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Building a diverse team: how do you start?


Diversity breeds diversity. This was a point of discussion recently during our webinar on increasing the diversity of our candidate pipelines – Recruiting strategies to attract a more diverse candidate pipeline.

During the Q&A session, one of our attendees asked a very poignant question:

“If diversity attracts diversity, and we lost our diverse members, how do we start again?”
In the moment, my response was simple: Be human and be honest!  Yes, you might be at a slight disadvantage if you can’t yet showcase a diverse workforce, but that does not mean you can’t attract and keep one. I suggested that the attendees articulate their goals to become more diverse and inclusive in their digital messages and on their career portal. Let people know that you are trying to become a diverse organization, and in fact welcome and desire diverse candidates.

I see this as the age of honesty about the topic. The conversations are now safe to have, and the topic is on the table.  If this is part of who you are as an organization, it will shine.

Later that night I was thinking more about the question. I can imagine many face this challenge, especially small and medium firms or those just getting started.

So, what would authentic and human look like? What would honesty be in this moment? What, in the spirit of the webinar, can you do tactically and strategically to show your diversity when you are not yet diverse?

I thought about a few steps an organization could take:

Be honest and transparent

Honesty begins with understanding why your diverse employees left the company. If it keeps happening, it’s time to do some soul-searching. Until you are aware of the issues and address them head on, you’ll forever be recruiting talent who may soon become disillusioned and leave.

  • Have there been salary inequities?
  • What has been the diversity of your candidate pipeline, and what percentage advanced to various stages in the recruiting process?
  • Have diverse hires been trained, mentored, and promoted the same as others?
  • Is the problem concentrated in certain departments, or under certain managers?
  • Did you ask about workplace diversity, inclusion and equity during exit interviews?

You should have the historical data– and the motivation – to look at every one of these questions.

Use tools to assess historical data

It may appear that there aren’t many diverse candidates in your industry, or that they just don’t apply. Regardless of the situation, what are you doing to change it? Are you partnering with the right schools to find interns and new hires? Are you targeting the right media for your job advertising? Are you relying too heavily on hiring employee-referred candidates, who tend to look just like your current workforce?

Promote requirements for diverse workforce

Be honest in your mission and vision or “About Us” statements. That doesn’t mean the usual dry boilerplate legalese about how you are committed to diversity, it means simply telling the truth. If you are two buddies since college/business partner white males trying to kick off a new start-up, and you want to create an inclusive company, why not just say that? Tell your truth. Let your audience know that you welcome diverse voices and that you believe diversity will make you stronger and better. Name the reality and follow it up with the vision and the goal. Describe what you hope to see along the journey and what the final picture will look like. In a world filled with hype, people appreciate an authentic voice, now more than ever.

Leverage referrals

Finally, look outside your immediate staff if there is no diversity to showcase. What about your clients, or business partners? Even vendors can become advocates. Reach out to them with a request for support. Ask them to write you a referral or testimonial to the type of company you are like to work with. Let them know you’re looking for more diverse candidates and ask them for referrals. You could create a ’Diversity Advocate’ affiliate partner program to show your business and theirs both champion diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We all have to start somewhere, and you can only be who you are. If who you are is a small team that wants to become a more diverse team as you grow, start that dialogue with those in your candidate pool. Be the first to broach the topic.  The candidates that will fit your culture and help you on your path will respond!

Find more compatible candidates with Talent Intelligence.

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