Diversity Recruiting’s Last Frontier: The Internet

A recent analysis of the latest U.S. census data shows that a strategic corporate diversity strategy is an essential long-term corporate investment, particularly given the continuing demographic shifts over the last several years. But despite these changes and the importance of the recruiting function in an overall diversity strategy, a vast new frontier in diversity recruiting remains unconquered: the Internet. New Statistics According to Diversity Inc.’s census data analysis, African Americans are now the second largest ethnic group in the nation, with a total population of 36.4 million, and they are increasingly tech-savvy. The Latino population in the U.S. has grown 58% over the last decade, with a population of 35.3 million. Asian Americans, now the fourth largest ethnic group with 10.2 million people, have made significant advancements in highly technical fields like engineering and computer science. Women have also made huge strides over the last decade, now accounting for 46.6% of the U.S. workforce and holding almost half of the managerial and leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies. Overall, women and people of color are expected to represent about 70% of net new entrants to the workforce by 2008. But the rapidly evolving U.S. demographics are just the start, as companies are increasingly trying to capitalize on the new global economy. Considering that approximately 70% of the world population fits our traditional definition of diversity (non-white, non-Christian), the role of employee and supplier diversity in any overall globalization strategy cannot be understated. And leading companies like Dell, Microsoft, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Nike are increasingly recognizing that emphasizing diversity is not only just the right thing to do, but that it can also have positive economic benefits as well. The audience demographics in the online world have undergone a similar shift. No longer is the web primarily the domain of white, affluent males. Sites like BlackPlanet.com (2.8 million members), BlackVoices.com (600,000 members), AsianAvenue (1.6 million members), and iVillage (women’s site with over 13 million unique visitors per month) have shown that diverse audiences really do exist online, and are growing rapidly. It’s not a big leap of faith to conclude that these same audiences that are going online for entertainment are now looking for work online, likely in large numbers. The Role of Diversity Recruiting The formula for success in a diverse world has often been postulated as: diverse employees and suppliers are more in touch with diverse customers’ needs, and can more efficiently position your company to develop products and services that are more likely to sell to this growing audience, resulting in significant increases in long-term profits. A large majority of organizations equate diversity solely with recruiting: 79% of the Fortune 1000 companies surveyed in a Society for Human Resources Management study currently house all of their diversity efforts within the Human Resources department. Other companies try to execute a cross-functional diversity strategy by treating it as a collection of disparate parts, assigning a human resources team to be responsible for recruiting and retaining diverse employees, a marketing team to identify ethnic marketing opportunities, and a supplier or procurement team to encourage diverse suppliers. Billy Dexter, recently an international and diversity recruiting manager for Deloitte & Touche, and now the vice president for diversity initiatives at TMP, says that companies’ failure to grasp that functions like marketing, product development, and supplier and employee diversity are all part of the same strategic diversity picture often results in fragmented diversity strategies, with few if any companies doing all of them well at once. Such fragmented efforts also have a much lower probability of translating into bottom line success, says Dexter, since there is no organizational plan in place to measure results or ensure success. The Last Frontier Nowhere are these failures more glaring than online. Despite the population shifts over the past decade and increasingly pervasive access to technology in minority households and communities, online corporate diversity sections have been slow to materialize outside of bland diversity hiring or affirmative action statements on corporate employment sites. But Dexter and other diversity experts point out that while minorities’ employment decision criteria center on the same things as non-minorities (opportunity, pay, benefits, etc.), there are important additional criteria to take into consideration that corporate websites need to begin reflecting. For example, minority candidates are often most interested in corporations that can demonstrate things like:

  • A culture that embraces diversity
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  • A track record of minority hiring and promotions
  • Involvement with affinity and support groups
  • Support for community activities
  • The importance of minorities in their recruiting efforts

Companies that can demonstrate these things online will have even more success recruiting diverse candidates, who, like the rest of the job-seeking population, increasingly look to the Internet as their primary source of employment information. In addition, Dexter suggests that companies should start looking at the many excellent minority recruitment sites (like iMinorities, BlackVoices, Asia-Net, hirediversity.com, ihispanos.com, hispandata.com and many others) as part of their online marketing efforts. The business case for diversity is strong. Diverse audiences ? long thought of as less likely to use the Internet ? are an underrepresented target audience on corporate Internet and employment sites. With the fundamental demographic shifts experienced over the past decade, and increasing minority access to technology, a cohesive online diversity recruiting strategy ? with top-down support, cross-functional coordination and a recognition of the unique information needs of such an audience ? can position your company to succeed in an increasingly diverse world.

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (www.talentsparkconsulting.com), a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.


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