The importance of diversity in the workplace -- and the obvious need for improvement -- has become a major point of emphasis among many companies over the past year. While many in leadership mistakenly view diversity initiatives as a distraction, business leadership is increasingly recognizing the inherent value of a diverse and equitable workforce.
But while many are talking the talk, they are continuing to make unfortunate mistakes that reduce opportunities for diverse candidates. These mistakes aren't always intentional -- but they have a very real and harmful impact on diversity recruiting.
1. A lack of diversity among your recruiting staff
Building a strong recruiting team is key to finding qualified candidates. But if your recruiters all look and think like you do, then you are far less likely to hire diverse employees.
If your recruiting staff isn't diverse, they are going to be more susceptible to affinity bias. This is an unconscious tendency that makes us more comfortable with those who we perceive to be more like us. Quite often, when a hire is made based on "cultural fit," recruiters have either unconsciously or deliberately let this bias take precedence.
The easiest way to fix this is by diversifying your recruiters. Training should also be provided to your current recruiting staff to ensure that you are looking to add to your culture through diverse hires.
In addition, because individuals with diverse-sounding names are often less likely to get called in for an interview in the first place, many businesses are using "blind résumés," where they remove personal information (such as names or locations) that could result in unconsciously biased assessments.
2. Limiting the talent pools you hire from
Quite often, businesses hurt their ability to find diverse candidates because they continue to focus on the same hiring pools that they've always used. If the universities and job boards you've always gone to only deliver homogeneous job candidates, it's time to look for new talent pools.
This became especially clear during a recent conversation with Ilit Raz, co-founder and CEO of Joonko. The founder of a product that helps connect diverse candidates with world-class companies, she has seen many of the challenges associated with diversity hiring firsthand.
During our conversation, she explained that the best way to diversify the workforce is to diversify the hiring pool. Many companies could benefit from joining forces and sharing their pools of diverse candidates, rather than each company trying to source candidates on their own. A shared pool of prequalified talent will help fill positions faster with diverse candidates. Advocacy organizations and job boards for women, minorities, and workers with disabilities are just a few of the additional resources organizations can use to source talent.
Don't focus on a single potentially diverse source for talent and call it a day. The more resources you use to source candidates, the easier it will be to diversify beyond a single metric.
3. Using biased language in job descriptions
The way companies write their job posts often includes unconscious bias that can make minorities, women, or individuals with disabilities less likely to apply for a position that they are otherwise qualified to fill.
A notable study from Duke and the University of Waterloo identified lengthy lists of "masculine" and "feminine" words. Study participants were given descriptions for the same jobs, but with the wording coded to be either more masculine or more feminine. Across all jobs (even those stereotypically viewed as female), female applicants were less likely to apply when excessively masculine language was used.
Even at a subliminal level, the language used in job descriptions can alter an applicant's perception of the position and the company itself. It can make them feel that they wouldn't belong at the company, creating a confidence gap that keeps talented candidates from applying.
Fortunately, there are several tools now available to help eliminate this type of biased language to encourage more diverse applicants.
The time to improve diversity hiring is now
The benefits of diversity in the workplace are well-documented. In fact, a report from McKinsey reveals that racially diverse teams outperform less-diverse competition by 35 percent. Exposure to new ideas and perspectives can lead to innovations that would otherwise have gone unthought-of.
Such benefits only come if your hiring and recruiting processes are truly equitable. By addressing these and other diversity recruiting mistakes, you can create new opportunities for talented candidates and your company.