According to a 2022 Hue report, 82 percent of HR professionals felt they were doing a good job at putting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) programs into place—while 84 percent of employees observed “a lack of meaningful progress” regarding equity for employees of color over the past six months.
To address this disconnect, we hosted a conversation with Jehron Petty, Founder & CEO of ColorStack, Ken Oliver, Executive Director at Checkr.org, and Sophia Yamauchi, Emerging Talent Programs Manager at Asana. In the discussion, they shared actionable insights on recruiting a broader range of candidates, building a diverse and inclusive culture, and measuring your impact.
Here we’ve put together some tips from the top takeaways, and you can watch the entire conversation to hear everything they had to share.
1. Start with intentionality
Though companies often express interest in running DE&I programs, for them to be effective, they have to be driven by leadership and intentionality. “A real DE&I program has to come from the heart,” said Ken. “You have to believe in inclusivity and equity as a human being, not just as a business initiative. You need intentional action and messaging from leadership that this is your culture.”
For smaller startups with limited resources, Jehron recommended looking for leaders who already exemplify the culture you want. “Bake DE&I into who you bring into the company. They won’t have to spend money to sponsor an org or start a new program because they already live it.”
2. Track metrics to identify issues
To find issues in your hiring process, Sophia recommended looking at your hiring funnel with three themes in mind: 1) understanding where candidates are coming from and how they enter your pipeline, 2) tracking candidates and self-reported data throughout the process, and 3) assessing your conversion metrics.
“If the top of your funnel has a strong pool of candidates from underrepresented backgrounds, but none of them make it to the offer stage, you have a problem,” she said. “Use the data to ask why and find the root causes. Maybe candidates are converting at a specific stage but dropping off at the next. That gives your team insight into what you can improve.”
3. Meet communities where they are
If you don’t have many applicants coming in from underrepresented backgrounds, Ken sees that as an indicator you need to be more proactive. “Consider where you’re going to recruit and where you’re holding inclusivity events. Work with companies like ColorStack. Are you going to mixer events that Black, Latinx, or LGBTQ people tend to frequent?”
Sophia agreed and recommended finding ways to contribute: “How can you demonstrate to a candidate that this is a place they’d want to work? That you’re not only investing in this one event, but you want to invest in them as a human.”
4. Provide education and training opportunities at all levels
Jehron pointed out that many companies don’t consider the obstacles they create with their intern and new grad recruiting criteria. “Historically, apprenticeship programs allowed you to learn the job by working with an expert. Somewhere along the line, this model turned into internships where candidates are already expected to have experience. Why can’t a student with high potential who resonates with the company and their users get a shot to learn?” Jehron has been working with companies to open up apprenticeship programs as well as early internship programs for freshmen and sophomores that focus on education and skill development.
Sophia recommended providing resources and enablement to help people make it through the interview cycle. “At Asana, we host a series of educational workshops on interviewing. We understand that everyone comes from a different background and want to ensure they have the information they need to feel confident.”
Ken also recommends developing talent within your company. Especially in a difficult labor market, hiring from non-traditional backgrounds and providing skills-based training can give you access to great talent. He also recommends having a robust leadership development program so talent can rise to all levels of your organization.
5. Measure your success
You have to balance storytelling and quantitative success, said Jehron. Great stories are inspiring, but he said, “you can get caught up in the feeling of success rather than measured success. It’s easier to get buy-in if you can prove that the dollars invested are valuable.”
That investment can yield striking success. Sophia shared that 100 percent of Asana’s apprentices are still with the company after converting to full-time roles. Ken has seen similar results at Checkr, where their justice-involved employees have a zero percent recidivism rate, reach promotion faster, and have lower turnover.
In the end, there’s no magic fix to make DE&I a strength at your company, but you can use this advice to build it into your culture with intentionality. You’ll find that a workplace that values its people and their backgrounds is happier, smarter, and more effective.
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