Diversity has become an HR buzzword, thrown around in meetings and leveraged for positive PR, but what does diversity really mean?
Legally, diversity refers to the age, socioeconomic background, gender, race, and ethnicity differences in your workforce. However, the concept of a diverse workforce encompasses more than that, capturing more nuanced elements such as religious and political views, social status, personality, communication styles, and cultural values.
Diversity sourcing, by extension, is a dedicated effort to attract, engage, and hire a diverse slate of candidates. An interesting twist on the diversity sourcing discussion is in referral practices. Anecdotally, it’s often believed that referral hiring will diminish diversity, encouraging people to refer their friends and colleagues that are just like them. In reality, diversity sourcing can be vastly improved with solid, intentional referral practices.
While virtually all companies say they encourage diversity, and the evidence for diversity as a business performance enhancement is clear, the question remains - how can we source and recruit a diverse workforce? Today we’re going to explore three strategies to make this happen in your organization:
- Creating and maintaining a diverse culture
- Using multiple sourcing tactics
- Leveraging employee referrals as a diversity channel
Building a Diversity-Driven Culture Having the best diversity programs possible won’t matter if your culture doesn’t support it. Diversity begins and ends with your company culture. It should be part of who you are as a company.
Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson published an open letter on LinkedIn, saying:
“Everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or identity, gender, race, religion disability or ethnicity should have an equal opportunity to get a job, start a business or be served by a business.”
Marriott doesn’t just talk the talk though, they live it. With over 25 years of cultural diversity programs, it is no surprise that Marriott International ranked No. 6 on 2016 Best Workplaces for Diversity and No. 7 for both Best Workplaces for African Americans and Best Workplaces for Latinos.
Highlights of Marriott's 2015 Sustainability Report include:
- 300% increase in women's representation in top leadership positions.
- Across the company, nine women lead divisions worth more than $100 million in revenue.
- Women comprise over 30 percent of the company's board of directors' positions.
- The company is on track to reach a goal of 1,000 minority- and women-owned hotels by 2020, with 699 properties currently qualifying.
- An increase in purchases with diverse suppliers for a total of more than $4.5 billion spent since 2003 and a goal of $568 million for 2015.
This just goes to show that any company, regardless of how large or small, can take steps toward creating a culture where diversity is embraced, not just tolerated.
Quantity drives Quality
Any good talent acquisition leader knows that to diversify your talent pool, you have to diversify your sourcing tactics. When employers are using a “post and pray” model of hiring, it’s almost guaranteed that diversity is going to be the lowest priority. However, when multiple sourcing channels are leveraged, from alumni networks and community organizations to universities and various media outlets, diversity suddenly becomes front and center in the conversation.
In a conversation last month with the head of human resources for a U.S.-based construction firm, the leader said that the biggest challenge was filling a key technical role with diverse candidates, because the company had come to see the value in not just diversity of gender or skin color, but in a diversity of thought. Candidates that entered the role from diverse backgrounds performed better, connected more thoroughly with their customers and peers, and lasted longer than more traditional candidates.
Google uses an interesting sourcing tactic for attracting diverse candidates. The technology giant has around 60,000 employees and uses a three-thirds hiring model for new applicants into its People Operations team:
- One-third of the applicants have traditional HR backgrounds.
- Another third is from the strategy consulting field.
- The final third is recruited from fields such as organizational psychology.
Former Google Head of HR, Laszlo Bock, believes that this system allows each employee to bring something different to the party. There’s no reason to believe this type of approach could not also be turned to other areas of the business, whether in information technology, software development, or other hard-to-fill technical roles.
Bottom line: If you want a diverse workforce - you have to use diverse sourcing tactics.
While we mentioned employee referrals above as a powerful diversity sourcing channel, there are also some other amazing benefits to the practice that can’t be denied. Employee referrals are ranked number one in:
- Hiring volume
- Applicant-to-hire ratio
- Fastest time to fill
- New hire quality
- Retention after one year
- Cost per hire
Yet even with this compelling data, our research at Lighthouse Research & Advisory shows that more than four out of ten employers are measuring nothing or only anecdotal information when it comes to referrals as a source of hire.
Current employees are living, breathing advertisers for your company. Their testimonies about your organization provide an authentic initiative for potential hires. Missing out on their referrals could be the difference in being a market leader or a laggard. And as mentioned above, this allows your company to target more diverse hires in a way that traditional job postings and advertising just can’t.
Online referral technology platforms allow talent acquisition leaders to see real-life metrics about their referrals and sourcing information, helping them to keep tabs on diversity and a range of other important measures. Companies that use MintMesh AI Recruiting tool Rudy are seeing some impressive results, including:
- 50% cost savings
- 2x faster close rates
- 40% higher retention
Understanding diversity’s importance is one thing, but implementing it into your company culture can be more challenging. Sourcing and recruiting diverse candidates doesn’t happen without effort, but if you want to lead the market you must have diverse talent. From developing the right culture and leveraging multiple hiring channels to creating a cohesive referral strategy, your firm can embrace diversity and drive performance at the same time.