RPO: Valuable Partners Connecting DE&I Goals With Reality

by Tim Plamondon


RPO providers are valuable partners who align diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) goals with reality. DE&I is a journey to hire talented workers who bring unique perspectives and drive innovation, and RPOs have proven themselves essential allies in achieving DE&I objectives. Many organizations have made DE&I a critical strategic priority to create cultures of belonging. Fortunately, RPOs connect DE&I strategies and goals with reality to ensure employers reach their objectives.

During the State of Global TA panel at the 2022 RPOA third annual conference, Jennie Dede of LinkedIn moderated the discussion between Shalena Shaheed of NES Fircrort, Kelly Burlage of Lineage Logistics, and Cynthia Cohen, of Mynt Consulting, on the realities of the DE&I journey and how RPOs keep it real for employers while on that journey. This post is an overview of that discussion. 

The DE&I Journey

Most talent acquisition (TA) leaders describe DE&I in the workplace as a journey. For Burlage at Lineage Logistics, it's a thoughtful journey. Her company started by setting realistic goals and expectations. They leveraged benchmark data to see where they were. After gathering the data, she said that the company figured out how to use it to create realistic goals and see whether they could develop a comprehensive recruiting strategy. 

Burlage shared that her company is trying to look at diversity from all angles in terms of how it can inject different viewpoints. She said that the company recently rolled out five different employee resource groups. One group centers around women supporting other women in leadership roles. 

Burlage said that her company weaves its DE&I approach into its DNA. She shared that to get to a better place as a company and hold each other accountable; they integrate their DE&I strategy into every interview and new board director appointment. By Linage weaving its DE&I strategy into its DNA, it can remove bias from the hiring process and have open conversations about race.

When The DE&I Strategy Doesn't Match Reality

Cohen said that diversity is crucial, but global talent acquisition leaders must understand which minorities they want to attract in each country. In other words, ensure the DE&I strategy matches the reality of the company and the global talent market. She shared that Brazil is the only LATAM country that sets a quota for diversity; the black community, women, and the disabled make up the minorities in Brazil. As an example of a DE&I strategy not matching reality, she relayed a story about a company wanting to have a diversity number in Brazil. She said the company hired a blind person but wasn't ready to have a blind person in the office, and that person couldn’t sign the contract. As a result, no one in the office could welcome that person into the company.

How RPO Keep The DE&I Journey Real For Their Clients

Shaheed explained that the RPO's role is to bridge DE&I goals, objectives, and market realities. To Shaheed, this bridge is a way for employers to use their goals and objective to understand the market reality. Then the RPO can help them create actionable items and pragmatic steps to reach those goals. 

And she noted that building this bridge is not an easy thing to do; there are going to be some hard truth moments. RPOs will have to let employers know how things will work based on the reality of the market and the situation. 

Shaheed observed that RPOs need to help employers understand that the markets are dynamic. She said that goals established at the head office often could not be applied universally worldwide. For example, a company's head office in the US may want senior female representation to be at 30 percent in its offices in Saudi Arabia. "That's great," she said. "But four or five years ago, Saudi Arabia didn't have female toilets in offices; how are you supposed to have a population ready to take on leadership roles when they didn't have [female toilets] in the office just that many years ago?" She added that RPOs take this understanding of what the market says and work with employers on strategies to reach their DE&I goals. But, she pointed out that it will not be a one-stop shop approach; there is no single strategy to help employers achieve every DE&I objective.

For instance, Shaheed shared that if employers want females in leadership roles worldwide, they should look at the future female leader and take the steps today to reach that goal. She recommended companies cultivate female leadership roles in their graduate programs and school internship programs. 

To understand the realities of reaching DE&I objectives and more, visit the 2022 RPOA Conference on demand to watch the full discussion. 


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