6 Ways to Improve Your Diversity Recruiting Record

As most of you know, I am frequently asked to speak to recruiting groups all over the world. One of the most frequently requested topics is diversity. Recruiters struggle with keeping a balanced workforce and with giving everyone a fair opportunity for a position. While all recruiters are focused on the laws that help to integrate our workplaces, most recruiters I work with genuinely want to foster a great environment for everybody regardless. They just have a hard time figuring out how to do it. Corporations struggle to attract and retain skilled people, in general, and the struggle is even greater with Hispanic, black, Native American, and Asian candidates. The demand for Hispanic, black and Native American engineers and scientists is huge, but the numbers of minority students choosing to major in those fields is very low. Rural areas suffer because they are not as attractive to diverse candidates. Rural areas often lack religious institutions, ethnic foods, and social opportunities for many minorities. Yet urban areas are highly competitive and expensive. American corporations have been “up-skilling” jobs for the past decade, and the majority of layoffs over the past three years have been in the manufacturing arena. There are fewer jobs for unskilled and semi-skilled workers, who are often minorities. As jobs continue to be enriched and require greater skills and education to perform, recruiters will face additional challenges in finding diverse ó and qualified ó candidates. Here are a few ideas and thoughts that I hope will help you in your struggle to be a great employer of minorities. 1. Know the facts and educate your management. America’s Hispanic population has been on a growth path for decades. Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the U.S., comprising 13% of the total population. Los Angeles gained more than 1.8 million Hispanics from 1990 to 2000. New York gained almost a million, with Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Miami following closely. In parts of America, Spanish is as easy to use as English. But education levels among Hispanics are not as high as among whites, blacks, or Asians. Only 8% of Hispanics have a Bachelor’s degree, compared to 19% of whites and 12% of blacks. Many Hispanics are not aware of the opportunities that exist for them in corporations. Blacks make up 12% of the population ó a number that has remained constant for a decade. But the black populations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, New York, and Miami all grew over the past decade through immigration and migration from rural America. Blacks are better educated and much more aware of opportunities today than they were even a decade ago, but fewer study engineering and other sciences. This leaves recruiters challenged to find enough people to fill those positions. Asians account for 4% of the population (up from 3% a decade ago), and they are generally educated to a higher level than other minorities. Over 30% of Asians have a Bachelor’s degree. However, they are primarily located in coastal cities, which makes it much more challenging to convince them to move to rural areas or even to smaller cities. The cities with the greatest gain in Asians over the past decade are New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. So, the issues are very clear for employers. If you are located in a rural area, the number of diverse candidates falls rapidly. The vast majority of Hispanics, blacks and Asians live in urban America where their cultures flourish. If you are looking for highly educated engineers, scientists, mathematicians, physicists, and so on, the numbers of minority candidates shrinks to a handful. The key to ongoing success in building a recruitable minority workforce will be in education. 2. Support education as a corporate strategy. In the long run, supporting education is the most fruitful policy you can pursue. The more minority students that enter into universities and technical schools, the more graduates there will be and the more potential candidates you will have. Programs that recruit from part-time schools, community colleges and other post-high school educational programs can pay big dividends. It may also be cost effective to hire minorities with lesser skills and provide educational assistance for them while employed. 3. Cast a wider net. Recruit everywhere possible. Especially in college recruiting, you will be well advised to go to smaller colleges and universities and reach out, using email and other technologies, to schools everywhere. Competitive intelligence ó finding out where minorities are now working and at what jobs ó can also be useful in helping you market to them and offer them whatever it is they do not have at their current employer. 4. Adjust your work policies. Minorities tend to cluster in urban areas, but many corporations are in rural America or far enough away from a major city to discourage minority candidates from joining. Turnover is also higher among minority employees in these rural firms. It’s time to encourage telecommuting and virtual work. Some leading-edge firms have set up small offices of just a few people in urban areas so that employees can live in the city and yet still be employed by them. Other firms offer extensive flexibility to where employees live and how they access their work. As more work becomes knowledge work, physical location becomes more of an issue of mindset than of anything that affects the work performed. As Dee Hock, the founder of Visa says, “The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out.” 5. Craft your messages and pick your media wisely. Know what minorities are seeking. Tailor a message to them. Don’t think that one advertising message will reach all candidates in the same way. Advertising positions and making them compelling to minority candidates is not the same as it is to majority candidates. Each minority candidate has a unique set of concerns and issues that need to be addressed, and each responds differently to marketing messages. You need to work with your minority population to decide what messages work best and about how to position each opportunity you have. You will also have to determine what they read and where they get their information. While television may be important for some, the Internet, social networks, or even church may be the primary source of trusted information for others. 6. Demonstrate commitment. Last but not least, it’s critical that you offer more than just advertising and hope. You have to develop a track record of working with minorities and of helping them overcome the barriers of education and prejudice that they are confronted with. You need to put in place programs that are tailored fairly to the minority groups you are seeking. These programs might be mentoring or coaching activities, ongoing educational assistance, firm promotion policies and a focus to making minority employment a cornerstone of your corporate success. By the year 2010, over 50% of Americans will represent a minority. It will be an economic survival imperative to have a diverse workforce, as these minorities already have almost $2 billion of spending power ó a figure that will rise to more than $3 billion by 2008.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.


5 Comments on “6 Ways to Improve Your Diversity Recruiting Record

  1. Sounds like a reasonable template for all hiring. However, it misses the single most important way to improve one’s diversity staffing program:

    Take down the internal barriers that prevent cream from rising to the top.

    If you build it, [they] will come.

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  2. Excellent article.

    We would like to contribute the following suggestion an an additional source in ‘Cast a Wider Net’.

    Tap into your companies’ diversity supplier program and /or join one of the various minority certification associations to learn who the minority/women owned businesses are in your community. Contact them.

    Recruit the diversity supplier to assist you in uncovering talent. Make it easy for them to want to help you. Make sure your proposal includes some clear benefits for them before asking for help. One suggestion would be to include their hiring needs in any advertising programs you’ve planned. Think about it. There are many ways you can help them help you.

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  3. Thank you for the article. We hope thousands of mid size and small businesses take heed. The Fortune 500 companies have the resources to brand their diversity recruiting programs, do the advertising and overall focus on this area.

    The mid market companies are racing to catch up to the Fortune 500 but the smaller companies who
    are still recruiting everyone the same way it was done 10 years ago are lost. We don’t understand why PEO’s (professional employer organizations)haven’t seized this opportunity to
    offer a packaged diversity recruiting program to their clients.

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  4. While I deeply appreciate and agree with Kevin’s suggestions, I am also just as deeply troubled by the perception that diversity means only ‘Asian, Black, Hispanic.’ Why do our thought leaders so frequently focus on those three mainstream underrepresented minority groups yet so easily leave out entire segments of our population?

    Every definition of diversity speaks to the concept of ‘diversity’ as encompassing acceptance, respect, and understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing workplace. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual. It is about including all of our collective ideas and experiences while contributing in the work place.

    What happened to inclusion of the other protected classes? How about embracing all of the federally recognized groups: Race, Color, National Origin, Sex, Religion, Age, Disability, and Veteran Status? Many states go beyond the federal definition to include marital status, family relationships, medical conditions, use of lawful products on off-duty hours (tobacco, alcohol), sexual orientation, and even sources of income.

    Diversity is valuing difference. It is more accurately defined as ‘otherness,’ or those human qualities that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet are present in other individuals and groups. While I believe it’s important to distinguish primary from secondary dimensions of diversity, I also believe we must include both dimensions if our diversity initiatives are to be fair and balanced.

    I would definte the primary dimensions as age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race and sexual orientation. As such ‘Asian, Black, Hispanic’ are merely one part of the whole diversity landscape.

    And then there are secondary dimensions. Those that can be changed, and include, but are not limited to: educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, and work experiences.

    To definte diversity as only ‘Asian, Black, Hispanic’ is as much an injustice as not to include any protected classes.

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