Hardwiring DE&I Into The Recruiting Process with Thermo Fisher

Devin Foster

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategy impacts your employee experience, recruitment, and organizational performance. But many employers cite being “too busy” to hire for diversity and inclusion, a SHRM study revealed. The study illustrates the need to instill DE&I values into company culture and recruitment processes.
 

Amy Ritter, Director of Talent Acquisition Operations at Thermo Fisher discussed on a recent Talent Experience Live her team’s strategy for a multi-pronged approach to reducing bias from the very beginning of the candidate journey. Check out the full episode here:
 


Read on for highlights from the show!

 

Why is DE&I so critical right now?
 


As a leader in the life sciences industry, innovation is a critical aspect of the Thermo Fisher story. And diverse teams drive innovation, Ritter pointed out. While the company has always been recognized for strong DE&I values, new challenges call for a strengthened commitment.
 

“As the market shifts and evolves, we need to evolve with it,” Ritter said. “DE&I helps us meet increased market demands and new customer bases. We need to look like the customers we serve.”

 

What are some successful ways you’ve fostered more inclusive and equitable culture as a whole?

Ritter cites two main ways that Thermo Fisher has instilled openness and acceptance into company culture: 
 

  • Strong employee engagement and partnerships with employee resource groups (ERGs)
     
  • Consistent messaging from leadership on the importance of DE&I, including a letter written by the CEO on the importance of diversity in society

 

What benchmarks can be used to measure DE&I?
 


Once an initiative is underway, how can recruitment teams measure its effectiveness? Thermo Fisher uses these methods:
 

  • Monitor the applicant flow for equity and advancement. The applicant flow is broken down into various demographics. At each stage of the candidate journey, Ritter’s team checks to see how candidates are progressing through to ensure equity and the right kind of advancement. 
     
  • Diversity hiring numbers 
     
  • Employee engagement. They measure employee sentiment regarding inclusion and sense of belonging.

 

How can recruiters prevent bias from entering the job description?
 


To prevent bias from unintentionally shading job descriptions, it helps to understand how it can enter the process in the first place. 
 

Managers often unintentionally introduce bias at the outset for three major reasons:
 

1. Job descriptions are often created based on the most successful employee in that role. While the manager intends no harm or intentional bias, they’re failing to consider what skills and level of education the job actually requires. At the beginning of the hiring project, evaluate what skills candidates really need to bring to the table, Ritter stressed.
 

2. Time is a factor. When hiring managers get approval for requisition, and it’s a race to get the position filled, job descriptions often are hastily rerun from past iterations to save time. Again, this overlooks deep thinking about critical skills for the position.
 

3. Education and experience are more clear-cut than skill level and easier to measure (e.g., What type of degree does a candidate hold, and where did he or she attend school? How many years of experience?). These questions have concrete answers, whereas it’s more difficult to gauge where a candidate falls within a skills range.
 

It highlights the importance of asking situational questions to understand how a candidate will succeed in organization, rather than just looking at numbers. Also, considering how a candidate might add to the culture rather than just fit into it to can create more diversity in hiring. 

 

What’s more important regarding DE&I efforts: A dedicated team, or hard-wiring it into culture?
 

Both, Ritter said without hesitation. A dedicated team is important for setting strategy and identifying opportunities. That team must work closely with operations leaders and organizational centers to help achieve overall strategy.

 

What challenges to rolling out DE&I protocols have you encountered in a hiring boom when speed is important?
 


This keeps Ritter up at night, she confided. Thermo Fisher’s role in pandemic response – they’re producing Covid test kits, treatments, and products that support vaccine needs such as cold storage – drove a spike in open requisitions from 2,500 in early April to more than 13,000 in November. 
 

There’s a twin urgency around DE&I, so the TA team is working to implement new initiatives on how to prevent bias from creeping in at the beginning of recruiting. They’re trying to bring more equity and awareness to the entire hiring process. 
 

From the top down, Ritter and her team are working to instill the understanding that achieving organizational-wide goals depends on good diversity in hiring. 

 

Is there any way technology can assist with the DE&I process?


Ritter harnesses the power of technology at a couple of key points early in the TA process:
 

  • At the point of requisition creation, managers receive education on why diversity is important and how to guard against introducing bias.
     
  • Tech-driven tools help with wording of job descriptions that are inclusive, avoiding wording that could alienate diverse candidates. 
     
  • Tools also help hiring managers develop robust descriptions that adequately communicate skills as well as what it’s like to work on the team and for the company.

 

Are you showcasing DE&I efforts in other areas? 
 

DE&I messaging is communicated in a multichannel approach:
 

  • Thermo Fisher’s website features the company’s DE&I philosophy, and the careers page more specifically articulates what DE&I means at the company. 
     
  • Videos from employees that highlight DE&I are promoted on social channels. 
     
  • Blog articles are used to frame DE&I messaging as well. 

 

How are employees responding to these initiatives?
 


Thanks to strong messaging around promoting inclusivity, Thermo Fisher is seeing a good amount of engagement with DE&I-related events, Ritter said. ERGs especially have been a successful vehicle for increasing engagement with DE&I. Leadership engagement has been evident as well. 

 

What are your top tips for organizations seeking to ramp up DE&I initiatives?
 


Be very clear about the goals you’re setting, Ritter said. Understand barriers that may exist, and work to address them – this is more important than a purely results-focused approach. 
 

Keep in mind that long-term adoption of initiatives determines whether DE&I will be successfully ingrained in culture. Focus on changing human behaviors to sustain momentum. DE&I can’t be wedged into project timelines – there’s no endpoint, so keep going when it seems that goals are being met.


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