“If a black working mom has as good of a chance of thriving in your organization as anyone else, then you’re getting a whole bunch of things right.” - Frances Frei, Unleashed
We see the acronym DEI or D&I more and more frequently in our network’s job descriptions on LinkedIn. Diversity and Inclusion have truly become buzz words. But what do they stand for, exactly?
The FordFoundation gives the following definition of Diversity, Inclusion - and Equity:
Diversity is the representation of all our varied identities and differences (race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, tribe, caste, socio-economic status, thinking and communication styles, etc.), collectively and as individuals.
Equity seeks to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources for all. This is only possible in an environment built on respect and dignity.
Inclusion builds a culture of belonging by actively inviting the contribution and participation of all people. No one person can or should be called upon to represent an entire community.
There are a plethora of dimensions for the concept of Diversity. Some of these are visible, some aren’t.
Jennifer Brown explains it well in her book How to Be an Inclusive Leader: it’s as if Diversity was an iceberg.
The visible part involves an individual’s voice, physical traits, tone, appearance, spoken languages, and accent.
But there’s a larger part that's hidden underneath the water, including one’s work ethic, age, race, gender, work tempo, abilities, talent, and education. On top of what just mentioned, it includes their marital, parenting, and family status, as well as their communication style, experiences, decision-making style, values and beliefs, spirituality, sexual orientation, perceptions of time, legacy companies, and diverse abilities.
Here’s where the concept of covering comes into play. The expression was coined in 1963 by sociologist Erving Goffman. Covering describes the way that individuals with stigmatized identities make a “great effort to keep the stigma from looming large.”
As explained in Deloitte’s white paper “Uncovering Talent”, there are four main categories for which people feel the urge to downplay their identities. These are appearance, affiliation, advocacy, and association.
“I had a pervasive fear that, if people knew the real me, they would like me less or even view me with disdain.” - Jennifer Brown, How to Be an Inclusive Leader
When it comes to covering, the numbers that Deloitte shares are disappointing. 61% of the interviewed people admitted to covering along at least one axis. By diving a little deeper, we understand that this affects 83% of LGB individuals, 79% of Blacks, 67% of women of color, 66% of women, 63% of Hispanics, and 45% of straight White men.
These same people were asked whether they believed that covering for appearance, affiliation, advocacy, and association would be important to their long-term professional advancement.
82% said yes for appearance, 79% for affiliation, 75% for advocacy, and 79% for association.
And, as Professor Frances Frei puts it in her book Unleashed, “The smaller we choose to make ourselves, the less likely we are to take up the space required to lead. Here’s the reason to care, even if you don’t identify as different: all of us pay the price of inauthentic interactions, and all of us have a better chance of thriving in inclusive environments where authenticity can flourish.”
We’ve touched upon covering, but what about representation?
According to a study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, Black people represent less than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and Blacks currently make up 10% of college graduates. As Tali Lavarry mentions in Confessions From Your Token Black Colleague, in a just world, those companies would have hired 50 Black CEOs, but there are only 4, instead.
The reasons to support an effort toward a more diverse and inclusive workplace are of two different natures: there could be negative repercussions if you neglect Diversity and Inclusion, but also, there are data supporting how D&I can be beneficial to your business.
More than 75% of executives believe that Diversity and Inclusion is a rising priority, and I’m sure that you wouldn’t want to be left behind.
Let’s look at some data that will shed a light on why you should immediately start working on or improving your Diversity and Inclusion policies.
First off, nowadays Millennials are about half of the workforce. Just like Gen Zers, Millennials have little patience for businesses that don't attribute the necessary value to Diversity. Their composition is also more ethnically and racially diverse when compared to their predecessors. American Baby Boomers were 75% white, American Millennials are only white in 55.8% of the cases. As they're sensitive to this issue, expect Millennials and Gen Zers to vote with their feet once they find out that their potential employer's values are misaligned with theirs. That means fewer candidates and a higher employee turnover.
Now, consider the energy that your employees need to actively hide their truth. That same energy cannot be utilized for their, and your, success. As a consequence, you'll suffer due to their diminished performance and their lesser motivation toward the company’s welfare.
And what about the Common Information Effect? With Common Information Effect we refer to an issue in decision-making that sees a group exclusively recognizing and prioritizing the information that’s shared and available for all group members. That means that this shared information prevails over the unique information that each member of the group privately holds.
As Professor Frei writes in her book Unleashed, the Common Information Effect “only holds when we’re willing to wobble with authenticity. When we choose to bring our unique selves to the table, the parts of ourselves that are actually different from other people, then diversity can create an unbeatable advantage by expanding the amount of information the team can access.” Therefore, there's much to lose from a less diverse and inclusive workplace.
We've mentioned three negative consequences of neglecting D&I. Here's a recap:
Now, let’s now take a look at the benefits that companies that invest in D&I can enjoy.
Jennifer Brown’s book How to Be an Inclusive Leader shares an abundance of interesting data: the businesses that promoted their female employees to top management level between 1992 and 2006 had a 1% increase in generated economic value. We’re talking about $40 million on average!
Out of the Fortune 500 companies, those with more than three female directors have had at least a 66% increase in return on invested capital, and their sales have grown by 42%.
Furthermore, the organizations that embraced best practices for employing and supporting people with diverse abilities, composing a talent pool of over 10 million people, have experienced a 28% revenue increase.
These businesses also doubled their net income and had 30% higher profit margins than their peers.
Finally, the most ethnically diverse organizations at an executive-team-level are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.
In other words, when it comes to benefits of better Diversity and Inclusion, we can see an increase in:
If you haven’t yet approached Diversity and Inclusion, it’s time to start. And if you have and think that you can rest on your laurels, think again.
Let us tell you why. McKinsey’s and LeanIn.Org’s 2020 report “Women in the Workplace”, showcases that despite these efforts, only 45% of employees think that the organizations they work for are doing what's necessary to improve their approach to Diversity. For the younger generation, the numbers are even lower, as we see that only 38% of entry-level women are satisfied with their companies’ gender diversity status quo.
“Understanding how to embark on this journey is the single most important factor when it comes to making real progress on inclusion.” - Jennifer Brown, How to Be an Inclusive Leader
The Recruiting Life Cycle is divided into 6 different phases:
Let’s see how you can alter your current approach to optimize your Diversity, phase by phase.
The way you write your job descriptions can make a difference. For instance, your wording can attract more male or female applicants. For instance, using a word like “ninja” or mentioning exotic company retreats or sports outings can hold women off. The opposite happens when you mention, for example, a supportive or collaborative environment.
There are things you can do to avoid this. Try to run your vacancy posting through textio.com to make sure you’re being gender-neutral, and inclusive.
If your aim is to attract the right candidates, you must invest time in enriching your vacancy postings.
Make sure to add all the relevant information. That means working hours, salary information, as agreed by Gerry Crispin, as well as benefits, details about your recruiting process, and clues about your company culture.
We found a good signaling factor of Diversity and Inclusion on ProjectInclude.Org: highlighting diversity initiatives within the company such as ERGs and expanding on the role of your D&I officer.
And there's one more tip we learned from FordFoundation. Their job descriptions include “physical requirements of each position, which allows individuals with diverse abilities to self-select in or out of the application process”.
Don't forget that your working climate has a huge impact on the talent that you’ll be able to attract and ultimately hire. Let’s look back on what Susan Wojcicki did at Google in 2007, when the turnover rate for working moms was reduced by 50%, just by increasing paid maternity leave by 6 weeks.
Lever’s Diversity and Inclusion Handbook shares some strategies for recruiting a diverse workforce. Let’s see what we can learn to source better.
Just like for everything else, authenticity makes a difference. When you're not genuine your candidates might experience a discomfort well put into words by Ciara Trinidad: “I find myself over-analyzing messages, trying to figure out if it’s my skills and qualifications they want or my appearance.”
Before you start sourcing, remember that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. It's helpful to establish objectives and key milestones. How else will you know if your Diversity sourcing efforts are leading to better results?
Ideally, your milestones are quantifiable, so that you can easily have a pulse of the situation and you can consider reviewing your objectives on the go. At the same time, try to focus on quality over quantity.
Your sourcers and interviewers must be involved in the strategizing. Make sure all hands are on deck when it comes to digging deeper into your candidates’ resumes - and beyond. What are their true competencies? Are they skilled at project management? Are they reliable, and on what scale? A school’s or company’s name won’t tell you much about what’s relevant.
If the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”, then it’s time to change up your sourcing tactics.
Change platforms, change mediums! See if that leads to a more varied pool.
We all love LinkedIn, but if you want to stand out from the crowd of recruiters sending yet another InMail message, you must be bolder than the average recruiter.
Use LinkedIn to filter talent based on your most basic requirements, like job title, level of experience, or keyword, but then you head to different platforms to engage. There are a plethora of options.
This tactic allows you to gain a richer perspective on candidates: a less conventional platform could help you unveil additional information. Perhaps, it will help you make your outreach feel more genuine and personal.
Wherever your desired candidates are hanging out, that's where you should go. Check out Quora, Reddit, Medium, or Twitter. Are you looking for less conventional places to find diverse talent? Just to mention some, you can check out Jopwell, aimed at Black and Hispanic job hunters, include.io, which wants to connect LBTQ women to jobs in tech and uses the referral model, or even your company’s blog.
Don't stop at using different platforms: revamp your strategy too. It could be time to update the introductory message you send when you first approach candidates to make sure that your content reflects your culture. Make your outreach personal, then share a milestone, or an account of a failed attempt at working on your D&I and what you, as a business, learned from it.
Going back to outreach, as previously mentioned, cold, impersonal messages rarely translates into a lasting, positive impression. Dig deeper, and try and approach the candidates using a warmer tone - perhaps referring to one of their passions.
Also, don’t tokenize them.
To add another pointer, Professor Frei advises us to be patient. “If a typical company spends four weeks on a leadership search, there’s an 80% chance the pipeline will be exclusively male. Extend the search to 6 or 8 weeks and it drops to 60%.”
Spend more time connecting and convincing your potential talent.
In conclusion, remember that whatever you do, it has a ripple effect. This means that your healthy change of direction can inspire and impact the way other businesses are led. At Duolingo, they refuse to recruit at universities where computer science programs have less than 18% of women. The way you source your candidates impacts other players’ decisions and can inspire positive change.
“Once someone is open to admit their own bias, they have the potential to open their hearts and deepen their understanding, while creating an environment that benefits both their minority employees and their business as a whole.” - Tali Lavarry, Confessions From Your Token Black Colleague
When it comes to screening, there are many useful pieces of advice that we can share with you. One of the most vital ones is recommended in The Open Source Show by Erica Joy Baker: check yourself for unintentional bias, like language and appearance.
As proven in neurobiology, bias, our sworn enemy, cannot be eliminated. It can only be kept in check. But how can one accomplish such a feat, you ask?
With the democratization of technology, more and more solutions are populating the market. One of the most interesting is perhaps Tengai, the social job interview robot that combines recruiting knowledge with cutting-edge AI. Needless to say, with bold innovations comes controversy. Many are currently debating on whether AI can be a legitimate solution to bias during hiring processes, and on how to best utilize it for this purpose. So, are machine learning and AI a winning card, when de-biasing?
It's not so simple. As we established in our article AI For HR: What Is It, And Why Do You Need It?, the effectiveness of AI in reducing bias toward your candidates and employees depends on how you’ve built the system you use.
The model’s only as good as the data you feed it, and inaccurate or insufficient data aren’t something that your AI solution can make up for.
The article I Got a Job at an Amazon Warehouse Without Talking to a Single Human shares an example of machine-learning gone wrong. In fact, Amazon had discovered bias in their automated hiring tools back in 2018.
Their recruiting engine was favoring men, since it was trained to vet applicants by utilizing patterns in resumes submitted over the previous decade - a period during which most applicants were, in fact, men. There was an attempt to fix the automated solution but to no avail.
As the author recaps, “In an effort to curb face-to-face interactions during the pandemic, many more companies are relying on A.I. and video-conferencing platforms like Zoom. But we still need humans to ensure that the hiring process is fair and equitable.”
The previous example showed us how pattern matching is a common issue. How can we avoid issues during our resume evaluation phase? As suggested by ProjectInclude.Org, you can use a “distance traveled” metric to take into account a difference in terms of privilege. Build it by asking yourself what your candidate has achieved that’s exclusively linked to merit, and not to their background's fortune.
That is, assuming that you still believe in resumes. Many businesses are currently shifting to blind auditions. This type of evaluation can help you be more objective.
And while we’re talking about selection methods, know that there are several actions you can take to be more inclusive. For example, Erica Joy Baker advises replacing whiteboard interviews with take-home tests, when possible, and all without imposing deadlines. That means that you recognize the individual differences in terms of background, working tempo, and working style. Once the candidate has completed their assignment, invite them to hand it in, and share their reasoning. This will shed a light on their abilities and problem-solving skills.
And what about interviews? If you think about it, it's easy to see how certain criteria would put candidates from underrepresented groups at a disadvantage. For instance, this can happen when you focus on “cultural fit”, or if you hire people based on whether you’d like to get a beer with them. But there's more to learn.
Make sure that your interviewers come prepared, so they can tailor their interaction with the candidates based on their knowledge and skills.
Structured interviews are preferable. This way, you'll be asking the same questions, and you'll be sure they’re related to the role - and make it so that they're in syntony with your company culture! While you draft your asks, remember to allow for your candidates to think differently: make your questions open-ended so you can observe their reasoning and problem-solving skills. Avoid trivia, and questions that rely on esoteric knowledge or photographic recall. And don't assume for your interviews to be one-sided either. What do you think your candidates could ask you? You want to be prepared, as interviews are a great way for both parties to understand if they’re dealing with an ideal fit.
Your interviewers must be carefully selected as they’ll be representing your organization while interacting with the candidate. Think about the dynamics you desire. A two-on-one interview can be perceived as more inclusive, one-on-ones can be more stressful, and large panels could be problematic, especially if the candidate is the only person in the room who belongs to an underrepresented group.
The interviewers should also be instructed on legal boundaries and trained to account for a variety of conversational styles. For example, people from certain cultural backgrounds experience issues taking credit for work done on a team. In this specific case, tactfully probing could help you get the full picture.
It should be one of your goals to provide your candidates with good Candidate Experience, as they might recommend you to others, and referrals are the main source of top-notch talent.
Also, don’t forget to share feedback with your candidates, as it gives them a chance to grow. You should have your interviewers submit it independently within 24 hours, as to avoid bias and groupthink.
Limit the feedback sharing to after the team has interviewed, and be closed off after the hiring decision.
Just as much as your interviews need structure, so does the rest of your hiring process.
What’s the framework for decision-making? Who’s involved in it? How do you envision the voting process to be?
The criteria should be clear and adequate for the job role you're hiring for.
Keep in mind that the deciding group should represent members of minorities, too. At the same time, this doesn't mean that members of underrepresented groups should be expected to put in more work because of their background.
Once you've made your offer to a candidate and they've accepted it, the onboarding process starts. From now onwards, they must conform to your code of conduct. Reading it and agreeing on it isn’t sufficient for your new employees to be able to absorb, embrace, and embody it. To help your new talent, you should train them for it, explaining your code and the business case for its adoption, but also sharing examples, and testing your new employees’ understanding of the code at the end of the training process.
The onboarding is a delicate phase, and your management should track the quality of this step. It all starts with goal-setting. The goals can include social integration activities, such as team lunches, grabbing coffee with a member of another team, and more. On top of that, there should be clear ways to test skills development as well as project milestones.
Now, whereas values should be shared by your employees, they shouldn't annihilate their identities. It's important to remember that members of underrepresented groups might feel more pressure to conform. Make sure to encourage your new talent to be authentic, and welcome their fresh perspective.
You can use a buddy system to make the process smoother, but if you do so, buddies, too, should be trained so they can provide adequate assistance.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” - Peter Drucker
The odds are that your business requires a transformation.
In Confessions From Your Token Black Colleague, Terri Swain shared that barriers to discrimination are an issue for leadership to tackle, and that there are actions to be taken for those barriers to be crushed.
What's the root cause of Diversity and Inclusion issues? In most cases, it's a lack of understanding of what the problem is and of the way that leadership should tackle it. Furthermore, frequently leaders lack the necessary courage to take a stance and act as advocates for their employees.
Now, if there is one sentence that summarizes the message shared in Unleashed, it’s that leadership “is about how effective you are at empowering other people and unleashing their full potential.”
As Jennifer Brown adds, great leaders, lead with “vigilance, care, and intention”. There’s an enthusiasm to it, and other key ingredients are authenticity, vulnerability, and grace.
Leaders are responsible for understanding how to better support their colleagues, companies, and network. That requires an effort to strengthen their knowledge, skills, and competencies to support their colleagues, companies, and network better.