As companies look to fill the increase in vacant spots driven by the Great Resignation, some hope there’s a silver lining. Openings provide an opportunity to bring in new talent, including those of different gender or racial identities than they’ve hired in the past.
However, many organizations have historically struggled with diversifying their new hires, especially at leadership levels.
To understand how leaders can ensure they don’t miss the moment to diversify their workforce, I connected with Melanie Ho, organizational consultant and award-winning author of Beyond Leaning In: Gender Equity and What Organizations are Up Against. Melanie shared valuable guidance for leaders committed to diversifying their workforce.
1. Identify a wider pool of candidates through competency-mapping
One challenge is that it’s easiest for hiring managers and HR to focus on prioritizing candidates that have already done the job they’re applying for somewhere else–at another employer, or even department within that same organization. It’s convenient, but for roles where the current occupants aren’t diverse already, isn’t going to create a diverse pool.
“For a lot of roles, the most obvious pipeline isn’t very diverse,” Ho said. “But the most obvious pipeline also isn’t the only one–or even the best one. By mapping the specific competencies needed for a particular job, leaders can then identify what other types of roles require the same types of competencies.” For example, universities looking to bring more racial diversity into their fundraising staff have been successful recruiting salespeople, even in totally different sectors, because sales and fundraising jobs require many similar competencies. Ho noted, “Hiring those with the needed competencies who come from a wider variety of roles and backgrounds brings new skillsets and perspectives onto the team.”
2. Adopt test assessments and simulation-based interviewing
Many hiring managers still unofficially use the “airport test” in hiring, where interviewers have the question in the back of their mind: “If I were trapped at an airport with this person for three hours, would I enjoy it?” This can lead organizations to hire people they like personally, or who are similar to them in background, rather than ones who are best fit for the job.
Standardizing questions and using competency-based interviews is a first step to mitigating bias in interviewing, but Ho said that forward-thinking organizations tend to go even further. “The most accurate way to know how someone will do at a job is through simulations or test assignments. These can range from sorting through fake emails if it’s a project management job or designing parts of a branding campaign for a marketing job.” She added the caveat that this isn’t an opportunity to get free labor from job-seekers, and that assignments need to be compensated if the work product could end up being used by the employer.
3. Eliminate disincentives to diverse hiring
If recruiters are measured and incentivized primarily on time-to-fill positions, that can lead them to over-rely on traditional sources for candidates. Additionally, hiring managers often find a variety of pressures work against tapping a broader pool.
“Often, I talk to managers who say they met a candidate who was stronger at the core skills needed for the job, or who they saw as having more promotion and long-term potential, than who they ended up hiring,” Ho said. “Internal candidates or those who have done the exact same job at a similar organization have a leg up because they require less onboarding, even if the less-traditional candidate would end up being stronger or equally strong after an initial ramp-up time.”
These managers need to know that top leaders at their organizations value long-term talent and diversifying the workforce, and are willing to help them make an investment to do so, such as onboarding support.
4. Demonstrate commitment not just to diversity, but also equity and inclusion
“Just because you’re interested in a candidate doesn’t mean they’re interested in you,” Ho said. “Women and people of color are acutely aware that many workplaces talk the diversity, equity, and inclusion talk, but that the lived experience doesn’t match what’s in the brochure.”
In the era of the Great Resignation, many job-seekers are holding potential employers to a higher bar. Ho noted that, “Many women and people of color are specifically leaving organizations where they weren’t treated equitably, and they’re doing much more due diligence to ensure they don’t repeat history.”