If Your Diversity Hiring Efforts Don’t Work, You Probably Need Better Data

That's not a valid work email account. Please enter your work email (e.g. you@yourcompany.com)
Please enter your work email
(e.g. you@yourcompany.com)

While the global pandemic may have captured many of the headlines, 2020 was also a year in which diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts came to a new level of prominence in organizations. The worldwide racial justice protests kick-started a massive response, and companies across industries and countries have been scrutinizing the way members of underrepresented groups are treated in their workplaces.

The leaders of major brands are working hard to demonstrate how inclusive their organizations are, but in truth, many companies’ D&I efforts fail at the most basic level: recruitment.  

The Hidden Problem With Hiring

As humans, most of us have unconscious biases that subtly influence us to look more favorably upon people who look, sound, and behave like ourselves. When we talk about diversity hiring, recruiters like to believe that every candidate is being treated equally. However, you probably aren’t being as inclusive in your hiring efforts as you think, thanks to these unconscious biases.

Even a seemingly innocuous job description can ultimately hamper D&I efforts. Companies often think that simply posting a job ad on new channels is enough to reach a broader talent pool, but the language and pronouns in a job description can significantly influence how interested candidates are in your role.

Truly successful diversity hiring is not about casting a wider net; it is about casting multiple smaller nets targeted at specific groups of people.

How Data Enables Better D&I Recruiting

Collecting and analyzing the right data can uncover fundamental patterns, trends, and outliers impacting everyday business processes — and recruiting is no different. Yet, when it comes to D&I recruitment, companies tend to follow what others are doing instead of harnessing the power of data. Simply copying other organizations will only yield mediocre results, because no two companies are the same, and each requires a unique D&I strategy tailored to its context.

Companies need to redesign their D&I strategies in accordance with their particular needs and situations. The most effective way to do so is to collect direct feedback from both your intended candidates and your current employees. Employees and candidates are able to highlight the challenges they faced in your hiring process and at your company, which can help you better identify the specific changes that need to be made.

Using Data to Uncover Candidate Motivations

Data can be key to uncovering what attracts certain candidates to your company and what drives them away. Candidates’ motivations can vary drastically depending on the individual, and a range of factors can influence their decision to apply to your company, including academic background, earning potential, living conditions, and even the company culture.

Data can be paramount in highlighting the different motivators that drive different groups of people, which in turn helps you better customize your messages to appeal to a more diverse set of candidates. Inviting job applicants to take part in a survey is a cost-effective option for gathering feedback about what attracts people to your company, but the downside is it won’t tell you anything about what drives people away, since people who decided not to apply won’t end up taking the survey. A possible, but more expensive, solution might be to conduct a poll targeting your intended pool of candidates, with attached incentives to encourage participation.

Keeping good hiring data also helps you track the sources of your job applicants. Such data presents you with a clearer picture of your market visibility and the best channels and tactics to use to reach your intended audience. This information can help you make smarter investments in candidate sources that tend to yield more diverse applicants.

Don’t Treat Demographic Groups Like Monoliths

One major mistake that organizations make in their D&I efforts is approaching demographic groups as if they were monolithic. For instance, organizations will often group all women as a single demographic without considering how the experiences of white, Black, Latina, and Asian women might differ from one another.

With a data-driven D&I hiring effort, you can more easily avoid the monolith mistake and, instead, tailor your outreach to speak more directly to the specific experiences of your candidates. By tracking information about candidates across multiple demographic axes, you can get a much clearer understanding of the kinds of candidates you’re appealing to and the kinds of candidates you aren’t.

Analyze Your New Hire Data

You can’t truly gauge the effectiveness of your D&I hiring efforts without the input of the parties concerned. The data you gather about a new hire’s experience after they join the company is just as important as the data you gather about the hiring experience itself.

For example, an organization could hire an admirable array of candidates from diverse backgrounds — but do employees tend to leave the organization right away? Do new hires feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their perspectives? Are certain employees showing higher rates of absenteeism than others? 

While the above problems might not be seen as “diversity hiring” problems per se, they can quickly affect your recruiting efforts. If your employees have negative experiences within your company, that information is likely to spread. This, in turn, will hurt your employer brand and make it that much harder to attract candidates in the first place.

Any good employee survey tool should help you collect feedback from new hires and seasoned employees alike, so as to keep tabs on employee engagement and the positive and negative experiences affecting it. Utilizing such data tools to pinpoint reasons for turnover and disengagement among different employee groups can help you design a better experience for all workers, which is vital for any D&I effort.

As one final note, it’s important to remember that data won’t transform your D&I efforts overnight. Over time, as you accumulate more and more data, you will be better equipped to analyze your D&I efforts, identify problems, and formulate effective solutions. The right data used at the right time can help you design the ideal D&I recruitment strategy for your organization’s unique situation. It’s all a matter of consistent data collection, analysis, and application.

Anjan Pathak is a cofounder and CTO at Vantage Circle  and Vantage Fit .

By Anjan Pathak