5 Ways to move the needle on D&I in 2019

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5 mins, 31 secs read time

Raise your hand if Diversity & Inclusion (D&I;) are priorities for you this year. Now raise your hand if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by how you’re going to make progress in these areas. You’re not alone – according to Bersin by Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, two thirds of leaders say diversity and inclusion are “important” or “very important” to business. But at the same time, the numbers show us that most companies have yet to build diverse and inclusive organizations in a meaningful way. Research from the Kapor Center shows that women account for only 26% of the tech workforce (despite being 43% of the overall workforce) and that only 1% of tech leadership roles are held by Black professionals and 2% by Latinx professionals.

How do you take your lofty D&I; goals and translate them into meaningful actions? We gathered insights from a number of leading practitioners to help you come up with clear steps you can take to move the needle on D&I; at your organization this year.

1. Rethink your employer branding

Candice Morgan, Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Pinterest, suggests rethinking employer branding with a D&I; lens. Look for ways to reach new audiences and make your brand go further. One of the tactics that has worked at Pinterest is creating a software developer apprenticeship program for people from non-traditional backgrounds. Apprentices go on to become great spokespeople for the program and for Pinterest as an employer, helping to undo the belief that people need a certain background in order to be successful there.

Pinterest is also transparent about their employee composition and hiring goals, which have been made available to the public since 2015. Candice regularly speaks and writes on these topics to promote Pinterest’s focus on diversity. Even if your company is not ready to make this kind of information public, Candice recommends having your leadership share their vision with the public.

Make sure your company vision is somewhere candidates can find it.– Candice Morgan, Head of Inclusion & Diversity, Pinterest

2. Develop a diversity-focused sourcing strategy

Even though you may already have an employee referral program, campus recruiting, or sourcing tools and technology in place, chances are that you could reconsider your sourcing strategy with a diversity lens. At Pinterest, for example, Candice found that the employee referral program was unintentionally generating a list of prospects from similar backgrounds. By prompting employees and reminding them to refer people from underrepresented backgrounds, Pinterest was able to generate 55x the number of female engineer referrals and boost the number of referrals from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds by 30%. However, Candice cautions that this needs to be an ongoing process. If you only prompt employees one time, you’re likely to only see temporary improvements.

Candice believes having a diverse recruiting team and giving candidates the opportunity to interact with a broad range of employees are also essential. Any candidate who participates in an onsite interview at Pinterest can meet with members of an Employee Resource Group (or “Community” as they’re called at Pinterest) to learn more about the employee experience from members of the group or groups they identify with.

3. Get executive buy-in

Are you launching a new D&I; program or just trying to gain traction with an existing one? Getting buy-in from your executives is essential either way, according to Jolen Anderson, Senior Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer at Visa. Jolen recommends encouraging executives to attend events where they’ll have opportunities to develop empathy by feeling what it’s like to be “the only.” This might involve attending a National Society of Black Engineers or Society for Women Engineers event or perhaps sitting in on one of your Employee Resource Group meetings.

And when it comes to getting executives’ attention, nothing is quite as effective as cold, hard data says Richard Cho, Head of Recruiting at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Richard recommends starting by collecting data. This can help you clearly define the problem – for example, you’re declining to make offers to a disproportionately large number of people from underrepresented groups – and make executives more likely to want to be involved in the solution.

Data wins all arguments. – Richard Cho, Head of Recruiting, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

4. Explore partnerships

Don’t feel pressured to do everything yourself – there are a number of organizations that can help support your company with different aspects of your D&I; strategy. Candice recommends working with organizations that already have relationships with underrepresented groups such as Hired, NSBE, Jopwell and 2020Shift.

You can look within your own organization as well. Find an executive sponsor who can help you gain traction and get budget for your projects. MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Emilio Castilla recommends putting together a task force made up of people from various parts of the organization. This can help you secure resources, create metrics and timelines, and then take action. Working with a group also promotes transparency and accountability.

5. Make the case for new programs, tools and partnerships

By now you probably have at least a few ideas you’d like to try out. How do you go from ideas to action? Greenhouse Senior Recruiter Katie DiCioccio explained how she approached building out a military veteran recruiting program at Greenhouse. She began by tapping into her network to learn from veterans about their experience in the civilian workforce, develop personas, and gather recommended resources. Next, she conducted deep research on the resources that were available and categorized them as branding, sourcing, events, etc. Finally, she condensed her research into a list of recommendations that she presented to leadership. Katie shares the full story and lessons learned along the way in “Creating a Diversity Sourcing Strategy.”

Finally, as you develop your D&I; strategy, it’s important to have realistic expectations. Jolen recommends getting others involved, because talent acquisition and recruiting are a critical part of D&I; success. Jolen also admits that a lot of this work is block and tackle, so you may have to take your energy, passion and victories from small wins. Similarly, Candice says that you can’t take all of the HR Business Partner work on your shoulders – it’s important to get help from others. Despite the difficulty of this work, you can make a difference, and it all starts with taking the first step.

Looking for more ideas and inspiration on how to approach D&I; in 2019? Be sure to check out Creating a Diversity Sourcing Strategy and The Real Deal on Building Inclusive Organizations.

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.