7 Barriers to Strategically Hiring Diversity

1. Not knowing what you're trying to hire for.

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Solution: Set a target. 

Having a target helps to make the recruitment more intentional. Articulate what gaps you are first trying to fill through this hiring, beginning with the areas of Experiential or Acquired Diversity. Perhaps it is a language or cultural gap. Not all recruitment efforts will be that strategic, and may simply be about increasing the Legacy Diversity of your team, such as the racial or gender diversity. Or you may be wanting to increase the numbers of people with disabilities or youth in your workforce. Regardless, have a target. If you are aiming to bring in specific assets into the team, this will require some finesse in the job posting and interview questions. 

2. Resistance from those who fear being disadvantaged or displaced.

Solution: Have a solid business case. 

One of the benefits of Strategic Hiring, which first examines the gaps in the knowledge or skills that a diverse hire would bring, is that strategic hiring makes clear why an effort to hire differently is needed. If the team lacks a certain skill, like the cultural literacy to build credibility with local First Nations or fluency in Mandarin, then that ability in a candidate would therefore be an asset. You now have a business case. This is no longer about replacing folks, as it is about filling a need on the team. The diversity business case for greater Inherent Diversity is also strong. A more diverse team is more likely to produce innovation, for example. 

3. You cannot reach the desired talent pool.

Solution: Form an advisory group of informed people. Then do some strategic outreach. 

Either you don't know where they are, or you can't get through to them. This is an indication that you are missing the insider information to reach the candidates you are aiming to hire. Start by inviting those internally who are connected to the group or have the cultural literacy. Then go be visible, be present, in the community you are targetting. 

4. You have an non-inclusive workplace.

Solution: Focus on being an inclusive workplace before you start hiring diversity. 

No matter how successful you are at hiring, a non-inclusive workplace will lead to people leaving. That wastes time, money and effort. Start with ensuring the supervisors are practicing inclusive leadership. Remember, the number one reason people leave is because of a bad boss. A supervisor who consistently acts and speaks in non-inclusive ways is ultimately a bad boss for a diverse team. Employees do what their managers do, so making an effort to flood your workplace with inclusive language, while the managers behave in non-inclusive ways is also a waste of time and resources. 

5. Unconscious bias.

Solution: Disrupt unconscious bias.  

It is impossible to exercise inclusive leadership without examining ones unconscious bias. The bad news is we all have it. And worse, it's unconscious. Even being aware of it doesn't eliminate it. Treat unconscious bias seriously. Get some training and exploit the wealth of free resources online. No excuses.  

6. Cultural bias causes candidates to be overlooked.

Solution: Grow your Intercultural fluency. Make sure your selection committee is prepared for interview bias.

Growing ones intercultural fluency (the intercultural attitudes, relationships, knowledge, and skills needed to be confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions), is a life-long endeavour. For recruitment, it involves becoming aware of what attributes your work culture favours (such as out-spoken people), and considering if this bias will filter out the particular diversity you are trying to hire. If so, that's a barrier. Confidence is expressed differently in different cultures, for example. Cultural bias particularly shows up at the job interview, as job interviews are all about measuring a candidate's soft-skills. Candidates who don't measure up, will get filtered out.

Does that that mean employers should lower their expectations? Absolutely not. Soft skills are necessary to work and succeed in Canada. Don't pretend, however, that it's not a barrier. Get informed of how certain groups struggle with soft skills. In some cases you can direct candidates to Soft-Skills Training for Newcomers, giving them a better shot at successfully competing. 

When the selection committee is better informed of their implicit and cultural biases, they can then come up with strategies for disrupting these biases. 

7. Systemic Bias filters diverse candidates out.

Solution: Map out the recruitment pathway. Identify the places where diversity id being filtered out. Modify the pathway. 

Imagine for a second you want to increase the racial of ethnic diversity of your team. The research is clear that resumes with non-Anglo names are less likely to make it past the first filter. No amount of good-intention can change the outcome of a pathway-dependent system. To change the outcome, you must change the pathway. The homogenous nature of your shortlist might be the result of the system's design to filter out people with certain traits. Keep in mind that the outreach and advertising of the job posting is part of the recruitment pathway.

Another substantial way to systemically disrupt implicit bias is to employ blind recruitment. 

Some tips: