One common argument against diversity hiring mandates is that diversity goals shouldn’t outweigh merit – implying they are mutually exclusive.
That notion puts to question whether candidates of diverse backgrounds deserve a seat at the table, further exacerbating existing biases and hindering real DEI progress.
How? Because it assumes people of underrepresented groups aren’t qualified for the job.
While mandates are one way to bring about real change, organizations need to remember that simply meeting diversity criteria and representation goals are not enough to make sustainable change for a diverse workforce.
We ultimately fail to commit to a process if inclusive guidelines aren’t in place to allow diversity to flourish and thrive.
DEI hiring and development
Organizations and hiring managers must provide recruiters adequate time and resources to reach, discover and earn the trust of diverse talent for open positions, then invest in sustainable, equitable initiatives that weave inclusivity into the culture.
From removing application barriers in job descriptions to making sure interviews are free from bias, HR leaders need to implement equitable and inclusive hiring practices throughout the entire candidate journey – especially as research has shown that bias is rampant within the hiring process. For example, a recent study found when 83,000 fictitious applications were submitted for entry-level job postings to 108 Fortune 500 companies using randomly assigned, racially distinctive names, applications with distinctively Black names were 2.1% less likely to hear back from an employer compared to distinctively white names.
That is not to say we need colorblind hiring. In fact, the opposite is true. Organizations should discard the practice. Colorblind hiring was thought to promote a level playing field for all candidates. But it defeats the purpose of DEI hiring, which is to acknowledge and appreciate diversity. We achieve better outcomes by celebrating and prioritizing people’s differences, educating hiring managers on diversity and bias, and making all employees accountable – at every level of the business – for attaining DEI businesses goals.
Develop measures, accountability
There’s no finish line when it comes to DEI development—it requires constant evaluation and reiteration to build a better process. And to do that you need to ensure you have processes and tools to measure your DEI initiatives. One way is to conduct regular surveys on employee satisfaction and engagement. Senior leadership, including HR leaders, should routinely gather insight and feedback from employees who are from underrepresented communities. Use focus group discussions and open communication. It’s important your employees have the freedom and space to candidly talk about personal experiences working at your company.
Businesses should be transparent about how their leaders are held accountable for progress. It’s not enough for only the HR or DEI teams to drive initiatives. It’s much more effective if C-suite executives clearly demonstrate their commitment to DEI goals through concrete actions. Then make those the focus of the organization’s strategy and culture in building and maintaining a diverse workforce. When leaders show up and prove they care, the rest of the organization is more likely to mirror their behaviors. It creates a halo effect on the overall culture and DEI efforts.
DEI: more than an imperative
As we progress as a society, businesses that fail to improve their DEI will suffer. They will likely be turned down by top talent and potential customers who view their operations as outdated and exclusive. A Glassdoor survey found that 76% of job seekers consider diversity very important when selecting companies and evaluating offers. About one in three would not apply to a company that lacks a diverse workforce.
Yes, we know that diversity contributes to innovation, creativity and business growth. However, we should not prioritize DEI just because it’s a business imperative. Representation is crucial because it’s reflective of our world. If your company or team isn’t diverse, that should be seen as a red flag.
DEI is not a short-term fix or project. It’s a long-term play to create an all-around better workplace for all and improve employee engagement, while positively impacting the bottom line along the way.