Corporate D&I efforts are not only a matter of ethical responsibility for an organization, but they can also improve employee engagement, retention, and have other positive effects on your bottom line. Across industries, there are several examples of inequities that occur due to the lack of consideration of historically excluded populations. From technology to life sciences, to having a seat in the board room, increasing your D&I efforts can lead to better decision-making overall. When all voices are represented at the table (and taken seriously), you can be sure you’re making the best possible decision for your organization. This impacts your company culture and morale, product and service decisions, communications efforts, operational decisions and more. This improves the professional ecosystem and our collective outcomes.
Increasing diversity can mean a number of different things to individual people, so it’s important to take the time to define historically excluded groups; examples of these groups include, but are not limited to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), disabled persons, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other sexual orientation (LGBTQ+) individuals, veterans, women, and those with religious affiliations.
Research suggests that diversity in the workplace drives employee productivity, fosters creativity, improves problem-solving, and increases profitability. So, how can you attract and hire diverse candidates? Here’s five actions you can take:
Establish your D&I baseline
You’ll first want to get a baseline for your current hiring processes. What is the diversity of the candidates that are applying, and what is the success rate of each group in the interviewing process? It cannot be stressed enough that you must ensure that your data analysis is compliant with hiring regulations within your region. Work closely with your human resources department and make sure to apprise your legal team of your efforts.
Look for application and hiring percentages according to ethnicity, gender, disability, and veteran status. You likely have access to this data if you are a US employer through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) applicant survey. Cross reference this information with seniority and resulting salaries. Look for trends that may point to inequitable hiring processes and set specific goals to improve.
Adjust your recruitment materials and event calendar
While having a formal D&I effort helps greatly, you can also benefit from ensuring that your job advertisements include language that promotes D&I. For example, research shows that women apply to fewer jobs than men do, perhaps due to their bias towards wanting to “check all of the boxes” before moving forward. To encourage more females to apply, consider moving some of your “must have” requirements to the “nice to have” section. There are many great ideas available from a simple web search for “inclusive job descriptions.”
Additionally, your industry may have associations for historically excluded groups, and working with them is one of the best ways to reach diverse candidates. Several have job boards and/or host career fairs. You can also ask these groups, and especially their regional affiliates, to work with you to host an event.
Schedule informational, structured interviews
The interview process is crucial to the success of improving your recruitment of diverse candidates. Your choice of interviewers is important; include employees that highlight the diversity of your organization so they can share their experiences and information about any D&I efforts.
You should also ensure that your interviewing process is as equitable as possible, as unconscious or implicit bias may lead interviewers to lean toward choosing candidates based on their shared experiences rather than relying on their ability to perform the job. One very straightforward way to combat unconscious bias is to structure the interviews so that every candidate is asked the same questions, and is graded by each interviewer on their responses.
At the end, scores can be pooled and the best candidate should emerge. This strategy is better than relying on much more subjective methods such as asking each interviewer to give their unstructured feedback or calling a meeting to discuss the candidate.
Make a clearly communicated, competitive offer
Extending an offer to a candidate is another crucial step of the process, and your attention to a few key points can make a big difference. Salary transparency and equity are important topics in D&I circles, and at this point of the hiring process, the salary you are offering should not be a big surprise to the candidate. Ideally, this lack of surprise should be due to you previously offering a salary range that is competitive to the candidate and perhaps even in the job description. Relying on candidates to provide their salary expectations, which is normal for many companies, is problematic as it can lead to them undervaluing their worth, as is often the case for historically excluded groups. Asking a candidate about their salary history is illegal now in many US states, as it has led to the persistence of pay inequities.
In this step, as in all others, frequent and transparent communication with the candidate is key. All information, including benefits, bonuses, stock options, work expectations, holiday and leave policies and other aspects of the offer should also be as expected and of course explained. Historically excluded professionals may have had negative experiences during the hiring process in the past, and anything you can do to allay any concerns they have will go a long way in helping them make their decision to accept the offer. For example, your list of holidays may not meet their needs, forcing them to use more vacation days than other employees. Anticipate needs and questions and review how your company can accommodate them and future candidates with policy changes.
Get feedback on your process
Getting feedback should also be part of your process, not just from those who get an offer, but from all who apply. Remember that you’re looking to make a change in the culture of the company so that diverse viewpoints are valued. The fresh perspectives of diverse job candidates can shine a light onto your hiring process to help you make the right hires, advance your D&I hiring and other processes, and it will pave the way for making improvements to the culture of your company.
Guest Author: Mary Canady has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and is the founder of Biotech Networks, the leading resource for more than 50K life scientists to connect, learn, and grow. Dr. Canady has led marketing and communications teams to meet business objectives at large global life science companies as well as at biotech startups. A tireless advocate and mentor to life scientists, she offers presentations about networking and careers regularly. Canady is also a leader in advancing science communication, advocacy, and diversity and has led organizations and teams to further her life’s mission to empower every scientist to make a bigger impact.