If you only pool candidates from those traditional pipelines, you’re doomed to not have diversity on staff. – Alexandra Mandrycky – Director Hockey Strategy and Research – Seattle Kraken
The idea of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace has been with us for decades. Equal pay for equal work and a workforce more representative of the general population with respect to race, gender and sexual orientation have been goals of Human Resources and general leaders, yet they remain just that: goals, rather than missions accomplished.
As a leadership coach I have often had discussions with clients whose organizations have or are implementing a D&I program. To be clear: I 100% support the intention behind D&I. I believe everyone is a gift to the world, has unique contributions to make and each has the non-negotiable right to be considered as such.
But I get a little uncomfortable with the process … I can’t help but wonder if we’ve gotten it backwards. I’m wondering if the focus should be on inclusion rather than diversity. Make them IFD programs … Inclusion For Diversity.
To be inclusive is very compelling for most of us. We see the inherent goodness in all humans. Yet when we roll out diversity targets to say we want to hire more employees from under-represented groups, the over-represented group (who may in fact be doing the hiring) could feel threatened and thus act counter productively. In addition, the existing base of leaders likely has built a market approach to finding candidates that has resulted in the current mix, for reasons such as “old boy networks” or repetitive use of the same sources (learning institutions, recruitment agencies, etc.) that access non-diverse populations.
So let’s reframe: the desired outcome is diversity, the process to get there is inclusion. We have to make this distinction as it will influence how we measure success. If we focus on the outcome we will do typical percentage calculations looking at the make up of the various levels of the organization and focus purely on whether we have shifted the outcome. We won’t focus on creating a broader pool of skilled candidates to draw from, and removing unconscious biases from our selection process while still focusing on finding the best fits for the role and the company culture.
If we focus on the process of inclusion we measure success at each stage of recruiting. We measure the funnel as we move candidates through the process at various stages:
1. Diversity of Source – when we think about where we will source candidates, we can design for inclusivity. Do we tap into the same network we always have, or do we deliberately reach out to new networks to get the opportunity to a broader pool of candidates. For example, if our software engineering team is predominantly white, could we partner with the National Society of Black Engineers through their job board in building a field of candidates. The recruiter in charge of the position would be responsible for demonstrating an inclusive sourcing strategy.
2. Unbiased Screening – the typical process for screening often includes pass in the (virtual) stack of resumés over to the hiring manager who then proceeds to pull her/his short list. At this point, consciously or unconsciously, that person’s biases kick in. We don’t know what they are but we know RP they are there as we all have inner filters that help us choose. The risk is that some of these filters act on demographic indicators. Some might be overt like what a name might suggest. Others less so … for example we set impressions of the types of candidates that emerge from certain schools. What if the resumés passed over had been reduced to those portions that convey relevant information without indicators? For example remove schools, leaving only credentials or replace the name with a candidate number.
3. Inclusive Interviewing – in my time as a leader in the corporate world I’m not sure I saw a management skill more in need of a tune up than interviewing. Any improvement I would make would start with a consensus-based behavioural interviewing process. A small panel (3?) of people would interview all candidates together, using pre-selected questions designed to test candidates for the skills required for the role. Having a panel helps mitigate the biases discussed above, but also offers us the opportunity to perhaps create positive bias by drawing on leaders who represent demographics we are trying to build within our organization.
4. Diversity of Candidates – this step in the process is about assessing whether the first three steps were a success. Here, we are interested in assessing whether our process delivered quality underrepresented candidates to the final interviews, and that our panel felt the right candidate got the job. Information we glean through this review allows us to tune the process for subsequent iterations. An important component is to understand whether the demographics we are attempting to enhance within the organization currently build for the skills we typically hire for. We may find that we need to build an approach to developing additional skills to increase the number of quality candidates. Some ideas in this regard include internships, mentoring programs, bursaries, etc. The goal is to invest in students from that demographic so as to increase the availability of qualified candidates.
As with most things in life, we are more successful when we focus on our intentions and the process we use to achieve them rather than wishing for the outcome we desire. This reframing of approach brings that intentionality with it. What do you see here that might apply to your organization? What are you less sure of? Let’s get the discussion started!