DEI Defined — and Why It Should Be at the Heart of Your Recruitment Strategy

By Alfredo Mendez on May 16, 2022 at 10:00am

By Alf Mendez, Vice President of Experience and Inclusion, Robert Half

The first in a two-part series on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), this post defines the three pillars of DEI and offers some tips for incorporating these principles into your recruitment process.

“It’s just a job” is a phrase you don’t hear much these days. In survey after survey, and particularly in the COVID-19 era, workers use terms like “purpose,” “meaning” and “connection” when describing their ideal role and employer. They’re driven not only by financial incentives these days, but also by values — and they want the companies they work for to reflect those values.

Failure to meet these heightened expectations can make retention and recruitment more difficult for employers. In a recent Robert Half survey, 71% of workers said they’d leave an organization whose values do not align with their own.

There are various values that workers and job seekers expect their employers to support today, and high on their list is a strong focus on DEI. People want to feel genuinely welcome, valued and comfortable at work. They want a collaborative and welcoming culture that respects all viewpoints.

Ensuring DEI is part of your workplace culture is not only the right thing to do, but given the degree to which professionals feel that it is important for their company to support DEI, it should be at the heart of your hiring strategy. It can help you expand the pool of candidates who want to work at your company. Also, hiring people with different perspectives on business issues can make your company more innovative and customer-centric.

Let’s unpack the core principles of DEI and then consider how you can incorporate them into your recruitment strategy.

The ABCs of DEI

Diversity, equity and inclusion are three pillars that, when taken together, add up to a more just and equitable workplace. The most forward-thinking companies will invest time and resources in all three and ensure they work in harmony.

This begs the question: How are these three pillars different from each other? Here’s a summary:

  • Diversity means the presence of differences within a setting, including race, gender identity, ethnicity, nationality, apparent and non-apparent disability, sexual orientation, and beyond. A company that values diversity should pursue it actively, adjusting its hiring strategy to make sure it can attract a wide range of applicants and consciously build a more diverse workforce from those applicants.
     
  • Equity is the process of ensuring that systems and processes are impartial and fair and provide equal opportunities for all. It’s about eliminating unfair advantages so that all employees have the tools and resources to fulfill their potential. A company that values equity should assess and, if necessary, reform its organizational culture to help ensure every worker receives equal opportunities to grow.
     
  • Inclusion means making sure everyone feels a sense of belonging at work. It also means building environments where employees feel heard, supported and secure in sharing their perspectives. A company that values inclusion might, for example, revise its onboarding documentation to include gender-neutral language or encourage the formation of employee resource groups (ERGs) for members of historically underrepresented communities.

How to embed DEI in your recruitment strategy

Hiring with DEI in mind requires an organization to rethink its recruitment processes. Managers must understand why it’s important and learn some concrete steps for making it happen.

Here’s how you can recruit a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce:

Take stock of your current policies

Start by gathering critical data on what DEI-related gaps currently exist in your organization, what your workforce goals are, what resources are available, and what vendors exist that might meet your company’s needs in the short- and long-term. Devise a plan that is informed from the gaps and implement new policies, design more equitable hiring, feedback and promotion processes, and remove biased heuristics in the hiring process by asking:

  • How can the design of our hiring process ensure that candidates feel valued and represented?
     
  • What are we doing to create a company that is free of discrimination?
     
  • How can we empower managers and leaders to be accountable for their impact and effort?
     
  • What technologies are we employing to address every inflection point of the talent management cycle, especially in relation to hiring?
     
  • Does leadership track quantitative aspects of our workforce (awareness, connection, empathy and mutual respect) as much as they track the qualitative ones (demographics, diversity hiring, promotion rates, retention)?

Set up your team to succeed

Your DEI strategy may flounder if hiring managers commit to it half-heartedly or if they lack the knowledge to draw up and implement best practices.

To avoid the first scenario, encourage leadership to give the program their full-throated support. Getting buy-in for your initiatives from hiring managers and other key players will be easier if the C-suite leads the way. To address any knowledge or skills gaps, give your teams the training they need.

To avoid the second scenario, your human resources (HR) team may be able to hold virtual sessions with company managers covering topics like inclusive communication and counteracting unconscious bias that can inform managers’ job postings and interviewing processes.

If your HR group is small, arrange for them to get up to speed on DEI by accessing online certification programs offered by many universities and business schools. If you need to scale up your program quickly, consider hiring a dedicated DEI manager who will already be well-versed in these areas.

Diversify your hiring networks and regions

If you’re regularly attracting a non-diverse set of candidates, you’re probably relying on a non-diverse set of sourcing channels. For example, current employees and members of your alumni network may offer excellent referrals but with an unconscious bias toward people cut from the same cloth.

To broaden your talent pools, consider forming strategic alliances with organizations dedicated to enhancing opportunities for underrepresented groups. Encourage your campus recruiters to attend job fairs (virtual or in-person) across the full spectrum of colleges and universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).

Another approach to casting a wider net when appealing to a broad range of candidates is considering diverse talent from locations that weren’t previously available. Hybrid work further enables companies to embed DEI into their hiring practices by seeking candidates from different geographic, socioeconomic, cultural and abilities backgrounds.

This is one practical solution that not only gets you talent now but also supports a more diverse talent pool that is expansive to include geography, socioeconomic, cultural and ability backgrounds.

Review your job descriptions

Rewrite job descriptions to remove any biased language and include gender-neutral language. Also, think about what kinds of statements could attract future candidates instead of turning them away. Your team may need special training to identify problematic or exclusionary language, and access to artificial intelligence (AI)-powered software that flags and replaces biased phrases.

Collaborate with the company’s strategic alliances to post your job descriptions in various locations. After the description is posted, monitor and track the overall diversity of the talent pool and adjust your hiring strategies accordingly.

Putting DEI at the heart of your recruitment strategy is a critical step toward creating a welcoming workplace. Best of all, it’s a virtuous circle — the closer you get to your DEI goals, the more likely you are to attract talented, values-driven candidates from all backgrounds. Doing the right thing has rarely made more business sense.

Follow Alfredo Mendez on LinkedIn.

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