How to Make Diversity & Inclusion a Part of Your Hiring Practices

Creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace is only possible if your hiring process allows it, but let’s take a step back. What do “diversity” and “inclusion” really mean, and why are they important for your company?

What are diversity and inclusion?

Diversity refers to the range of different types of people with different backgrounds and personal characteristics in the workplace. Harvard Business Review identified two different kinds of diversity:

  1. Inherent diversity involves traits we are born with, such as ethnicity.
  2. Acquired diversity comes from experience, such as gaining an appreciation for other cultures through travel.

Inclusion is more about how people feel and how they’re treated. Do people feel safe, valued, and accepted? Is everyone welcomed and treated with respect regardless of their appearance or background?

Why are diversity and inclusion important for a company’s success?

It’s easy to see why people are happier when they feel welcomed and included, but research suggests that diversity benefits a company’s bottom line too. 

  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to see higher financial returns compared to industry medians. (McKinsey)
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to see higher financial returns. (McKinsey)
  • In the US, there’s a linear relationship between racial/ethnic diversity and better financial performance. Every 10% increase in racial/ethnic diversity among senior executives corresponds to a 0.8% increase in earnings before interest and taxes. (McKinsey)
  • Companies with both inherent and acquired diversity tend to out-innovate and out-perform others. (Harvard Business Review)
  • 67% of active and passive job seekers report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. (Glassdoor)

How to assess your workplace hiring practices

If you want to make your workforce more diverse, an audit of your current hiring process is a great place to start. The goal is to identify any existing barriers for people of different backgrounds. It can help to bring in at least one other person to help with the audit so they can provide a fresh and objective perspective. 

Let’s look at two fictional companies to see how an audit might help:

  1. Company A is enthusiastic about diversity. The hiring manager has put several programs in place to help reduce barriers to a more diverse workforce. But everyone who responds to the company’s job listing has mostly the same demographic characteristics.
  2. Company B receives hundreds of resumes from an amazingly diverse array of candidates with different backgrounds, but after the interview phase, only local college students are still in the running.

If each of these companies performed a simple audit of their hiring practices, they’d find two very different issues. 

Company A may need to expand its candidate pool in order to start building a more diverse workforce. It looks like people of diverse backgrounds either aren’t aware of the job opportunity or are choosing not to apply. 

Company B’s candidate pool gets less diverse during the resume review phase, the interview phase, or both. The next step for Company B might be to talk to hiring managers to identify where the disconnect is happening. 

Expand your search

Company A’s solution begins with questions like these:  

Is the company not promoting its job listing to the right audiences? Do recruiters tend to meet most of the candidates who end up getting hired at exclusive job fairs? Is the “previous experience” requirement eliminating people who would actually be a great fit?

Is the job posting itself turning certain candidates away? Or maybe the company’s current website and social media photos aren’t reflective of an inclusive environment. In that case, candidates who want to work at a diverse workplace (more than two-thirds of all job seekers, according to Glassdoor) could be choosing not to apply.

Make your hiring process more inclusive and collaborative

This is where Company B takes its first step towards building a more diverse and inclusive workforce. 

Are hiring managers choosing not to extend offers to certain candidates based on their age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristics unrelated to job performance? Or is there something about the hiring process that is making candidates with different backgrounds feel unwelcome or uncomfortable? Is that leading them to reject Company B’s job offers?

The solution could be to simply get more people involved in the hiring process. Company B could assemble a group of current employees with diverse backgrounds to review resumes and conduct interviews. A new policy could be: at least two sets of eyes will read each resume and at least three employees will participate in each interview.

Make diversity and inclusion part of your company culture

You don’t just want your job candidates to feel welcome and included during their interview; you want them to be happy after you hire them too. That’s why a diverse and inclusive culture needs to be genuine. Depending on where you’re starting from, getting there may take time, patience, and honest conversations with your current workforce. 

Most importantly, everyone needs to feel safe asking questions and voicing concerns — especially if they believe they’ve seen or experienced discrimination or harassment. 

Encourage people to speak up when they don’t feel included. Try to reduce people’s fear of retaliation and make it as safe and easy as possible for employees to voice their concerns about company policy or culture. 

Final takeaways

Companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion tend to outperform companies that don’t. Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace starts with an examination of your current hiring process to identify any barriers that may be preventing people with certain traits or backgrounds from being hired. Finally, if you want to create a welcoming environment where your new employees can succeed, inclusion needs to be integrated into your company’s whole culture, not just the hiring process.

It takes work, but it’s worth it. Now go watch your company succeed!

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