Diversity & Inclusion, Recruiting

7 Strategies for Infusing DEI into Recruitment and Onboarding

Recruiting talent and continuing to innovate are two of the greatest challenges for any organization. An organization can’t function without talented people to do the work, and it can’t grow and adapt to changing conditions without innovation. One way to shore up both recruiting and innovation may surprise you: building a more powerful diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program by including some key strategic steps in your recruitment and onboarding practices.

Attracting a Wider Pool of Candidates

At a time when employee attrition is growing, attracting candidates has never been more important than it is today. McKinsey research indicates that 53% of employers report “experiencing greater voluntary turnover than they had in previous years, and 64 percent expect the problem to continue—or worsen—over the next six months.” Recruitment practices that focus on DEI can reach and attract a larger talent pool and give you a better chance of finding (and keeping) the right person for the job when competition is tough. According to a survey by Glassdoor, “more than 3 in 4 employees and job seekers (76%) report a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.” And, “About 1 in 3 employees and job seekers (32%) would not apply to a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity among its workforce.”

Stimulating Innovation Through DEI

DEI can not only attract more candidates but also create higher-performing teams. Research shows that diverse teams stimulate innovation in all areas of your business, from operations to marketing. A Forbes Insights report on diversity and innovation found that “Multiple and varied voices have a wide range of experiences, and this can help generate new ideas about products and practices.” The research found that among large companies, “56% strongly agreed that diversity helps drive innovation.” In her Forbes article, Ilana Redstone, the founder of Diverse Perspectives Consulting and a professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, adds, “Greater attention in DEI training to the diversity of perspectives in any workplace can improve morale and promote team building. It can also enhance innovation. After all, innovation can only occur when employees have the humility to recognize that a product or service can be dramatically improved by thinking about it in a new way.”

‘Diversity jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not.’

—Columbia Business School Professor Katherine Phillips, “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter

Key Strategic Steps to Include in Your Recruitment and Onboarding Practices

 Organizations focused on DEI attract wider candidate pools. They also foster innovation by inviting diverse viewpoints, which offers wider access to a range of knowledge and experiences. But what specific steps can we take at the onset of the prospective employee’s journey that will make an immediate difference? Let’s look at some key strategic steps to include in your recruitment and onboarding practices. Central to doing so is building an inclusive program designed around employee experiences, starting from the very beginning of their interactions with the company.

  1. Target a recruitment pool that is reflective of diversity targets. As part of your overall DEI program, you’ll need to define DEI and assess your targets for establishing a more diverse workforce based on your organization’s context. That includes articulating your ambition and determining what you are trying to accomplish and why. With that assessment in place, develop a system for regularly tracking back to your plan to make sure your recruitment pool is reflective of those goals.
  2. Design appropriate methods to seek out and attract diversity. Look at your recruitment methods, and determine whether your efforts are set up to attract a diverse set of candidates. One strategy is to post on job boards where diverse candidates are more likely to see your job ads, such as LinkedIn groups or other job boards that incorporate a focus on diversity. Also, by having a diverse group of staff members involved in the job description development and interviewing processes, you will reflect the value you place on diversity and may increase the likelihood of attracting a diverse set of candidates.
  3. Vet job descriptions to remove bias. Job descriptions that reflect bias can inadvertently push away or screen out some of your best candidates. Start by keeping both job requirements and language choices inclusive, simple, and specific. For job requirements, include only those skills and experiences that are truly essential to the job. For language, that means avoiding jargon, “corporate speak,” and trigger words that may be off-putting and exclusionary for some. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has compiled a list of resources that can serve as a check on language, style, and approach to help make your job descriptions as inclusive as possible.
  4. Recognize and tackle interviewer-process bias. Because we’ve all had different life experiences, everyone has blind spots. For interviewers, that may mean they feel more comfortable with candidates whose life experiences are more similar to their own. This may create a dynamic whereby they bring forward a homogenous group of candidates and inadvertently screen out candidates with identities that differ from their own. Therefore, aim for having a diverse group of interviewers who represent a range of identities and experiences. Address biases through training that is nuanced, relatable, and conducted frequently, with ongoing follow-up.
  5. Standardize processes and systems. By standardizing interview and hiring processes, you will ensure all candidates follow the same steps and that no one is expected to jump through additional hoops. Consistency around questions, evaluation techniques, rubrics, and criteria will level out the process, giving diverse candidates an opportunity to be considered for the specific skills, knowledge, and experience they can bring to the job.
  6. Demonstrate to candidates and new hires that they will be included and valued. Work with leadership and employees to make diverse candidates feel comfortable and welcome. That starts with conducting employee training that creates awareness around preexisting notions and behaviors, thus helping to weed out any tendencies toward microaggressions. Support constructive conversations by designing a companywide “listening ear” that encourages feedback and gives everyone an equal voice. Promote advocacy and proactive inclusion to support candidates and new hires.
  7. Develop an onboarding plan designed to launch employees on a positive trajectory. Ensure your onboarding plan is cognizant of dynamics and issues that underrepresented employees may face. Bring everyone on board to focus and harness the value of diversity and its role in greater collaboration and innovation. Pay particular attention to including managers’ input throughout the planning process, as their support and participation will be essential to success. Listen for feedback, and let your plan evolve as you learn more. Going further, consider establishing career sponsors, cross-cutting mentorship programs, and affinity groups as part of your plan.

It’s important to acknowledge that this is not easy work, and the starting point and definition of success will be different for every organization depending on existing dynamics, history, and overall context. By infusing DEI into the recruitment and onboarding process, you’ll be taking a crucial step that will set the groundwork for establishing a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce.

When following up on the steps above, ensure that advancement and promotion processes and systems are also designed to be equitable, that all employees have an opportunity to succeed based on the value they create, and that the company culture is adapted in a way that makes employees feel they can identify and belong to it. In this kind of environment, diverse viewpoints and a wide range of perspectives help create stronger teams, drive unparalleled innovation, and carve a path toward a brighter future for both your organization and its employees.

Natasha Nicholson is the Senior Content Manager at Kantola Training Solutions, an innovative e-learning company focused on DEI and harassment prevention training solutions. She is responsible for thought leadership, content strategy, and production. Her background includes more than 20 years as a content leader, a communication strategist, and an editor. Before Kantola, she was the Content Director for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and served as Executive Editor for Communication World and Catalyst magazines.