When Gap announced its new diversity and inclusion policies in 2020, it imagined it would be celebrated for its hiring approach. But the opposite happened when employees sued the clothing retailer, accusing it of not backing up its claims of diversity in its day-to-day actions.
The benefits of improving diversity in the workplace are well documented: Both gender-diverse and ethnically diverse companies are more profitable than their non-diverse counterparts.
But promising a culture of diversity and inclusion isn’t enough. You need to roll it out to every part of your organization.
In this article, we look at why diversity and inclusion (D&I) hiring is important and take you through the best practices you can follow to turn your values and policies into a guide that all your employees will live by.
Table of contents
What is diversity and inclusion (D&I) hiring?
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) hiring means taking care to reduce biases in recruitment related to race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, education, and disability.
Companies that use this approach hire candidates based on their skills and merit while proactively seeking to build diverse teams and remove potential biases in the workplace.
Since 1964, the American Civil Rights Act has prevented companies of 15 employees or more from practicing racial, religious, or gender discrimination when they hire. But recruiting managers and even AI-driven tools are prone to unconscious bias, and companies need to make a concerted effort if they want to improve D&I among their workforce.
Unfortunately, many recruiters don’t regard this as an important issue: Only 5% of recruiters say hiring for D&I is one of their top three priorities.
Meanwhile, 11% of employees claim D&I initiatives are the first to go when their business needs to cut costs – coming in second to company events and bonuses.
Why is diversity hiring important?
D&I gives businesses a competitive advantage in worker performance. Companies that are inclusive are 120% more likely to hit financial goals, and diverse teams are 70% more likely to capture new markets.
But it doesn’t end there. D&I policies also help employers to motivate and retain their staff.
When employees believe they won’t be discriminated against in the workplace, they’re more likely to look forward to and take pride in their work. Further, a diverse work environment can make employees 5.4 times more likely to stay.
In our 2022 State of Skills-Based Hiring report, we found that the cost of hiring the wrong employee is 24 times their annual compensation. So having a comprehensive D&I strategy for hiring can equate to serious cost savings for your organization.
Additional advantages to diversity hiring include:
- Helping hiring managers overcome unconscious bias
- Ensuring representation of diverse talent
- Strengthening your brand and reputation
- Improving employee retention rates
- Providing access to a wider talent pool
- Improving productivity and promoting higher-quality employee output
- Strengthening leadership accountability and trust
- Promoting an inclusive company culture
Given the skyrocketing demand for high-growth professionals, you need to go above and beyond to get the best employees. Let’s explore some best practices to help you win the best assortment of talent.
7 best practices for diversity and inclusion hiring
Multicultural and diverse teams are more innovative and creative than homogenous teams and often have a broader range of skills. So embracing D&I hiring practices is a crucial step to creating a more equitable, innovative, and high-performing working environment.
Let’s explore seven best practices to improve D&I hiring in your organization and improve the quality and output of your talent.
1. Create a diversity and inclusion strategy
When employees view their managers as inclusive, their engagement and job satisfaction increases. But unfortunately, half of employees of color and women say they feel undervalued at work.
By creating a D&I strategy, you can take positive steps to acknowledge the value of every member of your team.
Johnson & Johnson has set up a global diversity mission to “make diversity and inclusion how [it works] every day.” Its D&I strategy involves fostering employee resource groups, online education, and mentoring programs.
And to ensure the strategy is owned by top-level management, the organization’s chief diversity officer reports directly to the chief executive officer and chairman.
So how do you create a D&I strategy and start reaping the rewards of more valued team members? Here are some ideas:
- Create a core statement describing what D&I means to your organization and the steps you will take to implement D&I hiring. Start by administering surveys to employees and stakeholders to better understand what it means from a company-wide perspective.
- Build a flexible plan that covers your needs, like expanding your recruitment strategy to include a more diverse talent pool or identifying needs and concerns already present within your organization.
- Set measurable goals and targets for recruiting particular cohorts. For example, you could hire candidates without degrees, skilled by alternative routes (STAR) workers, or applicants with disabilities.
- Use a pre-assessment platform to collect applicant data and discover trends. This will make it easier to hire candidates based on their aptitude and skills. Make sure to be transparent about how you’re using this information.
- Educate all employees about unconscious bias through company-wide training programs.
- Promote psychological safety for people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ workers, and provide mental health-related benefits like therapy.
2. Get the whole company on board
Your D&I strategy needs to extend beyond HR departments and incorporate all teams and stakeholders. But there might be resistance from managers or executives who think the strategy is a box-ticking activity that’s just for HR to worry about.
By publicly announcing your commitment to and investment in D&I hiring, you can get everyone aligned around your strategy.
For example, Adidas created a Global D&I council that includes a range of diverse cross-functional leaders to promote D&I across its workplace, workforce, and marketplace. Most recently, it has committed to filling at least 50% of new hires for all open positions with diverse talent.
Here are some other ways to get the whole company on board with your strategy:
- Implement communication and training courses to display the value of the strategy, including statistics on organizational benefits like financial gain, increased productivity and creativity, and employee retention.
- Offer staff diversity training and host open dialogues between employees of all backgrounds to lessen the effect of unconscious bias and help them examine how they conduct themselves in the workplace.
- Provide additional resources like online learning, counselors, reading materials, and mentorship programs.
- Make your values and D&I mission clear at the start of employee onboarding. Teach new hires how to not only embody these principles but also flag something they think might go against your D&I policy.
3. Consider using blind resumes
In the monumental study “Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” researchers found candidates with White American-sounding names got 50% more interview callbacks than those with African American-sounding names despite having the same exact resume.
So it’s no surprise that using blind resumes that keep the candidate’s demographic information hidden helps prevent hiring bias and level the playing field.
For example, Clifford Chance, a UK-based law firm, uses blind resumes for its graduate training program to fairly benchmark candidates based on skills-based criteria over academic requirements.
This enables the business to access a broader pool of candidates while giving applicants with unorthodox journeys or experiences an unbiased opportunity.
So, how can you roll out blind resumes in your hiring process?
- Refer to your specific D&I mission statement, and determine what your goals are for blind recruitment – for example, increasing the number of ethnically diverse executives at your company. Then decide what parts of the resume you’d like to redact based on your goals, and provide training to HR teams to gauge value add and culture add from resumes with less candidate information.
- Use tools like Textio and Pinpoint to help you remove any demographic information from resumes and anonymize applications.
- If you’re on a budget or don’t have stakeholder approval for new tools, you can export candidate information as an Excel spreadsheet and delete or hide certain columns, like candidates’ names, to ensure a blind evaluation.
4. Create inclusive job ads
Searching through your open roles and job descriptions is typically the first point of contact a candidate has with your hiring process. So it’s important to make sure your job postings are inclusive and actively winning over diverse candidates.
For example, HubSpot does a great job of emphasizing its desire for diverse candidates in its job postings. Here’s a line taken from its job posting for a contract manager position: “We are looking for people who contribute to a positive team environment of equality and inclusion.”
Statements like these can help get you more applicants who already align with your mission and values before they start – and boost your chances of delivering on your D&I goals.
Here are some other ways you can create inclusive job ads:
- Include a D&I statement in your job postings that emphasizes your organization’s inclusive hiring policy and that you particularly welcome applicants from different backgrounds.
- Use tools like Diversifier to check your job ads for inclusive language.
- Use different types of media (like audio and video) to ensure job postings are accessible to everyone.
- Refrain from using gender-specific or coded language. For example, use the gender-neutral terms “mail carrier” or “police officer” instead of “mailman” or “policeman.”
5. Attract more diverse candidates
The way you market your brand and source candidates directly impacts the level of diversity in your candidate pools. So you need to be proactive about making your open positions attractive and accessible to diverse applicants.
One way to do this is by posting job descriptions and “we’re hiring” notices on a broader range of platforms. These could include job boards like:
- Investing in Women
- National Association of Asian-American Professionals (NAAAP)
You can also attract more diverse candidates by:
- Creating unique company policies or benefits that help your organization stand out and win over people of different backgrounds. For example, flexible hours or a daycare stipend could help attract working mothers with young children.
- Using a remote or hybrid working model to open your positions up to a global network of people, no matter their geographic location or visa status.
6. Use skills-based hiring
Skills-based hiring evaluates a candidate’s skills in the early stages of recruitment through skills tests and assessments. It helps organizations find the best candidate for the role based on their acquired skills rather than relying on their resumes, connections, or education.
Skills-based hiring helps you reduce mis-hires, time-to-hire, and cost-to-hire and increases employee retention. But it also enables you to evaluate candidates on data-proven skill sets that are blind to race, gender, sexual orientation, and age – and create a fairer and more equitable workforce.
Skills-based hiring involves testing hard, soft, and transferable skills for a range of roles and industries. Depending on your needs, you can customize tests for each job profile and the strengths you are looking for in a candidate.
A skills-based approach can also involve take-home tasks, like written work samples and trials that mirror the demands of the job itself. For example, you could create a scenario relevant to the job and see how a candidate handles it.
To apply skills-based hiring to your organization, use a pre-assessment platform that automatically sends skills-based tests to candidates and analyzes and reports on their performance. This makes it easy to handle high-volume hiring while making sure you’re always getting the best talent.
By administering various skills-based tests and tasks throughout the application process, you can start to remove unconscious bias from your hiring practices and fully reward candidates based on merit.
7. Track your progress
To ensure your D&I strategy and initiatives are moving the needle, you need to track your progress and keep improving based on your discoveries and feedback.
Remember: This can be a sensitive process that often takes time, but it can also have immediate positive effects like increased trust in organizational leadership and employee loyalty.
In fact, employees list authenticity as the number one quality a manager can have in supporting them to do their best work – so even if they make mistakes (which they will), being authentic about their efforts is what matters.
So, what are some ways you can track your progress?
- Refer to your D&I mission, goals, and metrics, and cross-reference them with your current standing. Use these to pinpoint any new metrics for measuring success, uncover any patterns, understand any failed initiatives, or mark your growth.
- Administer anonymous employee surveys and implement their feedback. By keeping identities anonymous, you’ll get a wider range of more actionable feedback and insights.
- Conduct employee interviews across multiple journeys, backgrounds, and skill sets – and candidly ask them what can be improved or what’s working.
- Outsource D&I professionals and have them do an audit of your strategy and initiatives for further inspiration or education.
Diversity and inclusion hiring: where skills reign supreme
The majority of companies claim to value D&I. But as Gap found out, these good intentions need to be put into action.
It’s time for everyone to do their part to create a more inclusive and diverse work environment by:
- Creating a D&I strategy
- Getting the whole company on board
- Considering using blind resumes
- Creating inclusive job ads
- Attracting more diverse candidates
- Using skills-based hiring
- Tracking your progress
All of this helps to reduce unconscious bias in your place of work and create a more dynamic and interesting company culture.
Want an effective way to hire diverse talent? Skills-based hiring gets you in front of diverse talent pools with all the right skills. Download the report to learn more.