5 Tactics to Get Hiring Managers on Board with Diversity

Like riding a tandem bike or a seesaw, recruiting can never really be a solo activity. You’re only as good as your partnership with your hiring managers. And this is especially the case when it comes to focusing on diversity and inclusion. And if you’re trying to build a more diverse and inclusive organization, it all starts with adapting your approach to recruiting.

We recently teamed up with Sumayyah Emeh-Edu, Diversity and Inclusion Strategist and Board Member at TechTonica and Jennifer Brown, CEO & President of Jennifer Brown Consulting on a webinar to discuss how recruiters can partner with hiring managers to prioritize diversity. We share a quick overview of the webinar below, but if you’d like to really dive into this topic, you can catch the full recording here.

Let’s take a look at the five tactics Sumayyah and Jennifer suggested.

1. Understand the power dynamics of recruiting

According to the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, 71% of managers are men. And according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 74% of HR professionals are women. These stats show us that many recruiters already experience some sort of exclusion when compared with the hiring manager they’re working with.

But rather than seeing this as a disadvantage, Sumayyah and Jennifer recommend using your differences as an opportunity to bring the voices of others into the conversation. If you’ve personally experienced exclusion (and most people have in at least some dimension), you can share this with your hiring managers along with data that backs up your point. Some hiring managers may find it difficult to relate to the statistics alone, but will find personal anecdotes more meaningful and relatable. And creating a personal connection to the issue is the first way to get hiring managers on board with diversity and inclusion initiatives.

2. Make the business case for recruiting

There are a number of reasons why diversity can benefit your business, but Sumayyah and Jennifer recommend breaking them into three main categories: workforce, workplace, and marketplace.

“Workforce” refers to both incoming talent and existing talent. When candidates check out your company website or visit your office for an interview, what do they see? According to research from Glassdoor, 67% of candidates want to join a diverse team. And not only that, but younger people who are just entering the workforce want to see a path to success. If your company leadership is not diverse and inclusive, there’s a good chance candidates will look elsewhere.

“Workplace” refers to the sentiment of existing employees. The same Glassdoor research mentioned above found that 57% of employees want their companies to do to more to prioritize diversity. And it’s safe to say that if your company consistently falls short in this area, it can become a deal-breaker for some employees. Not sure where your employees stand on this? Sumayyah and Jennifer suggest using employee engagement surveys to find out.

Finally, “marketplace” refers to any external stakeholders, whether that’s your customers, partners, or clients. People want to see that companies they engage with are reflective of society at large. And this is something that matters to many board members, too. Especially since research by McKinsey found that companies with racial diversity were 35% more likely to have better financial returns!

3. Build relationships across your organization

Of course the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers is key, but there are a number of other relationships that will help you promote diversity and inclusion as well. Sumayyah and Jennifer recommend building your “success team” with mentors and sponsors. Mentors will use their experience and knowledge to help you develop your professional skills and move forward in your career, while sponsors can leverage their social capital to help you be more successful with your programs and initiatives. This can mean anything from amplifying your voice to giving you access to executives or leaders. If you find someone who’s invested in you and your success, don’t be afraid to ask them to help you move forward with your D&I initiatives.

Companies of any size can also create employee resource groups to build community, share experiences, and promote inclusion. And these can be intersectional: Encourage people of every background to attend and participate. Everyone has experiences and insights to share and it’s important to model allyship between different groups.

4. Help others understand bias and preferences

Everyone is susceptible to bias and allows personal preferences to influence their decisions. So it’s important to help hiring managers become aware of this and provide them with tools to help them reduce bias.

At some point you will likely find yourself having “the meritocracy conversation.” Basically, when discussing the issue of diversity, someone will say to you “We just want to hire the best person for the job. We shouldn’t have to think about their background, should we?” Sumayyah and Jennifer say that it’s best to prepare yourself for these conversations in a number of ways. First, you want to be able to explain that if you don’t shift representation now at the hiring level, it will never change at the manager and executive level. And you also want to help people learn that when they talk about “trusting their gut,” that may be a way for them to continue hiring people who are like them or make decisions based on pedigree and accolades rather than actual skills. Help them to understand the difference between hiring for competencies vs. a gut feeling of who will be “a good fit.”

5. Know where most D&I programs stall

You can have great intentions with your D&I initiatives, but there are a number of obstacles that may prevent you from reaching your goals. These include a lack of visible, public, and strong leadership, no dedicated D&I resource, and not enough focus on inclusion. This is why it’s important to think about how you can get leaders involved with your D&I initiatives right from the start so they can help prioritize your programs and ensure you get funding and other resources. Inclusion is also an essential part of the conversation, because if people from diverse backgrounds don’t feel included at your company, they won’t stay. And then you’ll find yourself not too far from where you are today!

Diversity and inclusion are complex issues, and in this post we’ve just scratched the surface of the material that was covered in the webinar. Be sure to check out the full recording for even more tips and insights from Sumayyah and Jennifer! You can access it here.

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