Best practices to increase workplace diversity
According to a recent Monster poll, 62% of job candidates said they would turn down a job offer at a company they didn’t feel values workplace diversity. Among Gen Z job seekers, diversity and inclusion is even more of a dealbreaker.
For companies who want to attract the best talent, having a diverse workforce is no longer a vague goal; it’s becoming a competitive advantage.
“Put simply, fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace makes us stronger. We develop greater awareness, understanding and empathy, and we fuel innovation, creativity and new ways of problem-solving,” says Amie Santos, director of diversity and inclusion at the global law firm Cooley LLP.
Additionally, companies with strong diversity and inclusion programs have a better chance at hiring top talent.
But if you take a look at your own company and fail to see true workplace diversity, there are steps you can take to create hiring practices that will attract diverse candidates. Monster spoke with diversity and inclusion experts to identify actionable steps companies can take to hire a diverse team.
Write inclusive job postings
A badly written job description can turn off candidates before they’ve even read past the first few lines if HR teams and hiring managers aren’t careful about the words used to describe the role and desired applicant.
The first thing a company needs to do if they want to attract diverse candidates is to make sure they’re writing more inclusive job descriptions. Luckily, there are plenty of tools and apps to help detect biased writing, even if it was unintentional.
“It is helpful to avoid gender-coded words, such as ‘aggressive’ or ‘rock-star’ and definitely avoid ageistic code-words such as ‘digital native,’” says organizational psychologist and professor Ludmila Praslova.
Attract a wider pool of candidates
After checking for biased words, there are bigger picture things you can do to make the job description more inclusive so you attract the people you want to hire.
First, consider removing requirements that aren’t essential. A Hewlett Packard Internal report that found that women will typically only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the requirements whereas men will apply if they meet 60%. If something isn’t necessary, consider deleting it altogether or creating a separate section with qualifications that are preferred, but not required.
Second, Textio, a tool companies use to write inclusive job descriptions, analyzed thousands of job postings and found that it is beneficial to include reasonable accommodation language in the job posting.
If it is available, let candidates know that they can request interview accommodations such as extended interview time, assistive technology like the use of a screen-reader and braille keyboard or captioning services, and sign language interpreter services.
Third, instead of including an equal opportunity statement in the job posting that is full of legal jargon, Textio found that more job candidates applied when the statement felt less formal and conversational. They gave the example: “We are an equal opportunity employer, and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability.”
Create blind applications
Blind applications remove all personal and demographic information so hiring managers can assess candidates solely based on ability. A blind application will remove anything that could cause bias like the person’s name, address, school, and graduation dates.
It can be easy to tell someone’s gender and sometimes race or ethnicity from their name and to learn about someone’s socioeconomic background from their address. Obscuring graduation dates helps to eliminate age bias and removing the school can take away the temptation to hire from “top-tier” schools.
“The blind resume is probably one of the most impactful [diversity hiring tools] because a large part of the issue is an inability to even get diverse talent in the door. Blind resumes are fairly easy to implement and make a big difference to mitigate the unconscious bias that often prevents different groups from being considered for roles they are qualified for,” says Janice Gassam, a business consultant and author of Dirty Diversity: A Practical Guide to Foster an Equitable and Inclusive Workplace for All.
The origins of blind hiring stem from symphony orchestras auditions in the 1970s. Similar to what you’d see on “The Voice” today, the orchestras began holding auditions behind curtains so the judges could only make decisions based on the performance. The orchestras were predominantly white men, and the hope was that this method would increase diversity. It did. Researchers at Harvard and Princeton took note and made a formal study based on blind auditions, they found that 25% to 46% more women were hired. Since then, similar studies have looked at the impact that obscuring race and gender has on applications. They found that it makes a difference.
Mitigate bias at the interview stage
Once a candidate gets to the interview stage, there is an increased likelihood that the interviewer is likely to favor a candidate who is similar to them. “Oftentimes interviewers’ biases kick in and they might favor a particular candidate because they are just like them,” says Billings-Harris, referring to a phenomenon known as affinity bias.
Fortunately, interviewers can mitigate affinity bias by making the interview process more standardized. In a structured interview, all candidates are asked the same questions in the same order and are compared on the same scale, which is determined in advance based on the needs for the role. Instead of veering off into a tangent and discussing a shared hometown or college, the interview stays on message. Structured interviews are more objective and research has shown that they are up to twice as effective at predicting job performance which, of course, is the end goal.
Even with structured interviews in place, there is still a possibility that the interviewer will make a snap decision and then spend the rest of the interview identifying reasons that snap judgment was right. Researchers call this confirmation bias and studies have shown that hiring managers are prone to this — one study found that nearly 60% of interviewers made a decision within the first 15 minutes.
As Billings-Harris says, one way to mitigate this is for HR leaders to present a diverse hiring panel and to make an effort to have candidates interviewed by people who are similar to them. Another benefit? The candidate will feel more comfortable and welcomed.
Show workplace diversity in your employer branding
Organizations that want to build more diverse teams can start with their employer branding. Include information about your company’s diversity and inclusion work on the website, career site, press and marketing messaging, at industry events, and on social media.
“Prospective candidates are looking at your social media, your website and online reviews to assess the work culture. Highlight your specific efforts to build a culture of belonging,” says Gassam.
It’s just as important for recruiters, HR, and hiring managers to discuss diversity in their communication with candidates, and to be willing to answer questions transparently. “If your organization is lacking in diversity, be transparent with your commitments and what you’re doing to change that. Be specific with what measures your company is taking to ensure equity and inclusion for all,” says Gassam.
Focus on the leadership level
The leadership team sets the strategy and values of the company so it is essential to have workplace diversity at the executive and c-suite level.
Some companies have made strides by tying leadership compensation to diversity metrics, requiring that at least one person from an underrepresented background and one woman is considered for each leadership position, setting specific leadership hiring goals and metrics, and considering internal candidates for roles so people see that there is a path for career advancement.
“Especially now, job candidates are looking at the leadership level and taking a look at what the representation is there,” says diversity and inclusion consultant Kim Crowder. “The hope is that we get to choose a place that matches as closely as possible our core values.”
Today’s candidates value transparency – and they want to know that the company they’re considering values workplace diversity. Show candidates what you stand for by telling your employer branding story.