Have you ever wondered what one of the most crucial job-seeking criteria is for candidates? According to the Glassdoor survey, it’s workforce diversity. 76% of respondents said that it’s an important factor for them, while 32% admitted they wouldn’t even apply for a role at a company that didn’t have a diverse workforce. It’s no surprise that businesses put diversity management high on their priority list.
In today’s piece, I am going to talk about the best practices for nourishing authentic diversity. I will also discuss some of the most common challenges and mistakes that companies face while managing diversity. First, let's cover the basics.
What is diversity management?
Diversity management is the process of putting together and managing a diverse team. The goal is to make sure that all employees, regardless of their background, identity, and beliefs, feel respected and an integral part of the team.
Managing diversity starts by choosing a leader who creates and brings to life a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy. Usually, they start off by running an audit. They look into various processes, like hiring and promotion criteria, and note all potential improvements.
Next, they come up with an action plan and the KPIs they’ll use to measure improvement.
There are two types of diversity management:
Intra-national diversity: this type deals with a workforce made up of residents (citizens and immigrants) in a single country.
International diversity (or cross-national diversity): this relates to two types of companies, i.e, those that:
Have multiple locations across the globe. For example, the parent entity is based in Denmark but also has foreign branches in Germany, India, and Spain. Your main focus is understanding what diversity means for each of these markets separately.
Follow a 100% remote, work-from-anywhere model. In this approach, there’s no clear division into branches. You might have 35 employees in Denmark, 4 in India, 15 in Spain, and 27 in Germany. You need to understand what diversity means for all of your employees simultaneously. Among others, this means taking into account all the cultural and legal considerations.
Objectives & Goals
As aptly put by Roger Wilkins, the Former Assistant Attorney General of the United States, “We have no hope of solving our problems without harnessing the diversity, the energy, and the creativity of all our people”. So, the primary objective of diversity management is to create an environment where all employees, irrespective of their background can reach their full potential to support the company's mission.
What do diversity goals look like in practice? Here are a few examples:
Diverse candidates as a percentage of total candidates – all Hilton brands aim to have 50% of diverse candidates
Diverse hires as part of total hires – Mozilla want to increase the percentage of Black and Latin employees two-fold
Percentage of women holding tech roles – Intel work towards increasing the number of females in tech roles by 40% by 2030.
Best Practices for Authentic Diversity
How do you make sure that your DEI principles are more than just grand words on your website? Here’s how you can actually put them into life.
Prioritize proactive measures
True diversity is about being proactive in your actions. It’s not about putting out fires. If you’re particularly good at crisis management and know how to come out of it unscathed, you’re good at just that – handling crises.
For example, let’s assume you’ve recently turned 100% remote. You’re about to hire your first-ever foreign employee, a Java Developer. How do you make sure they feel welcomed and respected? Instead of shooting in the dark and fixing any issues if and when they happen, now would be the time to consider:
Will you be paying them the same salary as others in the same role/level? Or will you adjust it to their costs of living and local taxes and create a custom formula? Here’s how GitLab pays its remote staff:
How will you approach the employee’s national and religious holidays?
If you offer stock options to local employees, how will you make sure your international hire isn’t left out?
Of course, no diversity management strategy will be 100% bullet-proof. You’ll learn on the go. Just make sure you use past mistakes to improve your diversity management program.
C-level suite showing their commitment
20th Century business legend Peter Drucker famously said that “one does not manage people. The task is to lead people”. This evergreen rule applies to how seriously your team treats your DEI program, too.
If you’re responsible for diversity management at your company, make sure upper management ‘gets’ it. For example, if one of your communication guidelines is to use inclusive language like “Hi everyone” instead of “Hi guys”, your CEO should definitely follow it. If your employees see that the C-level leaders are putting in an effort, they’ll be more inclined to follow suit.
Focus on skills rather than education
If you want to get diversity management right, then you need to rethink your approach to hiring. Put skills over education. Just because someone hasn’t spent four or five years at a university doesn’t mean they’re not fit for the job. Evaluate open roles to see how many of them really require a college degree.
Doing so will give you access to a much broader and more diverse talent pool. And that’s exactly what Accenture did. They removed the bachelor’s degree from nearly half of their US roles. Adding requirements that are redundant discourages a lot of valuable candidates from applying. Often, it also unnecessarily prolongs the recruitment process.
Make sure that the same rules apply to everyone
Firms set rules that enable them to operate effectively and achieve their company goals. These apply to all employees equally. For diversity management to function properly, there should be no preferential treatment. Everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, or race must follow the same rules. And if they don’t, HR should draw consequences.
If employees notice that some of their colleagues get preferential treatment, their morale will go down. Both team leaders and HR should guard equality in the workplace – this also applies to remuneration, promotion, and access to training.
Make sure your DEI program is practical
Your DEI strategy should focus on giving opportunities, not hitting quota. And yet, some diversity management programs are so impractical that they can actually harm your business.
Candice Bristow, who is the DEI & Hiring Director at tech company Expel Inc., makes a point by saying that “if a candidate has the right traits — like resilience, creativity, and ambition — they’ll likely be quick to learn whatever technical capabilities are needed to do the job in a short period of time.” So, to boost diversity, companies should take these things into account; not just scan CVs for years of experience.
Still, recruiters shouldn’t be forced into sacrificing the best candidate for someone without potential just to hit relevant DEI metrics. If they do, they’re bringing people down to statistics, and that means that the whole system is broken. For this reason, it’s important to run regular DEI program audits and ask recruiters about their motivation for choosing one candidate over another.
Implementation Challenges & Mistakes to Avoid
Below I’ve listed a few challenges and mistakes you should be aware of to make the most of your diversity management efforts.
The tokenism problem: Certain organizations hire diverse employees only to give an impression that they’re building a diverse business. For example, if they notice they have very few women in tech positions, they hire one or two to cover up the issues. Such a practice is purely symbolic and usually done to avoid criticism. It has nothing to do with diversity management.
Communication barriers: Bringing together people from various backgrounds undoubtedly has a great effect on innovation. However, there is a downside to it. Different perspectives can lead to varying opinions and result in conflicts. What’s more, all businesses that hire employees internationally experience some sort of communication barrier. Even if the majority of people speak the same language, for example, English, there are still variations and colloquialisms between American, British, and Australian English. This can lead to misunderstandings. And I haven’t even touched on non-verbal communication, such as gestures. For example, a thumb up can be considered a positive thing in one country, and an offensive one in another.
So, if you have a diverse workforce, naturally there might be a bit more communication issues, and it will take your employees more time to learn to cooperate effectively.
Opposing change: The truth is that very few people like change; most of us prefer to avoid it. Those who are particularly scared of it might try to block diversity management initiatives from happening. Not because they’re xenophobic, but because they’re aware that the status quo will have to change. And it’s something they don’t like. Luckily, thanks to persistence, education, and good leadership their resistance can be overcome or at least reduced.
Mistakes to Avoid
Focusing on inclusive hiring but ignoring retention: I’ve already mentioned how some recruiters might hire a person from an underrepresented group just to boost company diversity statistics. There’s also the case of what happens next, i.e., retention and promotion opportunities for these individuals. Some companies might hire a promising candidate, but fail to offer them the upskilling they knew they’d need to progress in their career. As a result, there might be no grounds to keep the employee hired – and all at the company’s own fault.
Thinking that diversity is the HR or DEI team’s responsibility only: It’s not uncommon for people to think that diversity is a metric like time-to-hire or employee referral success rate. That is, something monitored and improved by People teams. Yes, it’s the HR or DEI department’s role to breathe life into your diversity efforts at the company. But it’s everyone else’s to sustain it.
Not paying attention to employee feedback and world events: There are two elements here. Firstly, it’s about understanding how you can close any gaps in your program. Secondly, it’s about staying on top of national or world events. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your DEI program functions in isolation. For example, your employees’ families might have been impacted by the immigration ban in the US. If you don’t show employees that you want to hear about their experiences, they might see you as indifferent. And this might question your diversity program credibility.
The best way to learn how you can help is by running employee surveys. You can ask questions related directly to your business and events. For example, “On a scale from 1 to 5, how well does your team use gender-neutral terms” and “What are your thoughts on the recent [event], and how can we help?”.
Hire the Best Candidate for the Job Following Diversity Management Strategies
When created thoughtfully, your diversity management program can do wonders – not only for employee morale but also for business performance. A diverse team means access to a wide range of skills, points of view, and experiences (both personal and professional). And, given the shift to remote work, there’s no better time than now to reap the benefits of a global workforce.
Looking to grow your international team or are wondering how to get started? Search no further! Match is an elite community that brings together some of the world’s top tech, product, design, and content talent. We can help you by setting up a custom-built, diverse team, or by introducing you to our global freelance community. Tell us about your company, your hiring needs, and your goals, and we’ll help you bring more diversity into your team!