6 Steps to Successfully Build A Diverse Workforce

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Build Diverse Workforce

While diversity and inclusivity are among the most commonly-cited corporate values nowadays, they are also two of the most complicated goals to plan for and achieve. With many systemic and unconscious biases at play, even the most well-intentioned company can fall short of its goals. 


However, the rewards of having a diverse workforce are tremendous. These rewards can include a variety of perspectives, more creativity, and a better company reputation. A more inclusive environment where everyone is heard and appreciated should be every company's priority. 


This guide will look at six ways to make your workplace a place where everyone is welcome and where diversity is valued. 


1. Educate Your Leaders & Employees

Training and educating your teams is the only way to give them the tools to excel as a diverse workforce. It allows them to understand the impact of diversity on the company and community, the company's tools to address counter-inclusive behavior, and the importance of professional development. If your employees are going to lead a diverse, inclusive workplace, you will need to have training initiatives in place. Especially difficult for IT staffing and recruiting since the field is challenging and has more investments in knowledge. But experienced HR people always find ways to train and prepare teams.


Accenture, for instance, has diversity and inclusion in its corporate DNA. Its three-part professional development program trains managers in the intricacies of leading diverse teams and highlights the benefits of working in an inclusive environment.


The program includes:

  • An upskilling component for people of different backgrounds.
  • Courses on creating and upgrading a resume/CV.
  • Writing an essay.


2. Take A Hard Look At Your Current Workforce

Before you make policies and set targets for a diverse workforce, you should know where you stand today. Take a look at your current workforce to identify where you are falling short in terms of diversity and if your bias unconsciously impacts your ability to hit inclusivity targets.


It also helps you take stock of the mindset within the company. Is one team composed exclusively of a specific gender? Are certain roles filled primarily by people from the same racial background? You can also use technical skills assessment tools to identify gaps in your employees' professional development and take proactive steps to work with those who have been held back due to stereotypes or unconscious biases. 


The calls for a closer look at companies' commitment to diversity became even louder after the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States last year. Many companies disclosed their workforce's ethnic compositions in the wake of the protests, with 66 of the S&P 100 index companies setting new diversity quotas for recruitment. Your business might also want to look into establishing new diversity quotas as well.



3. Implement Changes in Your Hiring Process


Inclusive approaches to building your workforce should start with implementing changes in your hiring process. One way to do this is to eliminate biases in your job descriptions. 


For example, using gender-neutral terms and steering clear of gendered descriptors and verbs will help expand your candidate pool. Writer.com offers a fantastic inclusion glossary that can help you. 

Source: IBM

Another way to promote diversity is to use your job descriptions to spell out your commitment to diversity. IBM [pictured above] does just this, featuring its diversity and inclusion statement in each of its job postings. For the company, prominently displaying this statement is not just a matter of compliance. It's also an assurance that regardless of gender, ethnicity, or disability, any individual who meets the job description has a place in IBM.


Many applicant tracking systems allow you to set up a full audit system that includes your applicants' sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability [anonymized, of course]. Analyzing these numbers will help your recruiters and talent sources identify positions for which there are not enough diverse candidates, allowing them to craft recruitment strategies that target specific groups.


4. Promote Flexible & Remote Working Arrangements


Because of long-entrenched societal norms, certain people are at an immediate disadvantage when applying for jobs. For example, single parents [who are disproportionately women] may have to choose between child care and employment, especially if the only jobs available are located a considerable distance from their home. Flexible working arrangements such as flex-time and remote work options can go a long way to addressing these disparities. 


The pandemic has opened many companies' eyes to the potential of remote work as a Great Leveller for recruitment. Since many jobs no longer require that the worker be physically present, employees no longer need to travel long distances to and from work. This opens up the job market to individuals who would otherwise be hesitant or decide not to apply at all. 


Remote work is here to stay. Even before the pandemic, working from home had already become 50% more common in five years, proving that employers and employees alike recognize the benefits of working remotely. Suppose you cannot offer your employees a remote work option. Can you offer them flexible hours or other forms of flexibility to enable a wider pool of candidates to apply? 


5. Initiate Employee Referral Programs


Referrals can also help you build a diverse workforce as it allows your employees to tap into their network. A referral system can encourage a more diverse pool of applicants when appropriately used, especially if your employees can vouch for your company's diversity and inclusion initiatives.


Employee referrals also give you the chance to make hiring more democratic by including your current employees in the talent acquisition process. While there is always the possibility of employees simply referring candidates who share the same gender or ethnic background as they are, offering rewards for employees who refer diverse candidates will offset this risk. 


For example, check out this Harvard Business Review article, which talks about how Intel rewards diverse employee referrals. 


6. Set Diversity Goals 


Companies worldwide have historically suffered from institutional bias, and many have, at best, paid only lip service to the idea of diversity. However, when your business sets formal organizational goals for diversity and makes them measurable, it takes tangible steps towards rectifying this situation. 

Facebook publishes an annual diversity report that includes metrics about recruitment, suppliers, and leadership. And Forbes' and Statista's Best Employers for Diversity study makes interesting reading:


Source: Forbes

Most of these companies which score highly in diversity studies have a dedicated executive looking after D&I targets and policies. In addition to instituting hiring quotas, your company can - and should - also take other measures.


Examples include:

  • Making workspaces more wheelchair-friendly.
  • Promoting diversity education sessions for managers and senior leadership.
  • Setting promotion targets to encourage greater representation of different demographics in the leadership ranks. 

Wrapping up 


To be effective, workforce diversity initiatives should support top management in the form of clearly-defined goals and targets. From the hiring process to regular training, inclusivity and diversity should drive all your interactions with potential and existing employees. 


Since managers lead the charge in promoting an inclusive environment, training and educating them about supporting employees from different backgrounds is crucial to your business's success. By setting realistic, actionable goals, your company will move towards being more diverse and will start to reap the benefits of having a more inclusive workforce.


Does your organization need help

building a diverse workforce?


About the Author

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is the lead Tech Recruitment Advisor and Co-founder of Devskiller, a developer screening & online interview platform powered by RealLifeTesting.™ Devskiller has helped companies like ING, Accenture, PayPal, and Deloitte improve the quality and speed of their technical hiring.


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