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Diversity recruiting: getting it right

By Aaron Green, 6/18/2007

While it's good to recognize the importance of diversity recruiting, it's better to implement it effectively at your company.

Consider that while the Census Bureau recently reported that the US minority population now exceeds 100 million people, the country is not nearly as diverse as it will be in the future. Seventy-five percent of this country's expected population growth will come from immigrants and their children. These are the people you will need to recruit to fill your job openings. These are also the people who make up your customer base and who look for products and services geared toward their cultural preferences.

As these population trends come to fruition, companies that are not successful at diversity recruiting will lose ground to those who are successful at it. In other words, diversity recruiting and mainstream recruiting are merging and becoming one and the same.

There are a few major steps businesses can take to incorporate diversity efforts into their recruiting processes. As a start, I recommend the following:

1. Assess your business needs and opportunities

One straightforward way to identify diversity recruitment opportunities is to simply measure your company's actual diversity and compare it to the local workforce's diversity. For instance, if two percent of the accountants in your CPA firm are African-American, but African-Americans make up 14 percent of the local workforce of CPAs, you know you have an opportunity.

Many times it makes sense to break down your workforce and looks at diversity across various categories. For instance, are you diverse at the management level? Do customer facing positions have enough diversity? How about human resources? If you are going to be recruiting diverse candidates, it makes sense to ascertain that diversity is adequately represented in your human resources department.

2. Develop a strategy

Consider your company's human resources challenges and how diversity recruiting fits in. For example, a company that is trying to recruit Spanish-English bilingual call center representatives will develop a recruiting strategy that is markedly different from that of a company that caters to the Asian marketplace. While both companies will want to be inclusive, they will focus their efforts differently to meet their particular recruiting needs.

While your recruiting strategy should reflect the demands of your company, it should also take into account changing demographics and the recruiting opportunities created. In Massachusetts the Latino population is growing at a rate of more than 50 percent each year. Accordingly, Latinos will make up a larger percentage of the workforce in the coming years. If you can benefit from this trend you should make plans now.

3. Put the right tactics to work

  • Get everyone engaged - Build enthusiasm and support by educating all company employees on the business benefits of your diversity recruiting initiatives. By getting the word out you will receive assistance from others. Simply letting employees know that diversity recruiting is a major priority can prompt actions like employee referrals.

  • Mirror your environment - To make prospective employees more comfortable and excited about working at your company, showcase examples of diversity within your organization whenever possible. If you have diverse employees in senior or exciting positions, find a way to get these people involved in the recruiting process. Employing diverse individuals can both raise the interest level of diverse candidates and be a necessary tool in communicating with these candidates. Among other things, this means ensuring that your HR department can communicate with non-English speaking candidates, if and when necessary. I was visiting a friend in the hospital recently and noticed signs saying that hospital staff were on hand to communicate with patients in a number of different languages. At that moment I realized HR departments are on a similar path and will need to be prepared to communicate with candidates in multiple languages.

  • Get involved in diverse communities - There really is no substitute for getting out to the diverse populations that you would like to recruit from. So how do you do this? While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, my organization has recognized much success by supporting community-based organizations. For instance, we volunteer our time and support to organizations like The Urban League and the Asian American Civic Association. We conduct mock interviews, offer resume writing workshops, provide career counseling advice, and attend their events. While the people we help are not necessarily the same people we are recruiting, the community presence we've established ultimately results in new candidate referrals.

  • Integrate with mainstream recruiting tactics - Integrating diversity messages into your mainstream recruiting materials is helpful since diverse job seekers are viewing this information as well.

  • Allocate money - If you are serious about diversity recruiting you will need to spend some money getting your message out to the right places. Minority and other diverse candidates do not necessarily look for employment in the same way as non-diverse candidates. You need to be prepared to advertise where your candidates are looking. Furthermore, even when diverse candidates are looking in the traditional places (such as mainstream Internet job boards or print ads) they are more likely to remember your company if they also seen your message in a niche publication directed to them.

  • Borrow best practices from other recruiting campaigns - Recruiting practices that have worked well for your business in the past, such as offering rewards and other incentives, conducting referral programs and recruiting passive candidates should also be a part of your diversity recruiting efforts.

  • Be ready to sell - In the old world of recruiting, hiring managers sat back while candidates sold their skills for the open position. In today's tightened labor force, diverse candidates have a lot of employment options and employers are the ones who need to "sell" their company.

  • Measure your return on investment - Like all recruiting activities you should be measuring your diversity recruiting activities and determining what is working, what is not working and adjusting your plans accordingly.
  • The population trends in Massachusetts demand that companies integrate their diversity recruiting into their mainstream recruiting. As you take steps towards adapting your recruiting strategies, you will reap the rewards and be more successful in your business.

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