New Goals, Old Habits: Why Employers Should Transform Their Hiring Practices to Foster Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces
Fortune 500 companies are making near-daily announcements of ambitious goals to build diverse, inclusive and equitable workplaces. The need is especially urgent in the tech workforce, which is two-thirds white, 23 percent Asian, 9.1 percent Black and 8.4 percent Hispanic/Latinx; women account for only one-quarter of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet even while companies commit to transforming their workplaces, too many have clung to the same old recruiting, vetting and hiring practices that are more problem than solution.
Businesses that commit to bold DEI goals without aligning their recruiting and hiring processes to achieve them are doomed to fail, causing those employers to fall further behind their competitors in both the race for talent and business growth. Diversity of employee background, experience and perspective are vital to innovation overall, and to fighting such tech-specific problems as biased AI, according to the Harvard Business Review. According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer data, nearly half of U.S. respondents say an inclusive work culture with a strong and well-supported diversity program is “critically important to an organization being able to attract and retain someone like me as an employee.”
Employers should make sure their hiring is informed by a few key considerations:
Forget the “tech skills gap” myth. Focus on the opportunity gap. The reason it takes an average of two months to fill an entry-level tech job is not a dearth of talent. Every year, four-year and community colleges turn out millions of graduates who, with the right training, can become high-performing, loyal employees and future leaders. The challenge for employers is to vastly broaden their talent pipeline—beyond the usual recruiting from brand-name schools, fielding the deluge of incoming resumes, and calendaring candidates with connections. Instead, employers must bring opportunity to talent by proactively looking for diverse candidates through nontraditional channels.
Support nontraditional candidates. Too many employers think it takes a computer science or engineering degree from a top school to succeed on a tech career track. Not true—and sticking to this narrow paradigm in hiring will not yield the broader talent pool an employer needs to diversify their workforce. Some businesses have already figured this out, hiring for potential and training up through in-house apprenticeships or expanding their hiring criteria to employ non-college graduates. One rich source of diverse talent: community colleges, where 51 percent of attendees are students of color and 55 percent are women.
Take the long view. Many employers make the mistake of assessing a candidate’s job-readiness on day one. But the true measure of an employee’s value is best taken six months to a year down the road. Employers should look for quick and curious learners who not only want to train in hard skills, but who want to contribute to—and yes, change and improve—company culture.
A diverse and inclusive workforce drives business growth and much-overdue societal change. It’s time for employers to shed old hiring habits and bring opportunity to talent for a better workforce and a better world.