How to prioritize diversity in your organization
Diversity in hiring is a big focus for many organizations and HR departments. And for good reason; building a diverse workforce leads to better outcomes and stronger teams. For example, a report from McKinsey & Company in 2015 found that organizations with greater ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to see financial returns above their industry mean. And this is just one of many promising reports.
There is plenty of discussion around the importance of diversity, but I think many organizations are a little stumped when it comes to how to make it happen. How do you prioritize diversity in your hiring process in a way that’s fair, effective, and genuine?
A broader view of diversity
We often think of diversity as immutable qualities like gender, age, or ethnic background. While these elements are essential for the diversity conversation, I believe organizations benefit from looking at diversity in a broader sense.
Diversity can also apply to education and career experience. When you bring in people from diverse professional and educational backgrounds, you can strengthen your entire workforce as everyone learns from each other.
Diversity and job descriptions
In order to create more diversity in your organization, start building a more diverse workforce at the beginning of your hiring process—how you create job descriptions. Once you’ve determined the job title and core responsibilities, you need to determine what kind of education and experience a person would need to be successful in that position.
For many jobs, your first instinct may be to require previous experience in a similar role or a degree in a relevant field of study. This makes sense where technical skills or training are necessary, but this may not be the best approach for every job. Can you broaden the scope of your requirements to invite candidates with other backgrounds to apply? Drill down to the qualities and general experience that are crucial for someone to succeed in the role and focus on those in your description.
We do this at BambooHR in our sales department. Instead of listing several years of sales-specific experience as a requirement, we ask for other qualities from our candidates, including:
- Track record of exceeding expectations
- A desire to have a successful career in sales
- Ability to articulate our value proposition via webinars, online demos, phone, and email
- Experience identifying and qualifying opportunities
- Demonstrated collaboration and negotiation skills
- Great attitude, self-motivated, and a passion for growth
As a result, candidates from all different backgrounds apply, and we are able to bring diverse and helpful experiences to the team. For example, several of our sales employees have a background in HR, enabling them to connect with and relate to our potential customers (other HR professionals) in a powerful way. Not only does this diversity of experience make these employees highly successful in their jobs, but it also helps other team members to learn and improve at the same time.
Diversity and culture fit
Another way organizations can improve diversity is rethinking what “culture fit” means. It’s crucial to hire the right people for your company culture—those who will honor, enhance, and protect your culture. However, some organizations use this term without considering what it really means. In the absence of clear definitions, hiring managers often end up choosing candidates with whom they have the most in common. This is a recipe for homogeneity in the name of “culture fit.”
But if you take the time to provide clarity for the hiring managers in your organization, they can look for the right qualities in candidates (not just the ones they prefer).
We do this at BambooHR with what we call a “culture constitution.” It’s a simple document that identifies a handful of qualities and traits we seek out and explains how those map to our company culture. With this resource, we strive to reduce unconscious biases within our hiring process by helping hiring managers focus on the things that matter most.
Making diversity a priority
These are just two ways organizations can incorporate diversity into their hiring strategy, but of course there are many others. We are lucky to be surrounded by organizations here in Utah that demonstrate how to prioritize diversity in a meaningful way. Pluralsight, Qualtrics, Workfront, Lucid, Podium, and many others have chosen to participate in initiatives like the ParityPledge® and the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ to make Utah a more inclusive and welcoming place for all genders, races, and backgrounds.
An employee’s value doesn’t come from the points on their resume or the demographic boxes they check—it comes from the individual experiences these points often represent. Taking time to see beyond this shorthand for diversity can help your organization focus on the wide range of benefits a truly diverse selection of employees can bring: new perspectives, new ideas, new energy, and new additions to your great workplace culture.