Seeking to Improve Diversity and Inclusion? Consider These Recommendations

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Dec 13, 2018
This article is part of a series called Podcasts.

Talent-acquisition professionals in any specialty ranging from university relations to sourcers to Candidate-experience directors are working hard to find new ways to enhance diversity and inclusion. We’ve decided to share some tried-and-true diversity tactics that are based on actual leadership discussions and activities held at a number of our 2018 CareerXroads community meetings.

Additionally, I’m including here the details of an exercise that was designed to help organizations identify where they should invest their resources. Upon completion of this article, expect to have the fuel required to spark some meaningful discussions internally (if you’re not having them already) and even kick off your next team meeting with an eye-opening activity.

A diverse workplace is composed of employees with varying characteristics including — but not limited to — gender, ethnicity, physical ability and disability, education, socioeconomic background, working experience, educational backgrounds, religion, and sexual orientation — to name just a few.

What most companies should be striving for is an inclusive workplace, a place that accepts diversity, embraces the strengths of each person, and seeks to provide opportunities for everyone to achieve their full potential.

The leaders we heard from share that even the best diversity initiatives will fall flat if the workplace isn’t truly inclusive. And it’s hard to inspire inclusivity if you don’t have a diverse employee group to draw upon. Much as people are clearly recognizing that candidate experience covers far more than just the interview process, organizations are starting to realize that diversity & inclusion initiatives need to start long before employment and extend well afterward.

How Companies Are Measuring Success in Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

At CXR community meetings, we hear from too many recruiting leaders that they don’t yet have specific, measurable goals for diversity hiring and internal mobility. And while they are told to improve diverse hiring, they aren’t permitted to see data points that would help them have an impact on the business. In essence, diversity and inclusion objectives are often just aspirational because they can’t always be measured and as a result, many organizations prefer not to even call them goals at all, but instead label them as “good faith efforts.”

On the flip side — for those who do have metrics to review — data can tempt even the best recruiter into making poor decisions. It can be a slippery slope when the only female in the running for your hard-to-fill tech job isn’t even the sixth-most qualified candidate but you’ve been given an objective to hire more women as a loose metric related to your next pay raise.

Where Diversity Metrics Come From

When available, diversity metrics are most often gathered through self-identification at the apply phase of the recruiting process and then again (and often with different results!) in the hiring or onboarding phase. All too often, however, that data is only available in some aggregate form and even that rarely trickles down to the recruiters who are responsible for building the candidate slates. On top of the lack of data issue, we are seeing trends of candidates and hires choosing not to self-identify — with this most notably happening with early career candidates. Many people — particularly in younger generations — want to be evaluated on skills rather than inherited traits or personal choices and have reported to larger companies that they don’t always trust why the company is asking diversity-related questions or even what they’ll do with the information provided.

Little access to data … forced decisions … poor data collection … and it’s no wonder diversity & inclusion initiatives are a constant topic of discussion and frustration. Everyone is struggling and just like so many other things within the world of Talent Acquisition, there simply isn’t a silver bullet to be found.

Tactics Companies Are Investing in Now to Enhance Inclusion

When we ask our members where they are investing their resources to enhance inclusion, the common theme among these recruiting leaders is that if you are trying to make evidence-based decisions, targeting people from a variety of sources, and using a diverse cast of actors within your process (recruiters, hiring managers, interviewers, etc.) then you should start seeing differences in diversity hiring numbers. It’s past time to better partner with the talent-management function in order to strengthen true inclusion efforts within your organization.

Examples of tactics our members are using with success:

  • Partnerships with diverse organizations at both college and professional levels
  • On-site events: bringing in candidates from minority-serving organizations for a professional development opportunity with interviews and same-day offers in an effort to show people the organization’s culture so they can picture themselves there.
  • Developing diverse teams to attend off-site diversity-themed events.
  • Establishing a focused diversity sourcing team.
  • Making sure there is both leadership participation and stakeholders involved within employee resource groups.
  • Including unconscious-bias training for recruiters and hiring managers as part of required training and development programs.
  • Creating a revision or review process to remove unconscious bias from job descriptions and marketing copy.
  • Sponsoring high school and community events to start reaching out to a diverse population earlier in the candidate journey and education.
  • Assigning a specific recruiter to specific outreach where they have an affinity. (Don’t have a recruiter with a specific affinity? Look to team up with your employees!)
  • Representing diversity in marketing and communication materials — both internal and external to the organization.
  • Mandating diversity within the interview process on the company side by delivering a diverse slate of decision-making interviewees to the candidates throughout the process.
  • Ensuring that disability and inclusion efforts go beyond traditional metrics of gender or ethnicity and focus on the diversity of education, thought, and experience rather than just disabilities or veterans, for example.

Using Those Tactics to Reach Diverse Candidates

The best investments in the world are only good if they truly resonate with your target audience. Over the last year, we challenged hundreds of our talent-acquisition leader members at top Fortune companies to explore how they perceive their employee values and, in turn, what their candidates feel are important. In this case, specifically, candidates with varying disabilities. During those exercises and the subsequent conversations, it quickly became obvious (every single time) that “one-size-fits-all” messaging is no longer acceptable — particularly if you are focusing on diversity initiatives.

Using research inspired by a Universum study, we first asked leaders to prioritize what was important to their company from an extensive list of elements within the categories of corporate reputation, people & culture, job characteristics, and rewards. Then, unbeknownst to them, they were given (or selected) a specific persona and asked to do the same exercise as best they could through the eyes of that candidate.

Personas of candidates with the following disabilities were considered:

  • Speech impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Vision impairment
  • Dyslexia
  • Autism
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Mobility challenges

Tripped Up by Knowledge Gaps

The teams participating quickly identified two additional challenges with the target market. First, not all disabilities are easily identified and some must be disclosed — something that already often proves difficult to discover or collect. Also, some disabilities require varying levels of accommodations while others are “work-ready” and require little adaptation, if any. Either way, even the best messaging won’t reach the right people if you can’t segment the audience and determine their needs.

The second challenge discussed was the challenge around learning more about a candidate’s actual needs. Even the most senior of leaders found themselves making a lot of assumptions while working through this exercise. It became very clear that they simply don’t know enough about what they could be doing or if what they are offering is even sufficient.

We weren’t expecting the exercise to uncover these challenges initially, but over the course of repeating this with various leaders and leadership levels, we recognize that they are certainly real. We all have biases and knowledge gaps; internal training — particularly interview training — is primed to be part of the solution at so many organizations looking to meet the needs of candidates with various requirements, but isn’t advancing as quickly as anyone would like.

Seeking an Innovative Solution for Hiring Candidates With Disabilities

The go-to solutions presented were ones we’ve all heard before: employee resource groups, improved communication of offerings, flexible work conditions. The exercise didn’t uncover much innovation in immediately addressing the challenge but most certainly sparked hours of incredible discussions and varying levels of enlightenment.

Why didn’t we walk away from these deep-dives with brand new solutions that could be successfully implemented immediately and at any company? In large part, because of the challenges mentioned above. There is a startlingly large gap of baseline knowledge around the details of “diversity initiatives” that not only needs to be shared but in many instances simply discovered. So while there are some exciting opportunities for new and meaningful work to help chip away at the challenge, many organizations still need to better define the box before they can even begin to think outside of it.


Click here to download the exercise conducted with the talent-acquisition teams and leaders mentioned in this article. You’ll find the slides required to conduct the activity and some notes on how to ideally deliver it to your teams. To share or talk about your results with CXR, or if you’ve got recommendations on how to improve the exercise and want to pass them along, contact
This article is part of a series called Podcasts.
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