Some companies work so hard at trying to get their diversity hiring strategy right that analysis paralysis sets in. And as a result, no meaningful DEI action gets taken.
In an episode of the HRMorning podcast “Voices of HR,” Anna Lenhardt, the former chief people officer of Tomorrow Health, shared her insights on overcoming common diversity hiring strategy challenges and building a more inclusive workplace as your company grows.
She said that DEI analysis paralysis happens because companies get overwhelmed and become afraid to make a mistake. It’s more important to get started and make progress than to wait for everything to be perfect, she said.
“There’s so much information and data and research that has been done on how … diversity drives productivity, which drives business results, which drives that next raise and a better valuation,” said Lenhardt.
Data-driven decision making
But before bringing DEI awareness to your leadership team, you should start by collecting and analyzing data on your current workforce demographics. That way, you can identify specific areas where the organization could use improvement. After forming a working draft of a diversity hiring strategy, this data can be used to set goals, track progress and measure the impact.
“Where are we benchmarking against benchmarks nationally? How does that align to what we are as an organization? And how does that tie in to the values of what we believe is … the type of company that we want to build?” she said.
Lenhardt gave an example of how a company DEI report at Tomorrow Health uncovered an underrepresentation of women in leadership roles, and how the company worked in partnership to close the gender gap.
“It was (close) to 25%, but yet we had a fairly large female and female-identifying population that wasn’t represented on the leadership team. … And with every hiring manager, we set that expectation that we would be able to do that within their teams, within their hiring plans, that they needed to really think thoughtfully about bringing in more female representation and leadership. … For every department leader, for every executive, we did that data analysis and presentation,” she said.
Since then, company leadership is now 55% female, according to Lenhardt.
Pushback against a diversity hiring strategy
Organizational DEI lost a lot of momentum since the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in education.
So if mentioning a diversity hiring strategy is met with eye rolls, here’s what your response should be, according to Lenhardt: “What are … five to seven key skills or attributes that you look for across the organization? … Then you can go back to that leader and manager and say, ‘Let’s define what this role, and what those skills, look like for you.’ And then from there, then it’s going back to the talent acquisition team and saying, ‘OK, we need a diverse pool of candidates that meet these skills and criteria. Let’s figure out the best way to find them (and) source them.'”
Once managers see a diverse slate of candidates that check all those boxes, a figurative light bulb over their heads should turn on.
“They’re usually … pleasantly surprised by the quality and caliber of talent that they see,” Lenhardt said.
Once you’ve hit a diversity benchmark, it’s important to create an inclusive workplace where everyone feels welcome and valued.
“I think that’s the work you have to continue to lean into … by listening, taking feedback, and figuring out how to create the right space for not just a diverse population, but one where everyone feels they truly are included and belong in that environment,” Lenhardt said, offering an example of bringing in a consultant to ensure female leaders were being seen and heard in meetings.
Tomorrow Health effectively retains diverse employees with employee resource groups geared to LGBTQIA+ employees, women’s leadership candidates and working parents. In addition, during the onboarding process, the company has a buddy system that pairs up new employees from different departments.