5 Strategies to Diversify your Talent Pipeline (1)

This is a guest post from Maya Humes and the Lever team, who recently released their Diversity and Inclusion Handbook.

Attracting, recruiting, and retaining diverse candidates isn’t rocket science, nor is it a walk in the park. It is a constant work in progress that – if done right – rewards you with tangible successes along the way. As long as you keep experimenting, iterating, and requesting input from both candidates and employees, it’s possible to build the diverse and inclusive culture you seek step-by-step.

Lever’s new 70-page Diversity & Inclusion Handbook lists countless strategies to help teams do exactly that. Currently comprised of 50 percent women and 53 percent women in leadership,  we share the journey that brought us here and include key insights from leaders at Lyft, Yelp, Affirm, and Shopify.

In this post, we focus specifically on one essential building block for creating a diverse and inclusive culture: diversifying your pipeline.

1) Foster inclusion first

You might be thinking: how do I foster inclusion if I don’t have diverse employees in the first place?

Well, we have a few questions for you in return: Do your employees come from different past companies? Schools? Socioeconomic statuses? If the answer is yes, your team does have some degree of diversity.

To engender inclusion amongst current employees, create spaces where they can share their stories. When new hires join, give them opportunities to share both meaningful and light-hearted stories about themselves.

For example, at the first all-hands meeting they attend, ask them to share a few fun facts with the company that highlight who they are. Then, at a smaller team meeting, suggest that they build a few slides to talk about their hobbies and interests. Keep creating these forums for storytelling.

Here at Lever, we recently hosted a seminar called “Hidden Identities”, where every Leveroo in attendance was asked to bring in an item that embodied a part of their identity, one that they don’t always show at work. We also have a quarterly event called “Soundtrack to a Life”, during which employees share a song that’s meaningful to them and explain why. We plan these events because we know that to create an inclusive culture, you have to start building spaces for employees to express themselves.

Regularly celebrate the differences you already have – that way, when you do begin hiring candidates from communities underrepresented in your company, they see that you already have open outlets for expression in place.

2) Create a culture of feedback

Just as you need forums for storytelling, you also need to create opportunities for employee feedback. To solicit employee ideas and concerns, we have a few suggestions.

To begin with, host a town hall every quarter. Before the meeting, allow employees to submit questions to a site such as https://www.sli.do/ (they can do so anonymously if needed), encourage everyone to upvote the questions that resonate with their own, and then recruit your executives to answer each one candidly.

Additionally, send out quarterly surveys to ask employees for their ideas and reflections on the quarter. Using tools like Culture Amp, you can ask if they agree with statements like: “I believe that my company is a safe and inclusive place to work,” “I think there are ample opportunities for feedback exchange with my hiring manager,” or “I feel that there is transparency into how compensation and promotions are decided”. Once you receive their responses, take action to improve within the areas your employees are dissatisfied.

Here at Lever, we recently underwent a company-wide compensation calibration, wherein our people team leveraged the help of consultants and extensive research to ensure that every employee is being compensated properly. Ultimately, this increase in feedback opportunities can serve as a strong draw for candidates. When you tell them about how many chances they’ll have to vocalize their opinions, they’ll know they’re joining a company that prioritizes inclusion.

3) Carefully choose your career page content

If you want people from all backgrounds to take a closer look at your open roles, it’s essential to showcase a wide spectrum of experiences on your careers page.

When they come across your website, show them that your team doesn’t just celebrate employees within a specific age range or of one ethnicity. If you have parents on your team, consider posting a photo of your “Take your kids to work day” (don’t have one? Maybe it’s time to plan it!).

Pictures of office happy hours might excite some candidates, but not those who don’t drink. Include a photo with only men meeting in a conference room, and any potential female candidates may think that’s what all your meetings look like. By contrast, when you depict a variety of activities and employees on your page, candidates are more likely to find experiences that resonate with their own.

If you have an employee blog, we encourage you to proudly highlight it on your careers site. There’s only so much you can communicate about your team on one page, so directing them to your employee blog can help. We suggest interviewing a different team member every other week with questions such as: “Why did you join x company?”, “What does your day-to-day look like?”, “What do you like to do outside of work?”, and “What’s one fun fact you can share with our audience?”. These spotlights can be short and sweet, but they can tell curious candidates a lot about the diverse experiences on your team.

20170824 Lever 02546 photo by Job Portraits

4) Revamp your job descriptions

No matter how short your job descriptions are, they have the potential to deter diverse, qualified candidates.

If you’re describing a “sales” role, for example, you may be tempted to use language like “closer”, “ninja” or “kick-ass”, words that may turn women off because they’ve historically been associated with men.

We encourage you to scan your JD’s for words like this, and for the use of pronouns like ‘he/his/him (which you should convert to ‘they). If you think you’re above using gendered pronouns, we encourage you to think about whether you’ve ever just assumed a CEO, VP of Sales, or VP of Engineering was a male.

Finally, we suggest getting rid of job descriptions altogether. Far too often, JD’s focus primarily on qualifications. One issue there is that studies show that men apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of qualifications, but women will only apply when they meet 100 percent of them. That means that if faced with a meaty checklist of skills, female (and minority) candidates are more likely to become intimidated and leave your careers page.

Often, job descriptions also emphasize educational background. Difference in education and experience is a form of diversity, however, and focusing too heavily on brand name education may dissuade candidates with atypical backgrounds.

Instead of job descriptions, try using ‘impact descriptions’. Here, you can focus on what the candidate will be expected to accomplish in ‘1 month’, ‘3 months, ‘6 months’, and ‘1 year’ into the role. Through implementing these at Lever, we’ve had more success in attracting candidates from disparate backgrounds, united by one quality – they all believed they could achieve the objectives in the impact description.

5) Proactively seek out diverse candidates

Attracting diverse candidates will only get you so far. If you want to build a full pipeline of talent, it’s important to go after them too. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies you can use.

First off, we suggest posting your job descriptions on sites like Jopwell, which Hispanic and black job hunters use to find new roles.

Additionally, we encourage you to host source-a-thons or referral-a-thons – sessions where you incentivize employees to source or refer candidates rapid-fire – with your current employees. You can use tools like Drafted for this.

In these sessions, ask your teammates to prioritize reaching out to candidates from underrepresented communities. But don’t let them search blindly! Empower your team with templates to use, best practices, and suggestions for locations where they can find diverse talent. These include sites outside of LinkedIn such as include.io, a recruiting and retention platform for diverse and non-traditional tech talent.

Finally, we suggest hosting your own inclusive events for candidates in your community. This is often the best way to engage them. If you’ve never planned a meetup before, begin by attending other events for underrepresented communities, or start partnering with teams that are hosting them. Often, all it takes is some online research to discover where the next gathering will be.

When you arrive, make an effort to get to know the community, even if you don’t interact with any potential candidates. What challenges are people facing most often in their day-to-day? What problems do they want to solve immediately? Then, once you learn more and better understand what makes these events successful, you can organize your own. Go forth!

We hope these strategies helped you think more concretely about how to attract and engage candidates from diverse backgrounds.

To learn more about how to attract, nurture, and retain diverse candidates, read Lever’s new Diversity and Inclusion Handbook here.

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