3 Steps to Workforce Diversity Success

by Tim Plamondon . .

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Diversity in the workplace is here to stay. As Angela Hood, CEO and Founder of ThisWay Global, points out, that working on workplace diversity is not a one-time event, and companies shouldn’t aim for diversity for the sake of diversity. To her, that's simply not the right approach. "The right approach is to remove bias from your culture," Hood said. 

In RPOA's recent RPO Leadership Forum webinar, speaker Bill Fanning, Chief Revenue Officer at ThisWay Global, answered vital questions about diversity and inclusion (D&I) and showed the three steps to eliminate bias and help firms achieve workforce D&I in ten days. 

Before Fanning explained the three steps to workforce diversity success, he pointed out current diversity challenges and why D&I is vital to all companies’ success.  

What are some of the current diversity and inclusion challenges facing organizations?

Recent research and data highlight the challenges in diversity that companies face in 2021:

  • 40% of women in the workplace feel satisfied with the decision-making process in their organizations around them in their careers.
  • 57% of employees think their company should be doing more around diversity.
  • Managers say they're too busy to implement change. 
  • Men are two times more likely to get hired.
  • African Americans are 50% less likely to receive a call back versus a white employee.
  • Women are most likely to be hired or interviewed through a blind application, not revealing the gender.

Research also shows that women are most likely to be hired or interviewed through a blind application, not revealing the gender. Hood experienced this first-hand while working in the male-dominated engineering industry. She discovered that using only her initials and last name on her resume enabled her to bypass gender bias and get interviews. That small change plays into "why redaction of data can be certainly important in that process as an employer to make better decisions," said Fanning.

View webinar: Workforce Diversity Solved

 

What are some of the benefits of diversity in the workplace?

Many studies show the positive effects of a diverse workforce on companies. Fanning observed that when companies overcome some of the diversity challenges facing them, employers gain sizable benefits through a diverse workforce. While 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by men, companies that are able to increase diversity in leadership start to outperform on profitability, explained Fanning.

Diversity successes come when the pay is equal. The companies are more likely to capture new markets, improve innovation, and align the organization with the consumer market.

Fanning noted that because we have a very diverse populace in our country, having a diverse workforce gives your company better alignment and the ability to quickly move and deliver products that your consumers want. Hood emphasizes, "Your culture or your team should match the population of your customer base." The result is, "You get more cash flow per employee and inclusive companies are 120 percent more likely to surpass their financial goals as they embrace these diversity initiatives," Fanning said. The three steps that Fanning laid out next will help your company gain these benefits. 

3 Steps to Increasing Diversity Success

Increasing diversity at your workplace may seem like an arduous task, but Fanning presented a simple three-step process that increases diversity success. Companies that follow these three steps start to see results in ten days, said Fanning, and those results start to emerge in their hiring funnel and the mix of the candidates they're engaging. 

The three-step model to diversity success Fanning discussed includes assess, reach, and engage. 

Step 1: Assess

Organizations need to stop for a minute and determine their diversity strengths and weaknesses at the assessment step. All companies have positive activities they're doing in areas that they could improve on or do better. 

"Diversity and inclusion need to be something that every single employee has a stake in. It is not something that is just tied to one team; it is not something that is owned by an employee group or just a leadership team. It is something that every employee at the company has to have a stake in and improved upon." -Bo Young Lee, Chief Diversity Inclusion Officer at UBER. 

Fanning began his detailed discussion of the assessment step with Lee’s quote at UBER because diversity does not exist in a vacuum. Diversity is ubiquitous and affects everyone within and without a company.  

Conscious and Unconscious Bias

Conscious and unconscious bias is also everywhere within organizations. Fanning spoke of the Nobel Prize Neuroscientist Eric Kendall who said that 80 to 90 percent of our mind works unconsciously. Kendall stated that we make unconscious decisions based on primal tendencies that allow us to finish a task fast and move on to the next challenge. 

During the assessment stage, Fanning recommended discussing how bias happens because "many people aren't aware of the degrees of conscious and unconscious bias." Fanning encouraged:

  • Peer-to-peer recognition of it in organizations to talk about and help improve and make people feel included.
  • Employees and leadership to own diversity.
  • Employees and leadership talk about it regularly. 
  • Being very open to hear and solicit honest feedback can make the right changes to bring forward the type of employment culture you want.

Step 2: Reach

The reach step is where a company expands its ability to reach out to diverse communities across its firm. This step should be done "With a focus on the seniority of the role," Fanning said. "And making sure that they understand that diversity at a top tier has an immediate impact on the ability for their organization to become a more inclusive employer." 

The Role of Technology to Expand Reach

Technology can play a vital role in expanding a company's reach for diverse candidates. Technology can deliver outcomes for companies searching for a broad cross-section of applicants and give applicants of all kinds searching for employment opportunities and careers.  Fanning explained that there is a four or five-step process that can help you focus on diverse communities such as ethnic, age, LGBTQ, veterans, culture, and disability within this step.  

Actions to Take to Expand Reach

Next, Fanning described three actions companies should take to expand their reach. The three actions include: 

Define diversity. Fanning emphasized that companies should understand their definition of diversity. Does diversity to them mean "the skill of the applicant," he said, "independent of their background, to be able to come in and successfully complete the need or the mission of that role?"


Write a more inclusive job description. Once you understand your definition of diversity, Fanning said, "You can write a more inclusive job description." He added that a job description can be very male or female dominant or ethic, focused, or designed to prevent or dissuade people from a nontraditional career path from applying. These are all lousy job descriptions, and "A bad job description causes diverse candidates often not even to apply when they're fully qualified, and they want to work for you," Hood said.

Diversify their outreach: He noted that there are phenomenal sources of authentic online communities of diverse applicants veterans, social, economic, ethnic gender backgrounds. These are places "Where you can connect and make meaningful connections around your employment opportunities," he said. 

Step 3: Engage

Once companies have assessed their needs and expanded their reach to bring in more diverse candidates into their pipeline, they must engage with those candidates. Fanning added that engagement sets the tone for the success of all of the previous actions. 

Engaging candidates in the pipeline is where the rubber hits the road. And Fanning said, "You have to evaluate them by removing bias, and that's both conscious and unconscious. And when you do that, you give them a skill-based evaluation that your organization should use to see who's the right person to fill the job." 

Bias and the Applicant Black Hole

Fanning discussed how conscious and unconscious bias hinders engagement that sometimes leads to candidates falling into the dreaded black hole. The candidate black hole is when a candidate comes into the pipeline, and for whatever reason, the recruiter ignores their resume, and they drop off from consideration.

Fanning reported that stress and workload in the workplace cause bias to flare up. On average, employers get 250 plus applicants per open position. Let that sink in. If an employer has ten open positions, that employer receives 2500 applicants. And Fanning said that depending on workload; the average recruiter will only look at about 15 percent of the resumes that come to them. That means resumes don't always get fair consideration. 

Fanning pointed out that unconscious bias can set in when recruiters leave the review process for technology or review a resume haphazardly. He explained that this is when the employer may start handing specific resumes to hiring managers based on that hiring manager’s attributes. For instance, if a resume comes in from a veteran, the employer may pass that resume off to a hiring manager that is a veteran. 

Fanning noted that employers don’t do this consciously, but it's done unconsciously for the sake of getting the task completed as quickly as possible.  As a result, he observed that this unconscious action creates the candidate black hole. That, in turn, causes many candidates to go unnoticed and left on the table. 

Why Focusing on Skill and Using Data is Important

Fanning believes that focusing on skill and data allows for a better engagement process and minimizes the chances of creating a black hole.

More often than not, companies cannot go back and review a previously passed-over candidate for an open position. Fanning explained that focusing on the applicant's skill and using some data allows employers to go back to give candidates a second look for a different job. 

Companies can establish the process and goals they need to make that happen. He pointed out that it can be measurable, and it probably should be technology-driven, so it's consistent. And then, you can set some KPIs around the ethnic background or gender. 

Building a diverse workforce can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be that way. We invite you to join this discussion and others like it to help you understand all the strategies that will help your organization reach diverse workforce success. 

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