The quest for a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforce will forever evolve, and as a result, it can be as complicated and daunting as it is good for business. But not everyone needs to be a DEI expert to create impact. Here are four ways to expand and improve your recruiting perspectives specific to diversity and representation in your company.
Diversity as a lived experience – not just an identity – reinforces authentic and meaningful engagement during the recruitment process
Include the diversity of lived experiences, such as being a first-generation student, immigrant, socioeconomic status, and even student-athlete, in your representational conversations. When we focus on these experiences as a priority, we will have created a space for all identities to walk through our doors much more organically. I identify as a member of the LGBTQ community. My value to the workforce is mine lived experience of being a gay Southern Jew from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who went to Catholic school most of my life and who has 5 siblings (I’m number 4 of 6 – lower middle to be specific). Much of that experience, not just my identity, gives me skills relevant to the workforce (for example: being outspoken, standing up for myself and most importantly, conflict resolution). When I am able to share this information about myself, my identity is included much more authentically, and as a candidate I feel less tokenized and more comfortable with the knowledge that I am considered a full person.
System change starts with prioritizing the next generation of talent
In addition to focusing on the impact of C-Suite representation in the enterprise and boardrooms, give equal priority to listening to and building equitable pathways for the next generation of talent. This goes beyond direct recruitment. Listening more broadly to what matters most to entry-level and early-career candidates as they consider and evaluate opportunities is an authentic gesture that is sure to be appreciated. Instead of focusing solely on mentoring programs, consider reverse mentoring programs. Learn from them as much as you think you need to learn from them. When you do this, you will learn that what they do (job function) and why they do it (culture and values) are often more important to them than where they do it (industry).
Technology can provide meaningful engagement and equitable access to candidates across diverse backgrounds and experiences
While we live in arguably the most virtual society ever, much of the current recruiting conversation is still focused on campus-based efforts that were built for a non-virtual society when companies had to make budget-based decisions about where to physically go. travel to meet candidates in person. Parents still ask what companies are recruiting on campus, instead of focusing as much on asking where students get internships and jobs. While campus-based efforts are of course important components of your overall recruiting strategy, prioritize and incorporate technology and recruiting platforms to extend your reach to students, not only to campuses you don’t have the opportunity to visit, but also to many students at schools you visit as of several very valid reasons for not consistently engaging with their career centers.
Imagine experience beyond internships, majors and GPAs
While internships are impactful, there are many reasons why requiring a formal internship could potentially be just as unfair. A student who needs to participate in summer programming as part of his/her/their scholarship program, or who needs to work some extra part-time jobs to make ends meet, or who, as a student-athlete, will never have time to engage in a full summer internship, often have other experiences that are just as, if not more, relevant to show demonstrated commitment to the career process. Consider all experiences, not just internships, when evaluating candidates. Hear the stories behind their scholarship program requirements, research and other academic projects they have completed during the semesters, the time commitment associated with playing a sport or being responsible for caring for younger siblings. Instead of looking for flaws in a resume, look for the story. If the GPA is lower than your expectation, focus on whether the student has had an upward trajectory in their rich academic achievements throughout college. And stop focusing on majors. As a sociology major who runs a tech company with two patents, I can tell you firsthand that while the linear path from major to career is often the most talked about, it’s often the most irrelevant outside of very specific functions like engineering and physics. And not all majors are available on all campuses. Did you know that out of 117 HBCUs in this country, only 19 offer a true finance degree? Expanding a required major (finance) to a preferred major category (finance, economics, mathematics, statistics, etc.) will also open up the recruitment work for completely new communities with potential talent.
I’m originally from Louisiana, and down south we have something called “lagniappe”, which means “a little extra”. The Lagni app I want to sign off with is this: Focus on how people think, not just on what they know. How they have failed, and not just where they have succeeded.