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Diversity and Inclusion Begin (But Doesn’t End) at the Recruitment Process

By Michele Lanza, founder

Seismic shifts in the workplace have caused much confusion and a lot of opportunity. Those who will emerge successfully are companies and institutions that are able to embrace these changes by realizing the values of diversity. The business case for diversity and inclusion has never been stronger. Organizations with inclusive cultures are more innovative, more agile, have better business outcomes, are more likely to be high performing and are more likely to meet or exceed financial targets.

Varying efforts have been made by companies to diversity their workforce with equally varying results. Those who attempted to do so in superficial ways simply to improve image have found their attempts backfiring; while those who understand that this is a multi-level and lengthy process find themselves in an ideal position to develop and grow in substantial, inclusive ways. While companies can’t recruit their way out of lack of representation, ensuring companies hire top talent from underrepresented groups is an important step.

What most fail to see is how the “recruitment” process itself can be developed to establish an enduring company culture of diversity and inclusion for all. Contrary to the understanding of the general public, recruiting actually starts before there is even an open position. Companies that understand this build relationships with candidates before they are even looking to fill a job. Companies that are getting it right and engaging with and building trust with a diverse slate of potential candidates so when an opening becomes available, the company already have potential candidates in the queue who know their brand and would be open to considering a role at the company.

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Michele Lanza
Michele Lanza

Recruiting strategies needs to be aligned with the company’s business goals and achieve those with the acknowledgment that underrepresented are critical to their business success. Through online eco systems, like Work Wider that brings focus to underrepresented talents for example, companies are provided the opportunity to share their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion with both passive and active candidates. Employees want to believe in the company they work for. They want to know that the management is committed to their well being and they want to feel valued, recognized and heard.

There is no such thing as a perfect recruitment process. Good recruitment processes, however, make sure that the focus is on the candidate experience. The goal should be that every candidate has such a good experience in the interview process and that even if a candidate doesn’t get the job, they still want to work for the company. Key to finding ideal hires is to understand what makes a candidate tick, how they want to grow their careers, what kind of role they would consider, and what is important to them from a culture perspective. It’s not really about a good or bad candidate, it’s about finding the right job match for that individual. Even the pandemic has affected how candidates are now accepting roles without ever “seeing” an office. This has made companies get creative. Companies now have to do a better job of telling candidates about their company culture versus being able to “show”’ it with in-person interviews.

Addressing diversity, equity and inclusion is a marathon and not a sprint. Fostering this into the recruitment process is a multi-layered approach. Equity is about the fair and equal treatment and opportunity of all. Inclusion is about creating cultures of belonging, where everyone feels seen and valued for who they are. As for diversity, companies should aim towards achieving full representation. The workforce population should reflect the populations where companies do business. Platforms like Work Wider was created to change how companies engage with and hire diverse talent, while supporting active professional communities across all underrepresented groups. It will take long term, sustained effort to undo the systemic racism, misogyny, homophobia, ageism and other issues that have existed in various forms throughout corporate culture. Companies need to make conscious choices at efforts in creating a welcoming environment to various groups including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, neuro differences, veterans, women and 50+ talent.

Studies have shown that 67% of job seekers believe workplace diversity is important and that employees with a strong sense of belonging report a 56% higher level of overall job performance. Belonging is a huge favor in an employee’s performance and morale. Employees are happier when they see themselves reflected in the culture and are allowed to bring their full sleeves to work. And it all begins at the well-designed recruitment process.

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