Most employers are eager to tout the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce, and they also want to create a workplace where people are comfortable with the organization’s values and feel like they fit in with their coworkers. But sometimes the notion of hiring for culture fit means management looking for employees who look and think like them.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though, according to Kristy Nittskoff and Elena Valentine, who recently teamed up to present a webinar titled “Diversity Recruiting: Key Strategies to Hiring for Culture Fit” for BLR®—Business & Legal Resources.
According to Nittskoff, CEO of Talent-Savvy, LLC, a company focusing on recruitment strategies, one mistake employers make is having too limited a view of what diversity is. It’s about more than just recruiting for racial and gender diversity. She uses a pie chart to show a more expansive view of what diversity in the workplace means. The chart is made up of slices—all equal in size—labeled race, gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ, age, background, and tenure.
Tenure, often overlooked in diversity discussions, is important since mixing people who have built long careers with an organization with newer people will produce diversity of thought, Nittskoff says.
Background is a broad term that can refer to people who have taken a nontraditional path into a career field or perhaps served in the military before joining civilian employment. Also, people with disabilities can add to the benefits of diversity, since they can help an organization design products and services that appeal to people from all walks of life. The same goes for people of varying political backgrounds.
“So, diversity is not just about what we all look like,” Nittskoff says. “It’s also what we all act like and feel like at work.”
Even with so many successful employers touting the benefits of a diverse workforce, recruiters working to increase diversity can face challenges, says Valentine, CEO of Skill Scout Inc., a company that helps employers create recruiting videos. That may be because of a lack of buy-in from management as well as everyone’s unconscious biases. Management and supervisor training on the importance of diversity and inclusion can help.
In particular, Nittskoff emphasizes the importance of training to help management understand the youngest employees entering the workforce. She defines those Gen Z employees as the group born after 1997. She says Gen Z exhibits significant differences from the other young segment of the workforce, the barely older Millennials.
“Gen Z is coming, and they should be a huge part of your recruitment strategy from this point forward,” Nittskoff says, adding that the group highly values professionalism and academic achievement. They came up through the recession, and they want “future-proof” jobs they can commit to and employers that will commit to them.
“That’s going to play a big part in diversity recruitment,” Nittskoff says. She cites statistics showing that 77 percent of Gen Z workers claim that a company’s diversity would be a deciding factor in their job search.
Success in diversity recruiting can breed more successes. Here are some ideas from Nittskoff and Valentine on how employers can build on their diversity recruiting achievements.
- Show success. The first step is to showcase an employer’s diversity. Posting authentic photos of the employees that make up a workforce—not stock “Dick and Jane” photos—will show the organization’s diversity and culture to prospective employees. Using photos and videos of a company’s actual employees and featuring their stories about what they do and how they came to work for the company can boost recruiting. A video doesn’t have to be an expensive production. A company can show its culture on videos shot with employees’ own smartphones.
- Conduct robust intake meetings. When recruiters meet with hiring managers, they need to cover more than the needed skills and responsibilities for the position. The recruiter also should ask the hiring manager questions such as how the position should be described to someone outside the industry, what are some characteristics of an ideal candidate, and what are the personal attributes that will contribute to the candidate’s success. Perhaps as important as the questions to cover during an intake meeting are the questions that should be left out. For example, asking if the hiring manager is looking for a specific degree or for candidates from a certain college can hamper efforts to attract a diverse candidate pool.
- Watch your words. While recruiters understand that some subjects are not just taboo but actually are illegal in interviews, others on the hiring team may need training to make sure they’re creating an environment where a candidate feels comfortable.
- Use new tools. Various tools are available, such as the augmented writing platform Textio, which flags words and phrases in a job posting that may discourage certain candidates. For example, it can point out language that may have a masculine or feminine tone or otherwise discourage diverse candidates.
- Remove identifiers. Hiding names, addresses, and universities on résumés can help advance a more diverse group of final candidates. Research has shown that a résumé with a Caucasian-sounding name gets more callbacks and interviews than an otherwise identical résumé with a minority-sounding name. Also, a candidate’s address and university often signal socio-economic status.
- Use work samples. Having candidates complete a work assignment is a good way to judge their potential without considering race, gender, or other diversity factors. The assignment should be limited to the key activities and outcomes of the job—not all the bullet points in the job description—so it shouldn’t take up too much of a candidate’s time. The employer may also want to include some compensation for the time required.
- Create and advertise affinity groups. Prospective employees are likely to appreciate employers that have formed groups aimed at supporting various special interests represented in their workforce.