In the first part of this series, I highlighted how a weak business case, not being data-driven, failing to segment your recruiting targets, and failing to effectively use employee referrals can severely reduce your diversity recruiting results. In this part II, I will complete the list of the common diversity program design errors and briefly highlight some recommended actions.
The Remaining 12 Most Common Diversity Recruiting Errors
The following are also powerful design errors that can negatively impact your diversity recruiting results. They are listed in descending order, based on their relative impact.
- Little sharing of best practices and integration — although many firms have excellent diversity recruiting practices that occur in various parts of their organization, many in my experience occur without the knowledge of corporate staff. If you really want excellence across your organization, you must increase the sharing of best practices. The most effective approach is to have a formal “best practice sharing” program for identifying and quickly spreading information across business units covering both problems and diversity recruiting solutions. If you want diversity recruiting to be really effective, the process must be fully integrated with all other people management and business processes.
- A slow hiring process — because the most qualified diversity candidates are in high demand, they are likely to get multiple offers soon after beginning their job search. That means that if you have a slow hiring process, the best diversity candidates will be long gone by the time you get around to making an offer. To avoid losing the best, you must have an accelerated hiring process that can hire diverse individuals faster than your competitors in some cases, in as little as one day.
- No one knows when the problems occurring — my research into recruiting failure shows that more than half of the recruiting problems or failures occur at one particular step in the recruiting process. So rather than looking at the entire diversity recruiting process as a monolith, you must do research to determine the primary failure points or steps where most of the problems occur. That means that you must use “root cause analysis” to determine whether you are not getting enough diverse applicants, or if they are being screened out at the resume or interview stage, if hiring managers are inaccurately screening them out, or whether they are dropping out on their own because your diversity recruiting process is too slow. In any case, you need to focus your remedial actions on the failure points with the highest negative impact.
- A “top-school” recruiting approach almost guarantees that you will miss out on diversity — the diversity percentage of the student population is low among the top schools that most corporations target in their college recruiting efforts. The diversity population is equally low among many of the targeted majors. Fortunately it turns out that if you broaden your focus away from a few top schools and majors, you can easily find and recruit a significant number of qualified and interested diverse graduates. Shifting to recruiting tools like remote recruiting at lesser-known schools, anonymous Internet-based technical contests, and offering students remote projects can all reveal the tremendous capability of diverse (and non-diverse) students who didn’t attend top schools or study under the “perfect” major.
- Not targeting high failure rates among managers and teams — at many firms overall diversity recruiting results are lagging primarily because certain individual managers or teams are disproportionately driving down diversity rates. If you track diversity and diversity recruiting by each individual manager, team, and business unit, you may find that you really only have a problem with a few managers or teams but that those error rates are so high that they are dragging down your overall results. So rather than fixing everything, you can focus only on those few problem managers and teams.
- Failing to hire when diverse talent is available — most hiring is initiated only after an opening occurs. This means that you essentially rely on “coincidence hiring,” which is when a top diversity candidate is coincidentally available precisely at the same time when you have an open job that fits them. However, a superior approach is to shift to a different model, where you hire whenever diverse talent is available. This “hire-when-available” approach requires that you develop a talent pipeline of pre-assessed and presold diversity candidates, so that when a pipeline candidate enters job search mode, you can hire them immediately (even if a job may not be open for weeks).
- No failure analysis — in order for any business process to remain effective, process managers must periodically assess all major failures and successes in order to identify what worked and what didn’t. In diversity recruiting failure analysis means periodically surveying or interviewing a random number of prospects, applicants, candidates, finalists, and new hires and asking them both to identify what must be improved and what should be done more often.
- Failing to take advantage of remote work options — in many geographic areas, there is a shortage of qualified ethnically diverse applicants. In other geographic areas and countries, there is clearly a surplus of ethnic prospects. For example, if you’re targeting African-Americans or Hispanics, there are certain cities in the U.S. where they make up nearly a majority of the population and they are obviously countries in Africa and South America where they dominate the population. Obviously not every firm can open an office in a high-diversity geographic area, but if your firm has the capability of offering remote work, the availability of ethnic qualified applicants jumps dramatically. What this means that if firms and its hiring managers are willing to design or redesign certain jobs so that they can be done from anywhere, attracting diverse workers who can work from their home country or current city becomes a top solution. And as technology and communications become cheaper and more available, the importance of offering remote work in order to increase diversity will only grow.
- No proof that diversity recruiting sub-programs work — diversity recruiting should be like any other process, you should develop a process that convincingly proves to executives that works. One of the most effective and convincing approaches to prove that a newly modified program is effective is to use a split sample control group approach. This is where you take a random sample of open jobs and fill half of them with your modified diversity recruiting approach, while maintaining the standard approach for the remaining “control group” jobs. Keep everything else the same and see if the modified approach produces significantly more and higher-quality diversity hires. A pilot application and an A/B test are other “proof of concept” approaches to consider.
- Assuming only diverse individuals can manage diversity recruiting — although it may be politically correct to let a diverse person lead the corporate diversity recruiting effort, a superior approach is to instead select a leader based on their ability to produce exceptional recruiting results. It turns out that being exceptionally good at leadership and recruiting are in most cases the two critical factors that most impact program success. Although understanding diversity candidates is also important, it turns out that this understanding can also come from market research.
- No competitive advantage — if you want to beat other firms in the competition for top diverse talent, have a unique recruiting approach that provides your firm with a competitive advantage. Unfortunately under the current model, extensive benchmarking causes most corporate diversity recruiting processes to be almost identical. So if you want a quantity increase in results, avoid copying and benchmarking which provides only incremental improvements. And if you need to copy, focus on learning from successful business processes like market research, advertising, and customer service and then modifying their approaches so that they fit diversity recruiting. If you want above average results, you periodically have to try a unique and sometimes untried approach to diversity recruiting.
- No targeted diversity retention efforts — you reduce the impact of great diversity recruiting if you don’t also have a highly effective diversity retention program. Unfortunately, few corporations have one that is targeted toward diverse employees. Once again, a personalized data-driven approach is needed in order to retain the very best diverse employees.
Common Diversity Excuses
Literally 95 percent of the firms that I have worked with struggle each year to meet their diversity recruiting goals. Many diversity recruiting leaders attribute that failure to the small number of diverse individuals in the workforce. This is an interesting response because, if you include women in the diversity population, we know that in most geographic areas, a majority of the population qualifies as diverse. Other recruiting leaders complain that diverse individuals are hard to find but with social media and the mobile phone, finding and communicating with diverse people is actually quite easy. Others complain that many diverse individuals don’t have the required skill sets, but remember, you are only hiring for your firm, so the small number you need to successfully recruit is a miniscule percentage of the total skilled diversity workforce.
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Finally, I know of many cases where there are plenty of diverse applicants coming into the firm, but flaws in the process allow a disproportionate percentage of applicants to be forced out of the recruiting process for hard-to-justify reasons, while many others voluntarily drop out for mostly preventable reasons. These “shortage-of-talent” excuses are not unique to diversity recruiting, and in my experience, these excuses cover problems that are quite solvable with a data-driven approach.
When I analyze diversity recruiting failures, they appear to be not much different than most recruiting failures. What I do find to be different is the high level of resistance to any change, the lack of data, and the emotional politics which all serve to effectively maintain the status quo. So my message to Google is that if you want to solve your diversity problem, take a step back and forget for a moment that you’re dealing with diversity. Instead consider it say market segmentation problem and then attack it much in the same data-driven way that you do when you encounter diversity issues in advertising or Internet search.