Just a few days ago, American businesses protested recent White House policies about immigrants by closing their doors for the day for A Day Without Immigrants.
For these businesses, it was a demonstration of the important role immigrants play in the workplace. For others, it highlighted the lack of immigrants in many businesses and reminded many managers about their own brand's lack of diversity. While it wasn't the topic at hand, diversity in the workplace is still a definite undertone in the conversation we're having as a nation.
If you looked around recently and noticed that all your employees seem to look vaguely the same, you may be worried about being an unfair employer. Your concern is very likely not just altruistic, but financial. If you're a startup, that means you may miss out on funding, and if you're an established company, you're opening your brand up to a social good boycott, which can be started by a single disgruntled employee.
But how can you hire a more diverse workforce? You put out job applications and interview those who seem qualified. You have probably told yourself--and your other executives--that you can't help that only a certain type of person seems to ever be interested, or have the experience you're looking for.
Like so many things in life, if you keep having the same problem with a variety of people, it's probably not them--it's you. More specifically, you likely have a biased hiring funnel. Here's how to fix it:
Write A Better Job Description
The first step in attracting a more diverse group of employees is to get them to apply in the first place. Many employers don't realize this, but some classics--as well as some very new trends--in job description language turn off different groups.
The most commonly cited example--and the mistake most commonly seen--is the use of "fun" language that turns a thorough and accurate job posting into a confusing and misleading one: using exaggerated terms, such as "ninja," "warrior," "guru," and "rockstar." These words tend to turn off women (as well as those from cultures where boasting is rude). This is explained by several studies, including one by HBR, which indicate that American males tend to apply to jobs they feel 60 percent qualified for, but women won't unless they feel 100 percent qualified.
So, consider, do you really want a "guru" mid-level social media marketing manager? If not, consider rephrasing.
Coordinate A Blind Interview Circuit
A great way to remove bias during the interview process is to set up what many companies call a "blind interview circuit." This means that you have several (at least 3) people interview the candidate. They each make their notes, and take a day or so to consider their stance, but they do not discuss their opinions with the other interviewers until a planned meeting, which takes place after all interviews have taken place.
This technique removes the possibility of an interviewer becoming biased before even meeting the candidate, simply because a coworker didn't like them. This also gives interviewers a venue to fully explain any red flags in front of at least two other people. This social pressure does a great job in cutting down on "I just didn't like them" feelings--which are often tied to race, accent, or gender.
Create Standard Scorecards and Require Samples
While most of the modern workplace is moving towards increased flexibility, hiring and interviewing can benefit quite a bit from more structure. Take time to settle on a standard scorecard of traits, experience, and qualifications for applicants. While you'll likely need a few of these to accommodate all levels, having a score card ready before you interview any candidates will keep your company honest in why they like or dislike a candidate.
In addition, whenever possible, make sure to ask for samples or examples of work, and review them before you meet with the candidate. This will help you evaluate the candidate's actual skill first, and their "first impression" second.
Taking steps to make your workforce more diverse is a great goal for employers and one that every brand should undertake. Not only does it benefit the communities your brand is a part of, but it will also benefit the function of your company. With more diverse backgrounds contributing to ideas, you'll not only see a burst of creativity, but also an increase in vigilance for potential pitfalls and even safety issues. More diversity, in short, equals more profit and more growth.