It’s Time to Rethink Diversity and Inclusion Recruitment
Simple Tips for Creating a Strategy That Delivers Greater
As consultants, we’ve all heard it, read it, and may have
even said it: Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is good for business as
companies made up of employees that reflect a greater range of genders,
ethnicities, and ages (to name a few) regularly outperform their peers. And
while most of us know the business case for diversity, it is more likely than
not that the organization we work for is underperforming in this area.
According to a 2017 Deloitte study, 71% of companies want to have inclusive
cultures; however, only 12% truly meet that goal.
Professional services firms have long been leaders in
certain diversity practices. Fifteen out of the 100 companies included in the
2018 Best Workplaces for Diversity list were professional services firms with
only two industries — financial services and information technology — ranking
higher with more companies. If your organization wasn’t ranked by Great Places
to Work®, it’s likely that implementing a new D&I strategy or generating
more value from the one you have in place is on your to-do list.
Why diversity efforts fall short of
Many organizations view Diversity and Inclusion as a
recruitment strategy and silo the effort within HR because they do not want to
invest the resources into making it a companywide initiative. And for
those who do have a strategy in place, most may not be seeing the outcomes they
expected. According to a new study by GQR Global, 52% of respondents
reported not seeing measurable results since implementing a D&I strategy.
Such poor results may exist if an organization:
Is focusing on diversity and not enough on inclusion
Has systems that are not effectively collecting or analyzing
data around D&I efforts
Implements strategies that are too narrow in scope because
of limited D&I expertise
Holds a belief that the status quo has generated positive
results to date
Diversity is how your workforce is comprised based on
gender, race, age, background, and more. Inclusion is how well those people mix
to create synergies. People who feel they belong are comfortable sharing ideas,
voicing their opinions, and being a part of a team because their input is
valued. Having a culture of inclusion leads to higher retention rates and makes
it easier to recruit new diverse talent.
An effective D&I strategy needs to include several
success factors, but let’s focus on just two for now. First, the CEO must
publicly support the strategy and work to incorporate it throughout the
organization, particularly within the core business areas. The message from the
top should be that D&I is business critical. Second, D&I should be tied
to the organization’s growth strategy and accurately measured, which requires
the effort to be appropriately staffed and funded.
D&I can take a backseat to other initiatives if a
company feels it is doing well without it. While current results may seem
positive, they will be difficult to maintain in today’s environment in which
the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base need to be met. Some
organizations may have limited D&I strategies because they lack the
internal expertise to develop and drive an effective Diversity and Inclusion
Hire based on core competencies
Professional services firms are certainly getting better at
hiring experienced talent (defined here as people who have likely worked for a
competitor and are not coming directly from campus),
but onboarding and training can be tricky. Add a potential cultural
clash with colleagues who have worked alongside each other since college, and
it is no surprise that firms prefer to rely more on homegrown talent. However,
this strategy can limit growth, particularly in today’s tight labor market.
A key element of a successful Diversity and Inclusion
strategy would be to hire for potential, not experience. Here potential means
individuals with the right core competencies and skills for your workplace who
have a strong track record of performance in their past roles. They also
demonstrate a strong capacity to grow more quickly than their peers. Hiring outside
of traditional talent pools can offer fresh thinking, ideas, and skills you may
not know you needed. It can also squash a groupthink mentality as you introduce
new players with new perspectives.
Diversity recruiting can be challenging, so consider hiring
good candidates even if their current skills and experience do not specifically
match a current opening. An investment in training and professional development
can pay big dividends once an appropriate position opens up.
Hiring based on core competencies may seem risky, but when
done correctly, it has the same odds for success as hiring someone from your
competitor down the street. The reality is that any firm that recruits on
campus is already hiring this way. That strategy just needs to extend to
Other components to D&I success
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Diversity and
Inclusion; however, several additional factors can help your strategy deliver
Link D&I to Growth
Professional Services firms need to understand what D&I
approach best supports their business strategies as well as what inherent
traits (gender, race, etc.) and developed traits (education, skills, job
experience, etc.) are best suited to the organization by using advanced
analytics. Diversity, when executed well, can directly improve innovation,
problem-solving, and decision-making.
Focus on Inclusion
Reinforce a greater sense of belonging among employees by
integrating both demographic diversity and diversity of thought into talent
management practices. Inclusion can have a dramatic impact on retention and
performance, which may be why 78% of respondents to Deloitte’s Global Human
Capital Trends survey believe D&I is a competitive advantage. A stronger
culture of inclusion can also help you build trust and cohesiveness that
results in highly effective teams.
Expand Your Definition of Diversity
Diversity efforts have traditionally focused on hiring women,
minorities, LGBTQ candidates, millennials, and baby boomers, as well
as those with physical disabilities. Today, new pools of candidates with
military backgrounds, autism, or ADHS have emerged who can offer alternative
thoughts, education, ideas, and logic to the table.
Talk About Opportunities for Advancement
Opportunities for advancement is a strong motivator to diversity
candidates, so mention it throughout the recruiting process and candidate
experience. Include paths for promotion in job descriptions,
interviews, onboarding, and annual reviews. According to a report
by Glassdoor, 40% of African Americans and 36% of Latinos view advancement
opportunities as a top factor in their career decisions.
Highlight Your D&I Efforts
Your marketing and advertising need to show employees with whom
candidates can identify because information (or lack thereof) can help to sway
potential candidates. Of those surveyed by Glassdoor, 18% said a
company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives could strongly influence their
decision to join an organization.
Simply hiring diverse talent is not enough. Companies need to
have diversity at the top in order to have diversity at lower levels within an
organization — employees and potential employees want to see that diversity and
inclusion already exists. You also need a robust inclusion program where
employees are well trained, appropriately integrated, and successfully
retained. Most would agree this is no easy task; however, a growing number of
organizations believe the potential benefits are worth the effort.
About the Author : J. James O’Malley, Cofounder & Managing Director at Comhar Partners, www.comharpartner.com; has been developing HR and talent acquisition solutions for corporate CFO’s, audit, tax, advisory and global consulting firms (including Huron Consulting Group, Arthur Andersen, Deloitte and Lante) since the mid-90s. Jim has seen firsthand why leaders are frustrated by and don’t “get” recruiting. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org