4 simple steps to increase workplace diversity


The joy of working in communications is that you (should) get to touch all sides of the company/industry you work for/in. Doing what we do – and doing it well – is central to the success of any entity. People can engage with that which they know nothing about. If you’re a good communications professional, you take good ideas (that you may or may not be an expert on) and make them better and bad ideas as salvageable as possible.

Stay with a company long enough and you may eventually be asked to help with or hear about increasing visibility when hiring is the topic. The one issue that’s come up time and time again: Finding a qualified and diverse hiring pool (read: candidates who aren’t white and male).

To me – and hopefully my communications/PR counterparts – this is elementary. To a lot of HR departments, this is rocket science.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard “we can’t find/have trouble finding qualified candidates of color,” I’d have a few dollars in my pocket – which is a few dollars too many.

The reality is, that qualified candidates of color (or women or LGBT or *insert category here*) are out there. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to diversify your work force.

But you do have to work.

Want to diversify your work force? Having trouble finding candidates? Try these simple tips.

Set clear goals – and be ready to communicate them
I’ve written about being intentional before and there’s no better place to start that process than deciding what you want your organization to look like. You don’t necessarily have to fill quotas, but simply saying “we want more diversity” makes the “D” almost meaningless. Do you want more women? More African-Americans? Latinos? Asians? LGBT candidates? Persons with disabilities?

Set goals early so you aren’t throwing resources against the wall in hopes that something sticks.

Avoid the bait and switch
Some companies/institutions of higher education are simply dishonest. And as a communications professional, I understand the appeal of wanting to appear diverse. If you have five people of color in the company and all five are featured prominently on your website, that’s not diversity – that’s the illusion of diversity.

Another thing I’ve seen a time or two: Organizations that boast of how diverse they are without taking into account where the diversity actually is. If you’re seeking management/executive hires, but all the people of color in your organization do manual labor, a smart candidate is going to see through this charade immediately.

Be honest about where you are and where you’d like to be. Make candidates feel like they’re going to be part of a change.

If you have employees that are like the employees you want to hire, involve them in the process.  Chances are they know some people who’d be good for the company.

Build new relationships
Ultimately, the failure to diversify the hiring pool comes from not innovating the hiring practice. In other words, using the same recruitment strategy expecting different results. When that strategy fails to attract the pool diverse pool HR professionals want – and it will fail – the “we can’t find anyone” excuse is trotted out and it’s back to business as usual.

If I want steak, I’m not going to the vegan establishment. If you want diverse candidates, find places where these candidates are likely to be. Saying you can’t find qualified candidates of color would most certainly come as a surprise to the HUNDREDS of Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Hispanic Service Institutions. It would most certainly come as a surprise to universities that house programs dedicated solely to preparing underrepresented populations for post-graduate careers. And it would most certainly be a surprise to the numerous organizations dedicated to diversifying their respective industries.

Contact the organizations in your area (or nationally if you’ve got a traveling budget).  Tell them who you are, what you need and ask to present to their members/students. Send information to the individual(s) responsible for posting employment information.

This article sums it up nicely:

organizations can make significant progress on their own by simply thinking beyond their immediate networks and seeking the advice of those more in touch with communities who reflect the backgrounds needed to diversify their workforce.

Diverse candidates do exist. Saying otherwise is simply and demonstrably false.


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