You Need Diversity Hires; Here’s How to Get Them

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WorkIn today’s business climate, it can seem as though companies make their diversity hires out of obligation — not because of the many business advantages a diverse team can bring. Even Google can’t get it right : a scant 1 percent and 2 percent of its tech staff is African-American or Hispanic, respectively. Contrast that with the actual population breakdown of California, where the tech giant is based: 38 percent Hispanic and 6 percent African-American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Just as upsetting, women only make up 17 percent of Google’s tech workforce. When one of the most visible companies in the world is lacking in diversity hires, there’s a serious problem.

Diversity hires shouldn’t be seen as an obligation, nor should companies just slap a program together to make themselves look good. Diversity programs can bring real business efficiencies, create innovation in stagnant teams, and build stronger cultures when implemented correctly. A study of the effect of diverse hiring practices conducted by Covenant Investment Management found that companies with a higher emphasis on hiring people from different backgrounds performed two and a half times better than those with a lower emphasis. Simply put: if you’re not looking for diversity in your hiring process, you’re leaving cash on the table.

However, scrambling for diversity hires at the last minute can result in poor hires due to improper planning and rushed assessments. If you want to hire a diverse group of people, you need to create a strategy for diversity hiring before it becomes overwhelming. While it’s a common situation, your company should never be in a time crunch to make a hire; that’s how costly employee turnover happens. By creating a strategy for diversity hires from the outset, you can leverage all the advantages of this often overlooked hiring channel.

Here are some tips for hitting your diversity hire goals without compromising your recruitment process quality:

Identify Biases and Mitigate Them

You can’t measure what you don’t know. This is doubly true for biases you may be ignoring in your recruitment team. Having more diversity hires starts with realizing that you have biases you’re likely not aware of. This is about more than hiring a pretty face or someone whose mannerisms remind you of a friend: 70 percent of major biases in the hiring process are directed towards African-Americans, older workers, the physically disabled, the overweight, and other groups on the basis of who they are — not their qualifications. We tend to overlook some of the good aspects of some of the people we’re thinking of hiring because of how they look to us, and that costs companies a lot of money; it also disenfranchises people and groups who could make your company a better and more innovative place.

Having biases is completely natural. They’re not always a bad thing, and we use them when solving inductive problems. For example, we’re biased against using a bandsaw in the dark because we know that’s just not a good idea. The idea isn’t to eliminate all biases forever, because that’s impossible; rather, the idea is to make sure they don’t affect the hiring process so that we don’t lose out on having great diversity hires. The first step is to figure out the biases on your team and create a plan to mitigate them. This could include using video screening to ensure all interviewees get the same treatment or having your talent acquisition team undergo diversity training.

Structuring Your Interview Process to Eliminate Bias

Perhaps the best way to fix the issue of bias is to make your hiring process a little more rigid. Scontrino-Powell found that structured interviews are roughly one-third more effective than unstructured interviews, specifically because of the structured interview’s tendency to root out bias. If the interview lacks structure, the interviewer is far more likely to make judgement calls based on how the interviewee looks; they may also seek to reaffirm those judgements while chatting with candidates, ignoring other factors that may lead them to think differently.

In structuring your hiring process, you should make sure that you’re asking every interviewee the same set of questions. Most of the questions should revolve around making sure the candidates are fit for various aspects of the job. You could miss out on a great diversity hire simply because you didn’t ask enough questions about the job.

Another easy way to make sure your interviewers avoid bias in selecting who they’d like to interview is to remove names from all applications. This ensures that you don’t immediately remove someone from the running simply because their name was not what you or your hiring staff is used to. From the orchestra to the field of scientific paper-writing, using blind resumes always increases the percentage of women and promotes racial and ethnic diversity.

In the long run, diversity hires are going to make you money, guaranteed. So once you make them a priority and use structured interviews to purge as much bias from the hiring process as possible, your company should be well on its way to a better year, all thanks to hiring the right people the right way.

By Maren Hogan