Diverse Staffing: Properly Hire and Retain

February 18, 2020
WHERK Blog: Hiring a Diverse Staff

The term “melting pot” first became popularized in America more than 100 years ago.  When a play by the same name opened in Washington, D.C., on October 5, 1908. That production portrays a Russian immigrant escaping violent upheaval. It lays out the protagonist’s dream of a society free of any ethnic divide.

Around the time of the 2020 U.S. Census, it’s expected that more than 50% of this country’s children will be part of a minority race or ethnic group. With Americans’ genetic makeup more varied than ever before, your staffing efforts must support and mirror that mix. But ensuring diversity is more than just a buzzword takes commitment to the cause. Here are three actionable ways that you can strengthen your strategy of retaining a diverse staff.

Strip away unconscious bias

Unconscious bias involves the types of social stereotypes that we don’t deliberately dwell on. Assuming a job that requires frequent computer use would be better suited for a younger candidate is a prime example of unconscious bias.

Allowing unconscious bias to infiltrate the way you handle employee recruiting and retention is one of the quickest ways to guarantee you won’t have a diverse workforce. For those of you who have never heard of the term before, unconscious bias involves the types of social stereotypes that we don’t deliberately dwell on. Rather, it refers to those embedded within us.  Usually as a result of our life experiences and the influence of those around us. It’s important to note that unconscious bias doesn’t relate to just race. It can apply to age, gender and many other physical and emotional traits we all possess.

Assuming a job that requires frequent computer use would be better suited for a younger candidate? This is a prime example of unconscious bias. Without reviewing the qualifications of older candidates, you’ve allowed an unfair stereotype.

Related: Employee Satisfaction: 3 Simple Methods

The best way to combat unconscious bias is to learn about the different types. Then work to recognize how each manifests. Once you’re able to spot the bias, you can ask yourself if it’s possible that each member of that group really is the same. More than likely, your answer will be no.

You can also find software that redacts information from resumes that could create an unconscious bias. Especially things like names, addresses, age or even where the candidate went to school.

Create a diversity committee

Who better to task with overseeing and managing your diversity and inclusion efforts than a team of your own employees? A company’s diversity committee should comprise a broad swath of employees from different backgrounds, professional levels, races, genders, and beliefs. As the business owner, it’s best if it also includes you and other senior managers.

Related: Employee Retention: Tips to Make Your Staff Happier

You should structure meetings with your diversity committee in a way that allows you to identify gaps. Look for places where inclusion may be lacking. You may have several employees who share the same faith, but existing company policy doesn’t permit proper expression of religious beliefs. The role of the diversity committee is to brainstorm how both the employees and the business can receive the support needed to make everyone happy.

Be purposeful with your hiring

It’s easy to quickly slap together a job description and post it to your website when you’re hiring.  If you really want to embrace diversity, you should be more mindful about how you craft your words and where you advertise openings. First, don’t hesitate to mention that your workplace values diversity and expects employees to uphold those same beliefs. This can set your business apart from others and let candidates know that your office is a place where they will want to work. Next, make sure your job descriptions don’t include any language that involves the types of unconscious biases we talked about earlier.

For example, if the job is for an overnight shift, it’s not a good idea to ever mention (either in print or during an interview) that the position isn’t ideal for someone with a family. While you might assume a working parent wouldn’t prefer that shift, it could be the perfect situation for candidates who have family members to pitch in and help at home.

Lastly, seek out job boards aimed at underrepresented talents like minorities, older workers, those in second careers, or even veterans. It would help if you also acknowledged that not everyone has regular access to a computer or the internet to job search. Stop by local churches or community centers and inquire about a bulletin board where you could hang a job description. And while readership is down in some social circles, local newspapers still provide an opportunity for you to publicize a job opening.