Diversity In Recruiting – Labor shortage, globalization and diversity

Mar 1, 2004

A statement made by John Challenger, CEO, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a speech at Fisher College of Business is thought provoking and encouraging especially for people in our business. “In corporate America, we are looking at a major shortage of companies’ most important supply: people. The government estimates that in fewer than seven years there will be nearly 168 million jobs in our economy, but only about 158 million people in the labor market to fill them – a shortfall of 10 million workers.

Between 2005 and 2015, the number of workers 65 and older is expected to increase 26 percent. Meanwhile, the population of 40 to 54 year-olds will shrink by five percent. And, the number of Americans 25 to 39 will grow by only six percent.” Challenger points out that a surging shortfall of college graduates is a major trend today.

What does all this mean to us? Employers will have far fewer candidates for their available positions, especially for positions that require higher and more technical skill levels. “More and more companies will have to find alternatives, which may mean outsourcing work to other countries where workers with the right skills are more readily available. It has been estimated that as many as 3.3 million American jobs will move overseas by 2015.”

In this same talk, Challenger demonstrated that globalization will radically change jobs in the U.S. Globalization means “that the next generation of business executives will be required to have a much better understanding of the global market. In the new global economy, the biggest winners in the job market will be the New Americans, highly educated, with roots in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, matching the diversity of the increasingly global marketplace. They will be in demand because they offer leadership and exceptional skills.”

Chief among these skills will be the ability to speak and write a second, third, or even a fourth language. College students today who are tomorrow’s workforce may be getting the message, at least on the importance of languages. The number of college students learning foreign languages is at a record high. The Modern Language Association reports that the biggest increase was in Arabices, which saw enrollment jump 92.5 percent in 2002.

The impending labor shortage and globalization are the winds of change; winds of change that focus on the importance of diversity. Dr. John Sullivan who writes for The Electronic Recruiting Exchange ( meets these winds of change head on with a series of recent articles entitled “Re-Thinking Diversity Recruiting.” Says Sullivan: “In a global economy, having a diverse workplace is no longer an option. It has become an absolute requirement for success in a global economy.”

This past January, after a three-year absence, I returned to the diversity search business. I’ll readily admit that I was a little timorous. I’ve heard all the war stories about a paralyzed marketplace, a marketplace hostile and indifferent to the sales efforts of recruiting firms. I remembered from past experience that the majority of companies were less then enthusiastic about diversity recruiting programs. But I honestly think that these winds of change are hammering corporate America with doses of reality. I’m finding many companies to be more receptive and more aware. I was going to say “more eager and anxious to make things happen” but I’ve been down that road before. Companies are more realistic and they want to hear solutions. Maybe in the divine scheme of things, some are finally getting it.

Back to Dr. Sullivan. Read how he broadens the definition of diversity: “We define diversity as the need for corporations to have a wide variety of ideas, perspectives, lifestyles, and experiences in their decision-making processes, product design, service delivery, etc. This means that people with diverse ideas, backgrounds, and experiences must participate and be listened to in all jobs and at all levels of decision making.”

Sullivan cites and describes in detail why diversity recruiting programs come up short:

1. Program goals are not clear

2. Lack of a strong business case

3. Underutilizing referrals

4. No rewards for success

5. Little innovation in tools and strategies

6. Weak recruiters

7. Little market research

8. Weak metrics

9. Too much focus on active candidates

10. Not enough emphasis on orientation and retention

Parts 2 and 3 of “Re-Thinking Diversity Recruiting” outline action steps for “overcoming traditional weaknesses and turning mediocre diversity recruiting programs into great ones.” There are a host of reasons why this article should be required reading for all of us in the recruiting business:

? It is a mini Ph.D. in how to diagnose and prescribe for the maladies and malaise in diversity recruiting programs

? It is a blueprint to help you guide your clients in solving a perennial problem

? It provides an arsenal of ammunition for selling diversity recruiting

? It will give you the knowledge to differentiate and distance yourself from the majority of recruiters both inside companies and in our industry who just don’t get it. What makes us different helps us to sell more effectively.

I really enjoyed Part 3 of the article where Sullivan, in a very gutsy way, dispels two myths that have been around since the dinosaur days of recruiting:

1. Not everyone can be an effective recruiter

2. Coming from a diverse background is not enough to make you a great diversity recruiter

Sullivan provides a plan of action for finding, recruiting, hiring and retaining diverse candidates. Here are a few salient points from Part 3 that should entice you to download, read and re-read this article:

? The skills required to recruit excellent diverse individuals are the same skills required to recruit any excellent individual.

? These skills include a “find a way” attitude, knowledge of effective recruiting techniques, experience using marketing research tools, and a strong sales ability

? What matters in successful diversity recruiting is the ability of these excellent recruiters to apply their experience and expertise to the specific case of diverse individuals, just as they would to any other high-potential candidate that has been identified.

? A significant portion of recruiting is really about identifying what candidates need and then selling them on the notion that your company will satisfy those needs

? Focus on passive candidates who make up 80% of the candidate population.

Sullivan concludes with some sage advice. “The interests and demands of diversity candidates are constantly changing, and diversity recruiting programs need to be responsive to those changes in order to be dynamic. The time has come to update your tools and strategies and to reinvigorate diversity recruiting. By borrowing the tools and strategies that have proven so effective in high-tech during the last few years and adapting them to diversity recruiting, you will dramatically improve the results you get from your diversity recruiting program.”

Diversity recruiting is here to stay!

(Personal PS: I’m writing this in the lobby of the Westin Hotel in downtown Boston on February 3rd. Boston is mobbed, jubilant, and ecstatic. In an hour, the World Champion New England Patriots will be feted by 1.5 million people. How sweet it is!)

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