace to be. Other tools like Blendoor can be used to compare your organization’s diversity efforts with those of other players by relying on government and marketplace data.

You can also use Diversio’s Bias Corrector to flag culturally-insensitive and biased messaging in your internal communication and collaboration platforms like Slack. It can even scan social media mentions hinting at flaws in your organization's diversity and inclusion record.

Get Buy-in and Set Up Accountability

Once the audit is done, you need to show the correlation between discriminatory recruitment practices, poor quality hires, and subsequent drops in revenue. The aim is to show how the lack of a diversity recruiting strategy is hurting the organization from a business perspective.

By doing so, you can secure the support of decision-makers, especially those who approve expenditure. However, to get them spending on diverse talent acquisition, there needs to be clear accountability. Make it clear who will be in charge of implementing diversity recruitment.

Let them know how you’ll ensure that hiring managers and every other person involved are doing what they should be doing.

Set Goals

Like with any other strategy, be it recruitment or not, you can’t know how well you’re doing or not if you don’t have precise goals. It helps to start small since drastic changes in a company’s workforce can create unnecessary tension and make it harder to get diverse employees on the same page.

Zoom in on the actual composition of team members, measure the disparity in numbers across race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, and other attributes, then decide how much you want to reduce the gap within a certain period of time. These hiring goals shouldn’t be just about the resultant group of recruits.

They should address every stage of the process, aiming to have job offers seen by more people from marginalized groups, with more of them going on to apply for the jobs and following up after.

Measure Progress

Upon setting clear goals, take time out to gauge the level of diversity every after a stage of the recruitment process is completed. How diverse was the list of applicants? How diverse did it remain by the time we shortlisted people for interviews? How many candidates from marginalized groups on this list actually showed up for the interviews? And how many were selected?

Every step has to be scrutinized and whenever a change is made to any aspect of your recruitment process, you need to record new information for every metric being tracked in the latest iteration. Measuring progress helps you know which of your efforts are actually working and which ones aren’t.

With more in-depth analytics tools, you can even find out why some methods are working and others aren’t. For example, you can utilize Visier to measure the extent to which changes like having an underrepresented applicant interviewed by a fellow minority improved the quality of the interview.

You can learn more on how workforce analytics can be used to boost diversity and inclusion when recruiting in this Visier guide.

Best Practices for a Successful Diversity Recruiting Strategy

There are many aspects of an organization’s day-to-day work that can be adjusted to promote inclusion, but some areas are more critical, and these include:

Branding and Policies

Before you even start putting out job offers, you need to first find out what your organization is known for. Look at all the points where you interface with the public and ask yourself what they see. Do your brochures that have company staff on them include women, POCs, and PWDs?

Maybe you have a public relations and communications manager, but other departmental heads and deputies more conversant with certain topics or relevant to particular partnerships occasionally speak to the public in press conferences or through written statements.

Does this group of customer-facing employees look diverse, or is it always just another guy who can be mistaken for the person in the previous announcement? Is your company involved in any corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities or community outreach programs that benefit marginalized groups? Are your premises wheelchair-friendly?

All these are questions you should ask yourself since they contribute to your employer brand. Identify any action or asset from your company that gets the public’s attention, then try to make it more favorable or relatable to those who usually face discrimination in the job market.

For example, Airbnb had female candidates making up 30% of the applicants for data science jobs while only 10% of the final recruits around 2016 were women. By holding a series of events with panels highlighting women in data science, accompanied by published articles detailing their experiences in the field.

This eventually increased the number of female applicants, and using a binary system for scoring take-home assignments coupled with more women on interview panels, the percentage of female data scientists on their team jumped to 30%.

A candidate sitting before an interview panel


Job Advertising

A job ad is often the first part of the recruitment process where diversity can be pursued. You have to look at your previous job postings and single out details that could get some groups of people looking at the opportunity like it’s not accessible to them.

Keep the language simple and comprehensible. Avoid any cultural references or phrases that have an “inner circle” feel to them. If you’re looking for diverse candidates from all over the country, don’t speak like you’re only talking to Texans or New Yorkers.

Lay out the required skill set clearly, but don’t communicate in a manner that presumes everyone who sees your ad already has certain attributes. Additionally, do not portray a specific qualification as compulsory if it’s not integral to doing the job well.

This extends to other characteristics such as fluency in a language, proficiency in a specific technology, basic book-keeping and more. All these are attributes that people may possess to varying degrees. If you need someone who can speak coherent English, don’t insist on requirements like TOEFL and IELTS as these may exclude many people who can speak English and excel at the job.

And if you’re going to first train the recruits on how to use a particular system, don’t put a job description that says they should already be good at using such systems. Furthermore, pay attention to the composition of your job ad’s audience. Don’t restrict your ads to publications and platforms that marginalized people barely access.

This also extends to your social media ad settings. The more specific you get when adjusting age, location, and other parameters, the more likely you are to end up with a combination of characteristics that many minorities don’t fit. 

Every demographic you target should have some people that meet the conditions you've set. Try going beyond social platforms like LinkedIn and experiment with advertising on a podcast or YouTube vlog, and creating awareness at job fairs.

Using tools like Textio, Readable, and Gender Decoder, you can detect complex phrasing and gender-coded language in job descriptions. For example, Nike realized a diverse workforce of 50% POCs and 48% women by 2016 partly due to writing more inclusive job descriptions.

Sourcing

To become more inclusive in the way you recruit, you’ll have to widen the area over which you cast your net. If you’ve been posting jobs on college notice boards, reach out to HBCUs and other educational institutions that have a diverse group of students.

Companies like Apple have even gone as far as creating an innovation and learning hub for HBCUs (the Propel Center), a Developer Academy in Detroit, and simplifying access to venture capital funding for black and brown entrepreneurs. IBM has also partnered with HBCUs to usher more students into quantum computing careers on top of committing to hiring 1000 paid interns from P-TECH schools.

You’ll hardly achieve diversity if the talent pool you’re selecting from is already dominated by people of a specific ethnicity or sex. There are also numerous job boards and professional associations that link employers to job seekers and have a diverse talent pool.

If experience is something you normally want in a candidate, try offering internships to increase the chances of cultivating relationships with graduates and other potential candidates who may be eligible but are lacking in experience. You can learn more about building a diverse company from this Harvard Business Review manual on developing junior talent.

This can portray your organization as one that gives chances to those who are young and just starting out. In this spirit, Citigroup has conducted pre-interview mentor programs to get more college-aged women and minority groups into the recruiting pool for their summer analyst program.

Be more open to referrals since the people recommending candidates may focus more on the candidate’s ability to do the job rather than what they look like or who they worship. Employee referral can also be a good way to include employees in diverse hiring by seeking candidate recommendations from them.

It can also pave the way for employee resource groups that will further the conversation on diversity and inclusion, spawning ingenious tactics to improve your D&I record. Software could also come to the rescue in sourcing.

Entelo is a sourcing-oriented tool that helps recruiters find candidates from under-represented groups using criteria like veteran status or race. It relies on automation at several points from source to hire, and is just one drop in the ocean of recruiting automation software products that can save you time and money while reducing errors in the recruitment process.

Screening

Screening can be quite complicated, especially when you have many candidates above the minimum total score, but with variations in how they fare in different qualities. Do you take the candidate who’s more sociable and has better soft skills for dealing with disgruntled customers, or do you go for the candidate with impeccable attention to detail and a lower chance of entering the wrong data?

You can always start by removing any pieces of information that describe the candidate but aren’t relevant to scoring them. Where possible, assign an identification code to each application so any humans screening the applicant can’t make assumptions about their ethnicity or sex based on the applicant’s name. This concept of blind resumes can be extended to the interview process too.

With platforms like Applied, you can remove bias from the hiring process by concealing job applicants’ personal information and randomizing the order in which applicants’ answers are viewed by the recruiter. Nike is one of the companies that has used blind resumes to successfully increase diversity and inclusion in their workforce.

Conclusion

To develop and execute an effective diversity recruitment strategy, you need to examine your organization as a whole and not just the recruiting process. You also have to juxtapose your findings with the performance of your competitors in regard to diversity recruiting efforts.

There’s no doubt that you’ll have to rely heavily on data and track the impact of every change you make. This means you’ll need to embrace digitization, at least to combat the unconscious bias associated with human discretion during the recruitment process.

The global diversity recruiting software market is projected to reach $709.5 million by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 9.4% from 2020 to 2027. In that respect, we'd recommend checking out our buyer guide on the most comprehensive tools for diversity hiring.

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Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald writes both content and copy for businesses in the niches of HR, marketing and technology. When he’s not busy creating magic with his words, you can find him dancing in front of the mirror to Afrobeat hits.


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