Most recruiters and managers agree that a diverse team is critical for developing creativity, innovation, and growth toward a better bottom line. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are vital pillars in talent and hiring, especially today. A diverse workforce consistently indicates happier and healthier employees working in an environment where they feel respected—not to mention the countless benefits of diversity of thought to both company and employee. It’s simple: If you employ only one type of person, you’ll get ideas from only one perspective. A diverse team will generate more ideas and collaborative innovations than a homogenous group could.
Your company’s DEI efforts will significantly impact how employees and consumers perceive your brand. Setting your organization apart as a business committed to diversity and inclusion can boost employee morale and customer loyalty. Employee engagement is currently a top priority for many organizations, especially as the talent war continues. If your people actively participate in your organization and feel inspired to achieve their full potential, they will be far less likely to seek opportunities with other companies.
Paradoxically, one of the best ways to build and retain a diverse team is to demonstrate authentically to candidates that you already have diversity in your workforce, including the hiring team, and are committed to DEI initiatives. Diverse hiring teams naturally help to attract a more diverse group of candidates because of the communities and networks they share. And diversity isn’t just about principles; it’s also overwhelmingly good for business. Studies show that more diverse organizations earn 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee and are more than 35% more productive. Cultivating diversity sets the whole team up for success.
What Are the Challenges to Diversifying a Workforce?
As with any genuinely worthy initiative, achieving and maintaining inclusive diversity in a workplace has its own challenges, including:
• Communication hurdles. Communication among team members can be challenging even on the best days, but communication among team members with different backgrounds, values, and needs can pose an additional, though worthwhile, challenge. Every international business in practice today faces these hurdles, even when everyone speaks the same language.
Communicating clearly with a diverse workforce is vital to building an open, respectful, and productive company culture. Communication often starts with listening to employees’ needs and viewpoints. Failure to understand different perspectives or difficulty empathizing with another team can undermine productivity. Humans are imperfect and unique, so communication challenges are inevitable. Working in highly diverse organizations calls for strong interpersonal skills and cultural sensitivity from leaders.
• Diversity implementation barriers. Building a diverse workforce takes effort and care from the top down, as 38% of executives reported that the CEO was the primary sponsor of an organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Stewarding diversity is the responsibility of hiring managers, senior decision-makers, and leadership.
Hiring for diversity can fail in the long run if leadership doesn’t have a strategy for retaining that talent. Alongside recruiting and hiring, it’s just as essential to provide a variety of pathways for growth and upward career mobility to back up the authenticity of the hiring process. Leadership has to understand the workforce’s diverse needs and create a culture that supports all employees.
• More opinions in decision-making. Different perspectives, ideas, and viewpoints are essential for innovation in any industry, but decision-making delays can be common when multiple perspectives come together. A team member who disagrees with the statistics in a presentation might bring up a vital point to review, you might learn something new from a perspective you hadn’t considered, or you might simply find areas of uncertainty when opinions in the group are mixed. More cooks in the kitchen can make a great meal, but it means that planning and intentionality are crucial.
What Steps Can You Take to Cultivate the Right Hire?
Cultivating a diverse talent pool starts with the recruiting and hiring process. By employing diverse hiring managers, you can set the tone for the company culture and decrease the likelihood of hiring based on confirmation bias.
Having a diverse team involved in the hiring process shows a commitment to DEI initiatives, demonstrates that the organization is truly setting pathways for anyone to advance in their career, and highlights that diversity is a conscious choice for leadership. Ready to cultivate a diverse hiring team? Here are steps that you and your organization can take to get started:
1. Make hiring diverse candidates a priority.
Dedicate some time and research to this process. If you aren’t putting in the effort to hire candidates of diverse backgrounds, then your team will likely default to hiring who is most convenient or familiar to them. To get the best results, make sure your team knows that improving diversity is of the utmost importance to you and your leadership. Tell them how this will enrich their work lives, provide resources they can use to educate themselves, and forge clear policies when it comes to hiring and onboarding procedures.
2. Promote existing diverse talent to positions that hire.
Look within to cultivate individuals to grow professionally, and provide the support they need to advance. Similarly, if DEI candidates see other diverse people during the hiring process, they will be more apt to join the organization and see themselves with your company in the long term.
3. Intentionally seek out talent pools you might not regularly connect with.
Look outside your usual avenues to post jobs and reach candidates. Participate in hiring fairs held by historically black colleges and universities, and develop relationships with diverse communities, such as an ethnic chamber of commerce. Aligning with multiple community groups and offering referral bonuses and incentives to your own employees can help you reach and bring in new talent.
4. Create a concrete interview process.
Interviewing is one of the most complex parts of diversity recruiting. Many interviewers rely on gut feelings or past experiences. But it’s not enough to rely on gut instincts without also self-educating on DEI topics and challenging preconceived notions about what those “guts” might hold. Involve a diverse set of employees in the interview process, as well; more perspectives will help keep you from falling back into default habits. Having the “stamp of approval” from current employees with diverse backgrounds will mean more to potential diverse job candidates than any “commitment to diversity” statement. (But you should still have that, too!)
Diversifying your workplace is one of the best things your organization will ever do, and you have the tools to start today. How can you improve the hiring process to take your organization to the next level?
Crystal Crump is a positive influencer and change-maker who enjoys creating meaningful connections while driving business solutions. With a background in nonprofit fundraising, program, and relationship management, Crump understands the power of consensus to effect positive change. As the Managing Director of Company Relations at LaunchCode, she is dedicated to helping individuals gain access to technology careers and upward mobility by partnering with business leaders to achieve recruitment and workforce development initiatives.