5 Ways To Increase Diversity and Inclusion in Your Hiring and Forge a Stronger, Higher-Performing Team

January 23rd, 2019

As a hiring manager, you want to help build the strongest possible team. You want to give your company every advantage. To find the people who’ll thrive in your team and give you that competitive edge. 

That’s why traditional routes of attracting the best talent - going to top universities, posting on major job boards, word-of-mouth - don’t seem like enough anymore. Because while those methods have certain advantages, they can inadvertently promote homogenous hiring. 

Let’s take a quick look at the typical Ivy League School graduates. 

Diversity in the Ivy League schools

Source: The New York Times

Most of the students who attend Ivy League colleges - or other colleges with high tuition fees - come from the top 20% of earners. 67% of Harvard students and 62% of Columbia students come from families that make 110k+ a year. Only 4.5% and 5.1% respectively come from the 20% of families in the US that make under 20k a year. 

That’s not to say that Ivy League colleges don’t value - or promote - diversity and inclusivity. 52.7% of the current class of undergraduates at Harvard - due to graduate in 2022 - is made up of African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American and Native Hawaiian students. 

Still there is something to be said about looking for strong candidates outside schools with famous names. The combination of an increase in tuition, an increasingly global economy and non-traditional education options are creating a new roster of top candidates- some of whom have never gone to college- that you and your company can’t afford to miss out on. 

Beyond the college degree

A college degree - especially one from a top-tier school - can be a simple way to prove you know what you’re talking about. That you can master new skills at a high level pretty quickly. 

That’s why a lot of the high-paid positions at prestigious companies used to require a degree. However an increasing number of companies are hiring candidates without college degrees

Ernst and Young - one of the UK’s biggest graduate recruiters - removed the college degree requirement from their application process in 2015 because after thorough research, the company found no evidence that previous education correlated with success at earning professional qualifications.

 Companies like Google, Penguin Random House and IBM followed suit by opening up jobs to smart people with great skills - even if they didn’t have the certification to prove it. 

Learn from anywhere 

Access to the internet changed the way we learn. Today you can be a great software engineer without a computer science degree. Max - the founder of JobFit - built most of the software after spending nine months at a part-time coding bootcamp. 

You can start a successful business without an MBA. You can access lectures from some of the smartest scholars in the world for free through platforms like YouTube, Coursera and edX. You can work on open-sourced projects with people around the globe… Or gain invaluable leadership skills at your local community center. 

All these things aren’t easy to summarize on a two-page resume. And finding those candidates isn’t always easy because they are so spread out. This creates a challenge for recruiters and hiring managers - especially those looking to increase diversity and inclusivity in hiring. 

How non-traditional hiring aligns with your goals

Columbia professor Katherine Phillips found that diverse, inclusive teams repeatedly outperform homogenous teams

McKinsey found that companies in the top 25% for ethnic and racial diversity in their management teams were 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than the industry average. 

Hiring diverse candidates from different backgrounds, ethnicities and genders can help strengthen your team performance. According to the Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report, hiring managers like you are trying to increase diversity and inclusivity in hiring through different initiatives including:

  • Using diverse employees in hiring marketing materials (52%)
  • Assembling diverse interview panels (35%)
  • Talking about (and setting up) Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) (30%)
  • Recruiting at schools with a diverse student body (25%)

Let’s take a look at some other things you can do to tap into a bigger, more diverse talent pool and help increase your company’s competitive advantage

1. Partner with trusted groups and community organizations

Businesses don’t always have the best reputation in under-served communities. People may worry about your company’s agenda and intentions. Many are uncertain what kind of jobs they are qualified for. 

The nature of work - and the type of roles available - have changed over the last ten years. We now have shortages for roles that didn’t exist- roles that pretty much everyone has to be trained on. Your team may not be best suited to communicating that information. That’s why partnering with community organizations can help you reach a larger array of potential candidates. 

The best organizations to partner with will depend on your company, industry, the types of roles you are hiring for and your geographic location. A global remote company may benefit from different partners than a Chicago-based company serving the local area. 

Some of the partners you can consider include:

  • Veteran groups
  • Organizations serving people with disabilities 
  • Groups that support single parents
  • Women-only groups
  • Diversity and inclusion organizations
  • LGBT groups
  • Local up-skill groups and community centers 
  • Boys and Girls clubs

2. Consider the other colleges

Colleges are still a good place to find potential candidates- you just need to look beyond traditional colleges (and those with prohibitively high fees). 

If you are hiring in the US, you can consider partnering with:

  • Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)
  • Hispanic serving institutions (HSIs)
  • Tribal colleges and universities
  • Accredited online schools
  • Traditional schools that offer off-campus/digital programs for full-time employees/ stay-at-home-parents
  • State schools in under-served areas

3. Host digital events

Millions of people are using digital platforms to learn brand new skills and hone existing ones. They are teaching themselves coding, leadership, product design, marketing and robotics. Some have never gone to college. Others travel the world or live in affordable areas outside the major urban centers. 

You won’t be able to reach most of these candidates at the same physical location. But you can get them together digitally. You can host online summits and hiring events where you answer questions (AMA-style) and tell people what you are looking for. This can help take down the barrier for applications and give potential job seekers an opportunity to get to know you and learn something new. 

4. Hire apprentices

Running - or partnering with - an apprenticeship program can be a great way to attract new talent. 

Ryan Carson - the CEO of Treehouse - and his team were trying the usual hiring methods for increasing team diversity. They were choosing job boards designed to target under-represented groups, training their team on inclusion and bias, giving out scholarships… But their efforts weren’t moving the needle. 

That’s when the Treehouse team decided to create a pilot apprenticeship program. They partnered with a local boys and girls club- a trusted community organization- and asked them to look for over 18 talent from under-represented groups.

The description was simple. Treehouse were looking for “hard-working individuals with a high school diploma, whom we could train on all the hard skills necessary to become a software engineer and then hire as paid apprentices.”

Using a combination of online courses and mentoring, Treehouse put 15 people through a training program. Out of the 15, five completed the program successfully- 3 were hired as apprentices at Treehouse and 2 were hired at Invision and Nike. And after 3 months of being an apprentice, they graduated to an annual salary of at least 55k plus full benefits. 

The pilot apprenticeship program was a success and, after a round of optimization, companies like Airbnb, Nike, Mailchimp and HubSpot are looking to implement it. 

This type of program is a chance to uncover potential talent and train them in the skills they need to succeed at your organization. It’s a great tactic for training (or re-training) talent in growing fields like software, data engineering and AI. 

5. Use the (new and improved) employee referral method

Research shows that between 65% and 75% of jobs in the US are filled through employee referrals and/or networking. Some studies suggest that number is as high 85%. It’s a great source of high-quality candidates. Referred candidates tend to be happier at work, have a higher performance and cost your company much less to recruit

However, referrals are not always the best source of diverse candidates because they often rely on your employee’s existing social group. And if your organization is largely homogenous, it is statistically likely that your team’s immediate social circles will be largely homogenous too. 

JobFit changes this by connecting job seekers from diverse backgrounds with employee referrers and hiring managers. 

Unlike other platforms, we don’t focus on resumes. Instead each job seeker creates a custom fit story - a company-specific pitch that shows you how the candidate’s skills and experience match up with what you are looking for. 

Build a stronger team

These five methods can help you reach a variety of great diverse candidates who could be the perfect fit for your company. Just adding one to your hiring process can make a major difference. 

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