In part two of our Diversity and Inclusion series we’re discussing the role of transparency and authenticity in attracting a more diverse workforce. Be sure to check out part one of the series.
There has been a tremendous shift in the advertising industry within the past ten years. Not only has the rise of digital changed the way people experience advertising, but also younger consumers demand a different approach than previous generations. As Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (those born from 1997 onward) have accumulated buying power, they’ve pushed brands to change the way they target these consumers.
Millennials are less likely to “want” to be sold; instead, they seek authority and recommendations from peer networks or influencers in their digital orbits. They are also more likely to prefer to support brands associated with a good cause than previous generations. Studies suggest Gen Z thinks similarly, and brands’ focus on authenticity and transparency will remain key to resonating with these two groups.
That transformation in advertising also affects how employers should recruit the next generation of their workforce.
Millennials currently make up the bulk of the American workforce, and they will soon be joined by their Generation Z counterparts. By the numbers, Gen Z is the most diverse generation yet, with nearly one half identifying as either a racial or ethnic minority. Like Millennials, they aren’t afraid to be vocal about their concerns. Given the growing popularity of diversity-focused company review sites, like Fairygodboss and InHerSight, employers should be prepared to answer tough questions about who makes up their workforce and how employees of all identities are treated.
Bring Inclusivity into Your Hiring Practice
“How do we make a space where people feel seen?” is the question that Summer Fields, Engagement Strategist at Hearken, thinks about when she begins the hiring process. “A good leader is aware of their own biases. There should be a system in place to not let them go off ‘gut feelings.’”
Hearken, an organization that helps newsrooms and other content creators develop audience engagement strategies, created its own nontraditional application process to encourage a more diverse candidate pool. For example, instead of asking candidates to submit a resume and cover letter, they are first asked to fill out a questionnaire using Google Forms. Hearken doesn’t even look at the resumes they receive until they’ve scored the questionnaire responses using a rubric, a technique called ‘blind hiring.’
“When you don’t rely on experience or a job title, it’s harder for bias to come into play,” Fields explained. You can read more about their process in this blog post.
The questionnaire also gives candidates the option to share more information about their demographics if they choose to do so. Hearken then uses these answers to meticulously track who is applying to their jobs, allowing them to gauge if a candidate pool was actually diverse. If it wasn’t, it might be a signal to revisit how they recruited for that position and what networks they chose to tap into for candidates.
While this process works for their company, not every workplace is set up to hire in this way. It’s a time-intensive process for which large organizations often don’t have the time or resources readily available. However, as some of the most highly valued companies in the world have learned the hard way, that’s no excuse.
Transparency in Action
Silicon Valley tech companies have been under fire for nearly 20 years regarding a perceived bias in their hiring practices. In 2014, facing growing pressure internally from concerned employees (and a public increasingly willing to take those concerns seriously), some of the biggest names in tech—Google, Facebook and Apple—published diversity reports on who they hired. Other tech companies soon followed suit.
The reports didn’t portray these companies in a very flattering light. In fact, the data did show a clear bias toward hiring white men, particularly at the executive level.
Despite the rough headlines that resulted, the reports were a necessary step in winning back public trust. They not only showed that these companies were serious about addressing the issue, but also demonstrated willingness to be held accountable for their progress (or lack thereof).
D&I as a Business Strategy
Tracking and releasing diversity statistics isn’t just a brand management technique. Companies should be using it as a way to drive real change within their own hiring practices. One of TMP’s clients, a software company based in San Francisco, views inclusivity as a key influence on their bottom line.
The philosophy behind their efforts to create a more welcoming and inclusive culture is simple: they want to ensure that the most skilled and talented people work for them, not their competitors. To do this, they set out to make themselves a leader in their industry when it comes to inclusion.
The project to refocus on diversity and inclusion began in 2014, when they recognized that the gender diversity of its employees was not representative of the actual candidate pool. They took steps to correct that by launching a program aimed at making the company a better place for women to not only work at but also excel.
To achieve this, they set measurable goals, like making sure management and the broader workforce were trained on unconscious bias, and made leadership accountable for progress toward those goals. They also implemented internal women’s leadership and development programs and redoubled their recruitment efforts. They were a major presence at the Grace Hopper Conference in 2014, for example, and also sponsored coding programs for young women and girls interested in STEM.
By 2016, the women’s program transformed into one focused more broadly on inclusion. This initiative took many of the same tactics they used to advance women and applied them to other diversity groups. The company also began publishing an annual inclusion report. The report, publicly available online, is upfront about its commitments and honest about where they’ve seen progress—and where they haven’t.
Creating an inclusive workforce isn’t easy. Being frank about failings is, understandably, not something that most workplaces want to publicize. However, being upfront about areas in which they need to improve is exactly the kind of authenticity and transparency candidates want to see from their employers.