The civil rights, equity, and social justice movements over the last year have been a huge catalyst for recent changes in how organizations prioritize diversity and inclusion hiring initiatives, and choose to invest in better practices. However, data shows there are far more reasons for diversity and inclusion to be a primary focus for every organization.
Research shows slow progress in hiring for D&I, as well as inconsistency across all organizations, and that there's a "widening gap between D&I leaders and companies that haven't embraced diversity" yet, as McKinsey & Co. reported in May 2020.
A third of companies McKinsey analyzed made progress in top-team diversity over a 5-year period, per the report, but the rest didn't make any progress in gender and cultural representation. Some even fell behind, causing a drop in financial performance.
It's important to remember that employees want a diverse workforce, too. A report from The HR Director shows that 79 percent of employees say being part of a diverse workforce is an important factor in their happiness on the job.
Some candidates may even refuse to work for your organization if it demonstrates that it’s not supportive of diversity and inclusion. For example, a Glassdoor survey found that 72% of all women said they would not apply to work at a company where a gender-based pay gap exists.
Hiring for diversity and inclusion also brings new ideas to your organization. Different backgrounds and perspectives can contribute innovation, new perspectives, thought processes and problem-solving skills.
Here at Phenom, we created The Definitive Guide to Hiring for Diversity and Inclusion to give organizations concrete strategies and ideas to hire and support a more diverse workforce. This guide will help you:
- Fully understand diversity and inclusion.
- Create goals and processes to help build a diverse workforce.
- Find diverse candidates who can bring new perspectives to your organization.
- Create a culture and work environment that are more inclusive of diverse groups.
- Avoid unconscious biases in the hiring process.
- And much more!
What is hiring for diversity and inclusion?
Hiring for diversity and inclusion means hiring based on merit while ensuring an organization’s hiring processes and culture are free from bias and supportive of all people.
Organizations should never prioritize diversity and inclusion at the expense of skill, experience or role fit.
Hiring for diversity and inclusion means looking for employees who will add to your culture — not employees who fit your culture, according to Ellen Hughes, Customer Success Manager at Phenom. Focusing on culture fit can cause companies to hire similar candidates — not diverse ones.
“In the past, a lot of people were really focused on culture fit,” she said. However, companies should look for candidates who add to the culture and improve it. “By doing so, they will improve their culture, making it more interesting and bringing different voices and different perspectives to the table,” Hughes said.
Is there a difference between diversity and inclusion?
While many people often group diversity and inclusion together, diversity and inclusion are not the same — although they are closely related.
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance,” said Vernā Myers, Diversity Advocate and President of The Vernā Myers Company.
Diversity consists of the traits that make a person unique. This includes both visible traits, like gender and race, and invisible traits, like sexual orientation, religion, and socio-economic status.
An inclusive environment is one that:
- Treats all people fairly and equally
- Supports and involves different perspectives, ideas, and individuals
- Gives everyone equal access to opportunities and resources
Consequently, an organization may be diverse but not inclusive of their diverse workforce. That’s why companies should create goals and initiatives for both diversity and inclusion.
The challenges of hiring for diversity and inclusion
A company will never successfully improve their practices of hiring for diversity and inclusion until they first examine their culture, and recognize its shortcomings and opportunities for growth.
The first step to examining your culture is understanding the biases that may be impacting your entire workforce.
Unconscious and conscious bias
Two kinds of bias can unfairly impact hiring decisions in the workplace — conscious and unconscious bias.
Conscious bias is when someone overtly or subtly oppresses or treats another individual negatively because they have negative opinions about that person. The oppressor is aware of their negative opinions and actions and intentionally displays them. Conscious bias can be learned from other people or an inherent part of an individual’s way of thinking.
Unconscious (or implicit) bias, on the other hand, is bias that’s outside an individual’s awareness and potentially contradicts an individual’s own beliefs about fairness and equity. Unlike with conscious bias, unconscious bias is learned and can become automatic.
Unconscious bias becomes especially dangerous in the workplace when it dictates an individual’s decision making and actions, without the individual's awareness.
Virtually all Fortune 500 companies had started offering formal diversity training to their workforces as of July 2019, according to Harvard Business Review. Their study of more than 10,000 employees from large global organizations found very little evidence that a diversity training (designed for the study) impacted the behavior of men or white employees.
For some positive findings, HBR's experiment determined that "helping people recognize biases toward a marginalized group of people can have positive spillover effects on their attitudes and behaviors toward other marginalized groups."
Reducing bias in the workplace
“It's impossible to remove bias entirely,” Hughes said. “But you can try to reduce it and mitigate it as much as possible by putting in some guardrails and strategies.”
With this 3-step strategy, you can identify bias and work to reduce it within your company:
1. Understand bias. Take the time to learn the differences between unconscious and conscious bias.
2. Pinpoint when bias can occur in the candidate journey. There is potential for bias at every stage of the hiring process. Examine how your company is attracting candidates, sourcing candidates, assessing candidates and making hiring decisions. How can you make these processes more diverse? Are there moments in the hiring process where you might lack objectivity? What weaknesses and flaws can you find in your current strategies?
3. Educate employees and leadership about bias and where bias is likely to occur. Once you’ve taken the time to understand bias and examine your entire hiring process to pinpoint flaws, then educate your employees and leadership. Teach them about unconscious and conscious bias. Tell them your company won’t stand for conscious bias and explain ways you’re working to reduce unconscious bias. Finally, make employees aware of actions or processes where they may be likely to exhibit unconscious bias.
Setting goals for diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion goals help companies understand where they currently stand as an organization and monitor their progress toward better diversity and inclusion.
Setting diversity and inclusion goals will help an organization improve its DE&I strategies, and show candidates and employees that you care about enabling everyone to feel like they're an equal part of the team. Goals will also show employees how you're looking at the future and the culture in which they work.
Here are four steps to set diversity and inclusion goals for your organization:
- Audit your current workforce and culture. Look at any data you may have that can reveal the diversity of your current workforce.
- Examine benchmark data. Compare the diversity of your current workforce to benchmarks within your industry or geographical location. See how you compare to the general average when it comes to diversity and inclusion metrics.
- Survey your employees. Ask them how they identify (if they are willing to share) Gather data and examine whether they feel your culture is inclusive and supportive of them as an individual. Be certain to let each employee know that their participation, as well as disclosing personal information is optional.
- Set achievable goals. Given what you now know, document realistic goals to make your workforce more diverse and inclusive.
By using qualitative survey responses and quantitative workplace data, you can get a better idea of where you may have opportunities for improvement and then create goals to make progress.
How to get your company to support diversity and inclusion goals
Diversity and inclusion goals will have little impact if your company doesn’t embrace and reinforce them. To get buy in, share your goals with the entire workforce and educate employees on fostering a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
In particular, you should make sure everyone involved in the hiring process — including hiring managers, recruiters, and leadership — understand and advocate your organization’s goals and your stance on diversity and inclusion.
Explain why diversity and inclusion is important and how it enhances a company.
Then, if you are legally able to share this information, describe what you found when auditing your company’s current diversity data and when surveying employees. Keep the data anonymous to protect your employees’ privacy.
And finally, share your diversity and inclusion goals and the steps you plan to take to reach them.
Seven ways to create inclusive job listings
Your job listings can make or break diversity hiring. If candidates view job descriptions and feel they’re not inclusive, they may never apply.
In fact, research from LinkedIn found that women are 16% less likely than men to apply to a job after viewing it and women apply for 20% fewer jobs than men. To avoid this, write job descriptions that encourage diverse candidates to apply. “People really need to take a close look at the language they're using in job descriptions,” Hughes said.
Too often, hiring managers and recruiters simply copy and paste an old job description when creating a new job listing, failing to make sure it's updated with inclusive language as needed. Consider following these best practices to help you write more inclusive job listings:
Review the job qualifications. Determine whether the qualifications you list are necessary for the role. Then, look to remove any non-essential qualifications, or create a new section in your job description labeled “bonus qualifications” to show they're nice but not necessary. Consider adding language to your job listing that encourages candidates to apply even if they don’t meet all qualifications.
Take a second look at your education requirements. Closely examine whether a candidate could fulfill this role without a college degree. By removing degree requirements, you can make the job more accessible to people with different education backgrounds and socio-economic statuses.
Analyze word choice. Some words may deter diverse candidates from applying, particularly strong verbs and nouns — like “command” and “assertive.”
Ensure your job listing can be read by screen readers. Make the job listing more accessible to candidates who may not be physically able to read the listing. For instance, use accessibility-friendly canvases and widgets to reach career site visitors who need them. Ensure your site supports Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Avoid jargon or colloquial language. Industry jargon can confuse and overwhelm candidates and colloquial language may not make sense to people from different countries. For example, terms like “rockstar” and “ninja” may be common in the United States, but not in other countries.
Stay away from gendered pronouns. Using gendered pronouns in a job listing may make a candidate feel excluded. Try using “they/them” or omitting pronouns entirely instead of “he” or “she."
Ask diverse people to review and edit your job listing. This is one of the best ways to ensure your job descriptions and listings are more inclusive. By asking diverse candidates to read your job descriptions, you can see perspectives you may have never considered.
Building a career site for diversity hiring
Similar to your job listings, your career site can either encourage or discourage diverse candidates to apply. “Make sure your career site screams in very clear and loud words what your culture is — that you are diverse,” John Deal, Director of Product Management at Phenom said.
If you’re an equal opportunity employer, list that. If you are a diverse, inclusive company, explain what measures you’re taking to accomplish this and invite diverse candidates to apply.
North Highland, a global consulting firm, includes an entire diversity and inclusion section on their career site where they explain why they're important to their organization.
“Our career site is our way of publicly showcasing our commitment to I&D and the actions we are taking every day to build an inclusive, equitable, and diverse community through North Highland’s culture of care”, said Chris Stanzione, North Highland's Head of Global Talent Acquisition.
And if you’re working to make your culture more diverse and haven’t reached your goals yet, share that.
“Be transparent,” Hughes said. She explained you should talk about your diversity goals and how you’re working toward them.
It's OK to say that you haven’t reached your goals yet and document your pledge to improve. Additionally, as with job listings, make sure your career site is accessible to those with different needs.
How to attract diverse candidates to your job listings and career site
Once you have inclusive job listings and a career site that shows your culture, you need to ensure you are actually reaching a diverse candidate pool. Sourcing candidates from the same job fairs, job boards, companies and sites will likely attract similar candidates rather than diverse talent.
To attract a wide collection of candidates and be inclusive of people from all backgrounds, consider promoting your job openings in new places. You can:
- Promote opportunities on many different job boards. For example, promote your job listings on job boards at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
- Visit new virtual or in-person job fairs, college fairs and career fairs. In particular, try virtual or in-person fairs that you've never attended to attract more diverse candidates.
- Source candidates from different companies. Sometimes, hiring managers tell recruiters to source candidates from a particular company or set of companies within their industry. Instead, broaden your search to attract candidates with different experiences and backgrounds.
- Consider remote candidates. When you open job opportunities to remote candidates, you can remove geographical limitations. “Often, companies are limited by geography when it comes to diversity and inclusion and being able to hire people from different parts of the country or the world, without having to relocate them, is a beautiful thing,” Hughes said.
- Encourage current employees to refer candidates. By creating a job referral program within your company, you can encourage your current employees to refer candidates. This is a great way to reach a more diverse pool of people and boost employee engagement.
In general, find new places and ways to promote and share your job opportunities. This will increase your chances of getting those opportunities in front of diverse candidates.
Creating an interview process that’s supportive of diversity and inclusion
Finding a diverse candidate pool is only one aspect of hiring for diversity and inclusion. You also need to ensure your hiring process is inclusive and supportive of all people. Otherwise, bias can creep into the hiring process, and hiring managers may not be as likely to offer jobs to diverse candidates.
When choosing candidates for interviews, conducting interviews and deciding who to extend an offer to, it’s important to create processes that discourage bias.
Here are six best practices you can use to avoid bias in the selection and interview process:
1. Use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide fit scores. Fit scores rank candidates on skills, competencies, work experiences, prior job titles, proximity to job locations and more. Using a fit score can help you avoid objective, potentially-biased decision making.
“Fit scores should certainly help reduce some of the bias in the process. It will funnel the top talent up and then let you make decisions about that talent,” Deal said.
2. Ask interviewees if they need accommodation during the interview. Some job candidates may have a disability for which you'll need to adapt the interview style. . For example, if a candidate is unable to speak, they may need a chat service to communicate. Job candidates may feel uncomfortable asking for special accommodations, so to ease any hesitation, ask all candidates if they need adjustments. Ask on your application form, or recruiters can even ask via email when scheduling interviews.
3. Invite diverse people to conduct the interview. When evaluating and interviewing a candidate, it’s helpful to have diverse employees involved in the process to reduce chances of hiring managers selecting people similar to them, instead of those who are most qualified.
4. Structure your interview process and questions. Otherwise, hiring managers may consciously or unconsciously ask questions in a biased way. “Make sure you are asking certain questions so that everybody's on a level playing field once they reach the final stages,” Hughes said.
5. Require all interviewers to take notes. This will allow interview teams to review the notes together and maintain accountability.
6. Hold a debrief meeting with all interviewers. During this meeting, review interview notes and discuss assessments of candidates together. You should schedule this meeting soon after the interviews have taken place so that interviewers’ recollections are fresh. Don’t allow one person to dominate the decision making process. Instead, ensure everyone has an opportunity to share their perspectives on candidates.
Eleven strategies to support workplace diversity
Diversity and inclusion initiatives should never end at the hiring process. If inclusion isn’t encouraged within your work culture, diverse employees may feel unsafe being themselves and therefore, may leave your company.
A 2017 study of tech companies by The Kapor Center and Harris Poll found that 78% of employees reported experiencing some form of unfair behavior or treatment at work, and 37% of employees indicated unfair treatment was a major factor in their decision to leave their company.
The study also found that 57% of employees would have stayed in their role if their company had taken steps to create a more fair and inclusive workplace.
Considering this, here are 11 strategies to make your workplace more inclusive:
1. Create an inclusivity committee. Invite diverse employees to join, and focus on creating initiatives to foster inclusivity within your organization.
2. Encourage feedback. Managers, HR and leadership teams should make employees feel safe to share their feedback, report and talk about non-inclusive behavior. Employees may feel uncomfortable sharing this information so your organization should actively invite people to openly discuss issues.
3. Survey employees regularly. Ask employees if they feel included and request ideas for ways in which your organization could improve or provide more support. Making this survey anonymous may enable employees to safely share their honest opinions.
4. Encourage and support employee resource groups (ERGs). “Give people a place where they can safely reach out to other folks within the organization and talk about the company, the jobs and the career opportunities with other like-minded individuals," Deal said of ERGs.
5. Give employees the power to host diversity and inclusion events. There, employees get the opportunity to network with other people and discuss diversity and inclusion. By allowing employees to create these events themselves, you empower them to discuss these topics at the time and in the way that’s best for them.
6. Ensure learning opportunities, career paths, and job openings are transparent to all employees. This will give your employees equal access to advancement opportunities and show that your organization wants diverse candidates to succeed.
7. Encourage employees to listen to all voices. During meetings, certain people may tend to dominate conversations and quieter voices may not be heard. Guide employees to look out for this behavior pattern and encourage employees to give quieter employees the opportunity to speak.
8. List all holidays on your company calendar. You can easily make diverse employees feel excluded if you celebrate certain holidays and not others. To avoid this situation, include diverse holidays on your company calendar or allow and encourage employees to add the holidays they celebrate to the company calendar.
9. Provide paid time off (PTO) for all religious holidays. For example, if you offer PTO on Easter Monday but not Diwali, some employees may feel unsupported and excluded. To avoid situations like this, consider offering floating holidays that employees can use on the holidays they choose.
10. Add preferred pronouns to your Slack profile or email signature. Sharing your pronouns shows that you're inclusive and can lead by example, and gives others a "safe space" to optionally share theirs. Over time, colleagues could become more comfortable voluntarily and openly sharing how they identify and what pronouns they use.
11. Use chatbots to give employees more access to information and job opportunities. Chatbots can answer employee questions, facilitate employee referrals and help employees find new jobs and opportunities. By offering a chatbot, you’ll empower employees to research and find information without immediately involving HR or management.
These 11 strategies can help you create an environment where employees know they will be heard, valued, treated fairly and given the opportunity to advance and succeed.
The role of HR tech and artificial intelligence in hiring for diversity and inclusion
Many companies hope HR technology and AI can eliminate their diversity and inclusion shortcomings.
However, technology by itself will never fix a company’s diversity and inclusion issues. “Organizations must demonstrate their dedication to a culture that nurtures diversity, equity and inclusion before deploying AI technology to advance those goals,” said Mahe Bayireddi, CEO and co-founder of Phenom.
To be used effectively, AI needs human guidance. Your company must first examine its culture to find where it can improve and then create goals to work toward that improvement. Once you’ve done this, you can use HR technology and AI in powerful ways to support your diversity and inclusion efforts.
Here are 6 ways HR technology and AI can support your diversity and inclusion goals:
1. Identify diversity gaps within organizations. If it’s important to your organization to have a certain breakdown of diverse talent on specific teams, AI can do the analysis on your workforce and reveal the gaps. Hiring managers can compare their company’s diversity and inclusion standing to industry benchmarks, and AI can provide a clear roadmap for improvement.
2. Examine the text on your job descriptions and find opportunities to make language more inclusive. For example, it can find language that is too masculine or feminine. It can also identify accessibility issues. While this does not entirely remove opportunities for bias because people still write the job descriptions, it can help.
3. Provide fit scores that reduce bias by focusing on skills and experience rather than implied race, gender or age details.
4. Filter candidates leveraging an AI-powered CRM without bias and find best-fit job seekers.
5. Keep diverse employees engaged and supported. By creating an employee portal where employees can join resource groups, see recommended jobs and find learning opportunities, you can build an environment where resources and opportunities are equally accessible and employees feel supported by a community of colleagues.
6. Recommend next career steps or opportunities to employees so they are aware of how to advance their career, even if bias has prevented them from hearing about these opportunities from their manager or leadership.
Keep in mind, for technology to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, a company must first recognize their shortcomings, then make goals to improve and be transparent about diversity and inclusion.
A summary of diversity in the workplace
Hiring for diversity is a part of making your organization stand out and thrive in an increasingly competitive market. It will bring unique, new perspectives and ideas to your organization that could innovate your products, services and culture. Data also shows it can increase your profitability.
Diversity and inclusion are different yet closely related. Diversity brings new voices to your organization. Inclusion ensures those voices are heard.
Examine your company’s culture to create awareness around diversity and inclusion. Be transparent about where your shortcomings as a company are and consider how you can improve and reduce conscious and unconscious bias.
Set diversity and inclusion goals for your organization and share them with the entire company to make sure employees support and embrace them.
Review your job listings and career site to ensure they are accessible to and inclusive of everyone and explain how your organization supports diversity and inclusion.
Promote your job listings and career site in new places, like diverse job boards, enabling recruiters to attract diverse talent with different backgrounds and experiences.
Reduce bias and increase inclusivity within your hiring process by involving diverse interviewers, using AI, providing accommodations and structuring your interview questions.
Support and include your diverse employees by creating an environment where they know they will be heard, valued, treated fairly and given the opportunity to advance and succeed.
Artificial intelligence is not a blanket solution to diversity and inclusion. However, once your organization has a diversity and inclusion plan and goals, AI can draw attention and awareness to opportunities to be more inclusive.
Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce with Phenom
Phenom’s suite of diversity and inclusion tools will help companies foster diversity, community and engagement in the workplace. Employees will also have the power to lead diversity and inclusion initiatives that are important to them. With Phenom, recruiters can more quickly fill their candidate pool with diverse candidates and ensure those candidates feel included throughout the interview process.
- Get job insights to discover and rediscover leads based on fit.
- Easily push your jobs out to more diverse job boards.
- Create employee resource groups where internal talent can lean on each other and move important conversations forward.
- Host and promote diversity and inclusion events or allow employees to create their own events and network with other employees.
- Track the success of your diversity and inclusion programs to ensure you meet your organization’s goals.
- Quickly build lead gen forms that can be added to diversity landing pages and grow your talent community.
- Launch a conversational chatbot that sources, screens and matches candidates with best-fit jobs and provides information to employees who may feel uncomfortable asking managers or HR.
- Use dynamic fit scoring to elevate best-fit candidates, enabling recruiters to fill roles faster and avoid bias in the hiring process.
Interested in seeing Phenom in action? Click here to schedule a demo with one of our talent experience experts.
The Guide to Diversity and Inclusion
- What is hiring for diversity and inclusion?
- Is there a difference between diversity and inclusion?
- The challenges of hiring for diversity and inclusion
- Unconscious and conscious bias
- Reducing bias in the workplace
- Setting goals for diversity and inclusion
- How to get your company to support diversity and inclusion goals
- Seven ways to create inclusive job listings
- Building a career site for diversity hiring
- How to attract diverse candidates to your job listings and career site
- Creating an interview process that’s supportive of diversity and inclusion
- Eleven strategies to support workplace diversity
- The role of HR tech and artificial intelligence in hiring for diversity and inclusion
- A summary of diversity in the workplace
- Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce with Phenom