We’ve all heard a great deal lately about “diversity” and the need to create more diverse working cultures. But at the core, what’s the big deal, and what’s to be gained from a business perspective?
If workplace diversity is indeed a “win-win” for organizations - employers, employees, investors and stakeholders alike - let’s examine why and how it is that organizations benefit.
There's no doubt that organizations and recruitment professionals increasingly value diversity in the workplace – from fostering new and innovative ways of thinking to more accurately reflecting an organization’s customer base.
Right now, though, fewer than one in three employees believes their employer promotes fairly, and only about half of employees feel they have equal opportunity to advance. There are many talented workers, in other words, who feel overlooked or undervalued.
Benefits of Hiring for Diversity
As previously stated, diversity is great for business. In fact, inclusive organizations perform better financially than their industry peers. Based on data from 366 public companies around the globe, McKinsey found that the most diverse organizations generate significantly better financial returns. Prioritizing ethnic and racial diversity generates returns that are 35% above the industry median, while improving gender diversity boosts results by 15%. According to research by BCG, increasing diversity at the senior-executive level can lead to a measurable gain in revenue and new product development.
Workforces that closely resemble the diversity of the population are more in tune with their customers because staff members reflect the makeup of the customers the company serves.
How to Recruit for a Diverse Workforce
Diversity can present itself in multiple forms, including by race, age, gender, sexual orientation, education level and geographic location. The goal is to have a workforce that resembles a company’s customers and prospects.
Here are practices that recruitment teams can implement to create diversity within the workplace.
Expand your reach. Sometimes, a company’s existing talent pipeline may not include enough diversity. Instead of solely relying on employee referrals and sourcing candidates from the usual job boards, widen the search to identify job seekers from another industry or metro.
Geography: Some U.S. metro areas are more diverse than others. Adding a new region to your list of local areas can expand your talent pool. For instance, data from LaborIQ by ThinkWhy shows that Provo-Orem, Utah’s population is 1.37% Asian, while 2.67% of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania residents are Asian. But just 0.53% of Provo-Orem residents are Black, compared with Pittsburgh’s Black population of 8.23%. By looking for candidates in Pittsburgh instead of Provo-Orem, recruiters can reach a more diverse population.
Sourcing candidates: Look beyond familiar sources. If you’re always hiring from Ivy League colleges, for instance, you could consider candidates from state schools.
Remove bias. Although many companies believe they’ve overcome bias in the recruitment process, many organizations still have a long way to go. Software that removes demographic characteristics from applications may be helpful in reducing unconscious bias, as noted by the Harvard Business Review. After orchestras started having applicants audition behind a curtain, gender diversity improved significantly, making the audition process about the music instead of about having a certain appearance.
Language in job descriptions has been shown to influence whether certain applicants perceive themselves in the role. Aim to use gender-neutral words, as some adjectives have been shown to convey a gender preference. For instance, researchers have found that “competitive” and “leader” are connected to male stereotypes, while “support” and “interpersonal” are associated with female stereotypes. Being aware of how words used in job descriptions resonate with candidates can help improve the diversity of applicants.
Recruit at other education levels. Depending on the role, consider applicants with varying levels of education. They may bring unique strengths to internal teams that would have otherwise been overlooked by a more restrictive candidate search.
Offer options that attract diversity. Advertise the company’s support of diversity by including information on job postings about any flexibility in work schedules, support systems or inclusion initiatives that may attract applicants. For example, parents who otherwise wouldn’t apply might reconsider if they know about your flexible work scheduling policy.
Showing that your organization is sincere about increasing diversity may help attract top talent and will foster new thinking and innovation. Even if your strategy isn’t perfect, creating an open, inclusive work culture supports your recruitment and retention efforts.
Few can disagree that diversity in a work culture brings in new perspectives, ideas and experiences. Fostering and supporting different ideas and perspectives leads to better problem-solving. Working in diverse teams opens dialogue and promotes creativity. Few can argue against this being a win for business!
Mentoring and Recruiting Your Next Leaders
Once more diverse hires are made, the job is not over.
Providing mentors to new employees leads to higher retention rates in organizations, in part because it fosters a sense of community. Mentorship also helps organizations identify tomorrow’s talent for senior positions. Unless you recruit diverse entry-level candidates today, you may not have enough qualified candidates in the future. Build the pipeline and give those early-career employees room to grow.
Actively encourage management to mentor current employees and help them strategize and plan for their future careers. Doing so can pay off for everyone. According to research by McKinsey, employees are 2.9 times more likely to believe they have the same opportunity for advancement as their peers whenever they receive career mentoring from management.
LaborIQ by ThinkWhy continuously monitors and forecasts labor data at all levels, measuring impact to cities, industries, occupations and business across the U.S.