Welcome to the third article in our series on the top social challenges facing staffing today. In our previous two pieces we drilled down on those challenges, namely remote work and DEI, and how the COVID pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement served as the catalyst for serious reflection within the staffing industry, reflection that looks set to develop into real change.
But what does that change look like? Now that we’ve gained a sense of the problems at hand, it’s time to discuss potential solutions.
Staffing firms don’t need to be told that their people are their most valuable resource – they tell their clients that every day. The need to acquire talent that is both diverse and adaptable to a fast-changing workplace is self-evident, so let’s dive into the how.
In some ways COVID hit the reset button on the staffing industry. As such we find ourselves enjoying a unique opportunity to change the way we do things, and for the better.
There are many ways to enhance your talent acquisition strategies, but let’s take a closer look at five of the most effective.
To fix a problem, you must first understand the problem. It’s time to find out your numbers.
Take a moment to collect and analyze employee data. Drill down to identify DEI issues, such as an underrepresentation of women in leadership, an overrepresentation of POC in casual roles, or pay disparities based on gender or race. A warning: some of these numbers might shock you, and the natural reaction is to attempt to explain them away: ‘women aren’t interested in leadership roles here’, ‘it’s not our fault that POC don’t apply for our jobs’. But far from mere coincidences, these sorts of results are almost always symptoms of deeper, more systemic issues.
Data collected, analyzed, and understood, it’s time to show it to your executive team. They may initially have a similar reaction to you, feeling as though it’s an unfair affront to the firm. But if you approach it not as a problem but as an opportunity, you’re more likely to be heard.
At the end of the day, diversity is good for business, and any self-respecting leadership team will be on board if you tell them what the company stands to gain from being more diverse, more inclusive, more equal. Once you’ve convinced them, work with them to establish goals and thresholds that will ensure these benefits are realized.
If your DEI numbers don’t make for particularly pleasant reading, there may be a temptation to hide them away, for fear of putting off diverse candidates before they even apply. But the opposite is in fact true.
Recognizing the problem is the first step to addressing it, and top talent will appreciate that. Modern candidates are more educated than ever about the hiring process, so more and more are actively asking for this information in the interview. If a company can’t provide it, or refuses to speak to it, it risks losing out on top talent.
Once you find out your numbers, don’t be afraid to publish them. Share your plans to change with the world. If you sell yourself as an employer that can and will do better, you’ll be far more alluring than the employer who denies there’s a problem at all.
“Does a potential employee know who you are, why you're there, and where you're going? Can they get a good sense of what your values are, and the behaviors and policies that support those values?,” asks Jeff Wald, Founder of WorkMarket.
He instructs all firms to put an official document in place that outlines exactly that.
“Look at companies who are leaders in their industries,” Wald continues. “Netflix has their culture document – it's online, and anyone can go view it. [Co-founder] Reed Hastings was very, very clear about what it meant to be a part of that team, and all the behaviors and policies that support it. Not only does everybody at the company have it, anybody that might join the company can see it.”
Culture documents also serve to hold your firm accountable. You’ll be far more compelled to follow through on your DEI promises if you’ve publicly outlined your approach.
Unconscious biases are a somewhat unfortunate part of human nature. Sure, a healthy skepticism of ‘the other’ may have helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors stay safe, but this instinctive reaction is becoming more of a hindrance in our increasingly connected world.
“We all have them. We're all human. You just have to learn how to work around them,” explains DeLibra Wesley, Chief Operating Officer of The Delta Companies.
“We use skill sheets instead of resumes. The talent acquisition team will remove things like the college the candidate went to, whether they’re male or female, or if they took a break to have a baby. We try to build an interview team that's very diverse, and we give hiring managers training and techniques on what to do when their biases show up.”
To be open to DEI is not enough. This is a problem that demands affirmative action.
Ask yourself: are your interview processes as inclusive as they could be? Are your job descriptions too masculine? Do you use unnecessary pronouns? A lot of job posts do: “The right candidate will be commanding leader – he won’t take no for an answer.” There are actually companies that specialize in helping employers to fix these often subtle issues.
Re-examine the questions you ask during the interview, and try to identify potential for unconscious bias. These issues can also be subtle: sometimes a hiring manager will gravitate toward a candidate who went to the same school as them, or who worked at the same agency.
Remove the temptation to hire for cultural fit. A rather new phenomenon, this offers a fast-track to monotony and homogeneity, by providing a simple and universal excuse to say no to diverse applicants: you don’t really fit.
Take a long-term view, and work to actively attract a diverse range of candidates by developing relationships with HBCUs and alumni groups. Do what you can to get your employer brand in spaces it may not have appeared before.
By combining all these strategies, you’ll seriously enhance your DEI credentials, and enjoy a far more diverse stream of applicants. But hiring in a DEI-friendly way is only half the battle – retaining that talent is another problem altogether. Learn more about that topic here.