How to build a diverse workforce

Hiring Certification Series

Table of Contents

When’s the last time you sat down and took a look at how diverse your company really is? There are enormous benefits to having a wider range of perspectives, but it’s not always easy to know how to build and foster that environment. It goes without saying that any individual’s perspective is shaped by their race, gender, age, and culture—not to mention other equally important factors like religious and political beliefs, socioeconomic background, geographic location, and so on. All of these essential life experiences significantly impress and form their views, personality, and skills.

Companies must cater to the myriad individuals that form their talent pool and customer base—and do so effectively and thoughtfully. If not, these businesses can expect to be outperformed by their more diverse counterparts.

Below, you’ll learn how to be aware of biases that can impact your recruitment strategies. You’ll also learn how to use behavioral data and other best practices to ensure a diverse workforce.

What is diversity and inclusion at work?

To achieve diversity in the workplace, companies must first foster a workplace culture of inclusion, respect, and understanding. Only then can they successfully recruit the full spectrum of qualified talent.

Inclusion is different from diversity. Simply hiring a diverse candidate base is not enough to positively impact a company. These candidates should feel embraced by their workplace and colleagues, and feel empowered to actively engage with their company and coworkers. Inclusion occurs when all employees experience a sense of engagement and belonging.

Creating a diverse workforce doesn’t just happen. Diversity must first be introduced as an integral part of a company’s mission statement, then further defined in the company or employee handbook. Finally, it must be fully realized through program and process implementation. A culture of diversity, inclusion, and engagement necessitates that everyone is (and feels) included, everyone participates, and everyone strives to hit the same company goals.

Before we dive into how to become more diverse, let’s first take a look at why this matters. Use the chart below to see just a few of the many benefits that come with a more diverse workforce.

Try it out! 

Understand and account for unconscious bias.

The first step to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce is to remove unconscious bias: the inherent or learned stereotypes about people that form without realizing it. Leaving these biases unchecked can sabotage the recruiting and interviewing process in your organization. A company might create a plan for improving diversity and inclusion, but if it doesn’t address implicit biases, it won’t make much of an impact. 

These types of biases include:

Liking people who are perceived to be just like you. This can occur during the resume review process or during an interview. Be aware that no matter the size of the connection, it can make an impact if you’re not conscientious of it.

These biases occur when people attempt to prove a preconceived notion based on a candidate. This can impact the hiring process before a candidate even walks through the door.

This type of bias occurs when individuals are judged as a result of superficial factors such as tattoos, weight, or piercings. Be sure your team is aware of what is important for the job and what should never be considered.

This type of bias occurs when you think someone is a good person because you like them. Stick to what matters for the job and not how much you might enjoy someone’s presence.

This type of bias occurs when an individual is so hung up on a perceived notion of a particular gender, ethnicity, etc. that they are unable to think objectively about a person.

Put your new bias knowledge to the test with the activity below.

Try it out! 

With so many ways to subconsciously make mistakes, it’s pivotal that you focus on what matters for the job itself. Don’t let the recruiters or interviewers make assumptions, and instead turn to people data. The Predictive Index’s Behavioral and Cognitive Assessments provide you with an objective way to measure who a candidate is and how well they will fit a job while avoiding the potential biases listed above. These assessments don’t care what university you went to or what group you’re a part of. However, these tools don’t guarantee diversity—that responsibility lies with the person using the tools. But people data ensures a level of fairness to candidates and employees of all backgrounds.

Companies can also account for these biases by being clear as to how their employees are hired and promoted. Publishing employment diversity information across departments can help keep companies accountable as they strive to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. Doing so can also point organizations to bias they might not have been aware of until they actually looked at the numbers.

Expand recruiting initiatives.

Be intentional about casting a wide net when recruiting. Although education requirements are a standard part of any job description, competitive companies are beginning to loosen the baseline requirements around college degrees. To recruiters who are focused on recruiting candidates with college experience: Don’t just focus on elite universities. Make sure to include historically black colleges and universities, hispanic-serving institutions, women’s colleges, and public and community colleges.

To the right are some other tips that help you recruit from a more diverse audience. 

You can also focus on employee referrals to increase diversity. Employees come to organizations with plenty of connections, and companies would be remiss not to take advantage of these ready-made networks to 

Activities to recruit a more diverse audience
Create unbiased job descriptions that focus only on what is required to be successful in the role.
Optimize job ads so that they reach a wider audience.
Post on job boards that promote minority and underrepresented talent.
Redact personal candidate information from resumes.
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expand their recruiting initiatives. HR departments and personnel should be sure to cast a wider net by incentivizing their team members to recommend qualified talent from their networks. Consider offering a higher incentive specifically for underrepresented candidates.

Promote a diverse workforce mindset.

This process will look different for every company, but it’s essential to embrace the fact that real change occurs when diversity and inclusion become part and parcel of a business’s mission. It can’t be just another nice-to-have goal. Diversity must be at the company’s core as a driving force if the business truly wants to change the look and behavior of its workforce.

A crucial step to accomplish this is by creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. This committee should include the participation of the CEO and executive team leadership to help oversee the creation and management of comprehensive DEI initiatives. Even though the presence of C-level and upper management is crucial, they should not have complete veto power.

Another great way to consider inclusion is for a company to reframe their thinking around “culture fit” and focus instead on creating “culture add.” This means that everyone is invited to have a seat at the table—and not just a seat but also an impactful presence. Framing that kind of conversation to emphasize that no one is a detracting force helps build a culture in which everyone in the company will ultimately reap those benefits.

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