Diversity & Inclusion: Where to Begin

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October is Global Diversity Awareness Month, a time to focus on fostering an inclusive environment and a diverse workforce that encompasses individuals from all walks of life, regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation or race. 

Evaluating your company’s diversity and inclusion program may seem like a daunting task, but it is a much-needed exercise to create awareness and understand where your company can expand.  There are practical strategies and tools you can use to attract larger pools of candidates, reduce bias in your selection process, and hire top talent. Bringing greater diversity to your organization means increased productivity[1], broadened creativity and innovation[2], and a stronger bottom line[3]. So, how do you get there?

Step 1: Educate Your Colleagues

It starts with buy-in. Whether you are launching a new product or a planning a company-wide meeting, you will be hard-pressed to get others to engage without explaining the value or the "What's in It for Me" (WIIFM). Start with why diversity and inclusion is important to your organization. Do not rely on the messaging or work of related movements like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and PRIDE - make it personal to your culture and values. Make it real for your employees.

Provide training on how to cultivate an inclusive culture, covering topics like unconscious bias, cultural awareness, anti-discrimination and harassment, and optimizing diversity within teams. Follow up with additional learning activities to create opportunities to put the learnings into action and keep them top of mind. 

Step 2: Look at Your Talent Acquisition Process

There are multiple opportunities to change what or how you do something to promote greater inclusivity of diverse populations within your recruitment process.

  • Think about talent differently – move from "what does your ideal candidate look like" to "what skills / experience would an ideal candidate bring to this role and enhance the capabilities of the team?" Stop looking for "more of the same" and start looking for what is missing - grow a team's capabilities and an organization's successes.
  • Establish clear criteria for evaluating your culture – Identify what constitutes someone being a “culture fit.” Be specific and go through the rigor of making the criteria objective and measurable.  Ambiguity allows for blanket rejection statements like “not a culture fit” that can lead hiring bias and a homogeneous workforce.
  • Advertise inclusively – look at your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) and job postings - do they represent the inclusive nature of your organization? Is the language detracting certain candidate populations? Leverage a tool to help with neutralizing language that is overly masculine or feminine. Or, consider a partner like Sevenstep, who can help define strategies that attract and engage with under-represented populations.
  • Broaden your search – since men are increasingly[4] more likely to search for jobs on primary social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, it is important to advertise beyond these platforms. Expand your advertising reach to include diversity-targeted posting sites and schools or locations with a greater population diversity.
  • Remove diversity dimensions from consideration – institute a blind resume submission process. Redact information from a candidate's resume that Hiring Leaders might be unconsciously biased against, like name, location, educational institution, prior employers and associations.
  • Create transparency and accountability through data – by doing a deep dive into TA data, leaders can identify unconscious bias and other hiring trends by department or hiring manager and identify opportunities for areas of the business where inclusion issues may be present.  Leveraging a tool like Sevayo Insights, where all your TA data is aggregated into one dashboard, makes it easy to evaluate the progress towards your diversity and inclusion goals. 
  •  Structure Interviews to Focus on Skills – while competency based interviewing or structured guides may already be a part of your process, do you regularly look at and customize those guides for the specific requirements of a role? If not, you may be closing the door to unconventional talent who could bring something new to your organization outside of your current mold.

Additionally, it is important that you are look at the diversity of your interview panel - is everyone technical in nature? Do you have representation from other parts of the business with which the role may interface? Do the interviewers all come from the same background / experience? By included a variety of perspectives, candidates will benefit from experiencing a more well-rounded representation of the organization and your decision-making process will be enhanced by the diversity of those assessing skills and experience.

Step 3: Be Individually Accountable

If you are going to start talking to others about inclusion and diversity within your organization, you must be educated and actively working toward it personally. Build your credibility:

  • Simple: Add your preferred pronouns to your email signature and online profiles. When meeting someone new, take time to confirm their preference and be sure to use it appropriately. This also offers the added benefit of demonstrating your openness and provides others with an indication of your inclusivity
  • Medium: Support and promote causes that further inclusion efforts for diverse groups of people. This is a great way to educate yourself on the challenges that these groups face and what steps you can take, personally or organizationally, to better support these under-represented populations. Finding and initially supporting causes through donations or reposting content is the easy part, but the real impact comes from staying engaged and going on the journey long-term.
  • Challenging: Set an example and bravely challenge others and the norm. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but it is the only way to move the needle. It starts by doing everything above - understanding your personal "why," identifying your own biases, and educating yourself on roadblocks to inclusion – and then going a step further to speak up when someone is knowingly or unknowingly making statements or taking action that put inclusion at risk.

While this list of strategies is by no means comprehensive, do not let it overwhelm you either. Change is hard, especially when it requires a shift in mindset. Be thoughtful in your approach to discussing the topic of diversity and inclusion at your organization and take action purposefully.

If you are looking for further guidance on diversity and inclusion strategies, we can help.


[1] https://www.mybusiness.com.au/human-resources/868-study-finds-diverse-inclusive-workplaces-more-productive

[2] https://innovationmanagement.se/2010/11/24/why-diversity-is-the-mother-of-creativity/

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/annapowers/2018/06/27/a-study-finds-that-diverse-companies-produce-19-more-revenue/#787c750d506f

[4] www.talvista.com

Natalie Scheiman & Kiana Cardwell

Natalie Scheiman & Kiana Cardwell

More posts by Natalie Scheiman & Kiana Cardwell


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