Diversity & InclusionTalent Acquisition

Diversifying Executive

Five strategies with key actions to make the hiring process more equitable.

What if instead of ruling out candidates for a role because of a few missing qualifications, leaders thought about what differentiated value each candidate could add to their team? Rather than treating hiring as a process of elimination, decision-makers should approach it as a way to scope great talent that will bring new perspectives and skill sets to the team.

The current talent pipeline structure -in which the representation of women, racial, and ethnic minorities drastically decrease by level -makes it difficult for organizations to progress their diverse representation at the senior-most level. To address this, there must be a fundamental change to an organization’s sourcing and hiring processes.

The following recommendations are designed to guard against bias and make the hiring process more equitable.

1. Diversify talent pipelines. A diverse talent pipeline ensures that every executive candidate slate includes skilled talent that reflects an organization’s employee base and the global customers they serve. In addition, making equity a priority in hiring and company culture contributes to executive retention, innovation and creativity, and positive brand reputation in a market of increasingly diverse suppliers and global customers. Organizations need to walk the line between taking tangible action to increase representation and ensuring these efforts are made thoughtfully, with care to avoid tokenism.

Recommended actions:

  1. Connect and build partnerships with talent networks and affinity groups that serve underrepresented talent.
  2. Establish authentic relationships with diverse leaders in the industry, even if they are not currently searching for a role.
  3. Identify non-obvious talent pools outside of the immediate industry with transferrable skills and experience.

2. Create a diverse hiring team. Diverse teams are proven to make better decisions because they bring a broader perspective to the mix, push their colleagues out of their comfort zones, and hold each other accountable.

Diverse hiring teams also serve to represent an organization more fully, which in turn can attract more top candidates to open positions and demonstrate the organization’s commitment to diversity and equity. This also helps to mitigate the potential for affinity biases from influencing decisions. For example, recent research among Black technology professionals revealed that hiring team diversity was important to nearly 80% of professionals when evaluating a new organization for a role.

Recommended actions:

  1. Ensure the hiring team is sufficiently diverse in the broadest sense (regarding gender, race, ethnicity, or other contextually important social identities, as well as across internal leveling and functional areas) to demonstrate the organization’s DE&I commitment to candidates.
  2. Identity people who can make strategic introductions to diverse leadership that may be retired, more junior, or outside of the immediate networks of the current hiring team.

3. Set aspirational goals around representation and monitor candidate demographics. One of the most important elements of scoping diverse talent into executive hiring is monitoring demographics. Before any hiring begins, an organization must take stock of its current team and how well it reflects the environment surrounding the organization.

Missing this crucial step can lead to organizations setting goals that are not relevant to their context. If employee and prospects fail to see genuine intention and rationale, the organization risks scrutiny and the loss of great talent. Once the current state is fully established, the organization can more accurately consider future goals.

Recommended actions:

  1. Define current executive diversity statistics before setting diversity goals.
  2. Ensure diversity hiring goals reflect the suppliers, customers or clients, and the local community that the organization serves.
  3. Establish processes to track and monitor the diversity of candidate pools in a way that is sensitive to local data protection laws and maintains individual anonymity.

4. Interview for competencies and assessing values alignment. To bring equity to the interview process, take steps to avoid bias toward familiar candidates. This bias often relates to personal background, as people tend to connect more easily with those who hold similar identities or experiences. The same is also true of professional background, as organizations often set unnecessarily stringent criteria that may disadvantage some diverse candidates.

To evaluate professional readiness, the hiring team should pre-establish the core competencies for a particular role and set a framework for assessing how each candidate demonstrates those requirements. Judging candidates on their potential enables broader talent pools than those limited by overly prescriptive skills assessments.

Recommended actions:

  1. Define key competencies for the role, as well as the skills and capabilities the person filling the role should possess to drive success against core objectives.
  2. Create a structured interview guide and scoring system to support interviewers in objectively assessing the potential of candidates.
  3. Educate and align the hiring team on the difference between values fit and culture fit and prepare each person to discuss organizational values.
  4. Utilize predictive assessments to evaluate a candidate’s potential.

5. Ensure communication is aligned to diversity goals. Communication -before, during, and after a candidate is hired -is crucial in walking the walk of prioritizing DE&I efforts, attracting a broader range of candidates, and ensuring viable talent is not excluded from opportunities. Organizations should make efforts to de-bias all company-wide communications and employment collateral (broad announcements, job specifications) and be intentional in onboarding efforts.

Recommended actions:

  1. Apply neutral and inclusive language in all communications, sense-checking important publications by seeking input and feedback from mixed focus groups.
  2. Design a thoughtful onboarding plan that equips new employees with tools, knowledge, and support to succeed in their new role. This also solidifies early engagement and influences long-term retention.

While many organizations have made notable investments in diversifying their entry-level hiring efforts, lagging representation of women and ethnic monitories in senior leadership positions persists worldwide. These equitable search practices are designed to eliminate bias and widen the net.

Tina Shah-Paikeday is global head of the diversity, equity and inclusion practice at Russell Reynolds Associates.

Tags: Diversity & Inclusion, May 2022, Talent Acquisition

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