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3 Steps to Cultivate an Inclusive Workforce in a Conflicted World

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It’s no secret that diversity in the workplace is a good thing. Having an inclusive workforce helps businesses better serve their diverse client base. Research even shows that the most diverse workforces are likely to general better financial results. But even though most leaders want to make their businesses more diverse, they may not understand how to help their company grow by including talent of all races, genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

Organizations that strive to hire diverse talent look at the whole person when hiring. Their leaders recognize that each individual is more than a title, skillset, or member of an ethnic group. They’re not colorblind or gender neutral; just the opposite. They’re hyperaware that maintaining a diverse and dependable workforce requires being able to select from a robust flow of different types of people.

Leaders are sometimes frustrated by standard selection methods aimed at improving diversity. They bristle when told to hire someone solely because of race and take issue with meeting gender balance quotes. Plus, blind hiring techniques like masking names on resumes and conducting anonymous interviews through chat rooms and voice-masking technology doesn’t eliminate bias. Instead it makes leaders biased to the process itself. These leaders need a solution to make diverse hiring simpler and more sustainable, while still allowing them to choose the person who’s the right fit.

If you’re ready to help your own company become a more diverse workplace, here are three steps you can take to help you achieve diversity and reap its many benefits.

Step #1: Enrich the flow of diverse talent.

Slight adjustments to your hiring profiles can substantially increase the flow of diverse talent. For example, for years a large banking institution had required candidates to have a finance degree. However, they noticed that top candidates at competing banks didn’t always match this background. This insight challenged their preconceived notion that a finance degree was required for success. They changed their own requirements and experimented with an expanded recruiting effort that included candidates with any type of two- or four-year business degree. This created a richer flow of highly diverse talent to choose from and the hires from this improved flow turned out to be some of the best they ever made.

Step #2: Watch out for hiring bias.

Hiring bias can be cunning. Without realizing it, we can pick people who appear to be a “good fit.” Unfortunately, sometimes we end up choosing people who are like those already in the department. This can unintentionally create departments of people that lack diversity. Hiring teams—selected groups with a blend of hiring styles dedicated to finding the best candidates—can help counter this unconscious bias.

This was the case in a corporate accounting department. Bart, one of the members of the team rejected a candidate the rest of the team wanted to hire. Ensuing discussions uncovered an uncomfortable reality. The candidate was different from everyone else in the department, and Bart was concerned about how well the individual would fit in. Was he purposely engaging in discriminatory hiring? No; he had the best intentions. However, his fear that the individual would not fit in impacted his decision-making. By discussing this situation with his team, Bart could safely acknowledge his unintended bias. He and his team ended up hiring the candidate, who became a very successful part of the department.

Step #3: Sustain an inclusive flow of diverse people.

Once you enrich and harness the flow of highly qualified diverse individuals, you must sustain this flow in order to fill jobs swiftly and keep your workforce a talent-rich, inclusive environment. How do leaders do this? They maintain a rhythm in which they’re always interviewing and occasionally hiring.

This method is how an engineering firm I’ve worked with keeps their seats filled with a diverse group of engineers. Every month, managers interview a few candidates for their core engineering roles—even when they have no openings. This gives them a pool of people ready to hire the moment a job opens. As a result of this practice, jobs are filled the same day they become open. Plus, they maintain a diverse company that continues to delight their customers.

Building a diverse group of talent takes diligence, but the effort is well worth it. When you make a point of being inclusive in your hiring processes, you’re able to find the best talent available and can ultimately create a dependable workforce of complementary people.

Scott Wintrip3 Steps to Cultivate an Inclusive Workforce in a Conflicted World
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