If you ask me what could be the biggest challenge when it comes to diverse recruiting, I would say stepping away from the “supply and demand” illusion. The idea that there just isn’t enough talent available isn’t true. It is up to us to find the right talent from diverse groups to attract and develop that talent.
Diverse recruiting isn’t an art, it’s more a science and companies that choose to implement a strategic diversity recruiting (SDR) process tend to be the most successful. We should realise that a good recruiting strategy is not just about the recruitment itself or the right recruiting techniques. A good strategy looks at the challenge end to end and most importantly takes a long term view of acquiring diverse talent.
Some of my key learnings:
There has to be a culture shift in the organisation. We need to be ready for diversity. We all have inherent biases and training programs can help us become conscious of our own biases and build strategies to balance them. A group of middle aged white men may typically have networks of and be more comfortable with talent drawn from that demographic. A great way to demonstrate this phenomena is to take a mock CV/resume and change the sex, age and ethnic origin of the candidate. Ask a group of your leaders to decide whether they would recruit the individual and why. It will be an eye opener for all involved the different views of the same profile when only basic personal data is changed.
Culture shifts need to work top down and bottom up. I (along with other top 250 leaders) benefited by attending a diversity training along with our CEO. It was fascinating and inspiring to see how diversity presented as a business issue was taken seriously by the predominantly male attendees and how we all took away practical techniques to improve our abilities in attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. One such technique was the power of panel interview sessions. When we ran simulations involving four or more leaders in the process of recruitment, we observed that biases were much lower and a more considered decision was made.
When hiring diverse talent, take a long term view.
And last but not least, the true success of the program resides in our ability to retain our new employees. Positive role models and mentors are an important element of building a ‘great place to work’ for everyone. Companies like Everwise offer valuable mentors using a crowd-sourcing model. I believe that building informal support groups to encourage diversity of all types is a valuable way of supporting and developing everyone.
Recently I had the pleasure to meet up with Dame ‘Steve’ Shirley at TED 2015 in Vancouver. She spoke to me about what it was like to set up a software company staffed entirely by women, most of whom were part-time workers, in the UK in the 1960s. She even had to change her name for male customers to agree to an appointment (you can find more in her 2012 memoirs “Let IT Go”).
For sure we have a long way still to go, but we do have best practices even dating back four decades of what can be achieved with drive, determination and focus.