Leveraging Diversity Recruitment as a Branding Strategy

First Friday Report: June 2015

Diversity recruitment programs have long been a means of promoting inclusion and tolerance, and upholding anti-discrimination regulations that began with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We’re all familiar with the standard EOE statements and diversity quotas that exist at many organizations. However, in today’s work environment, companies are beginning to look at how they can leverage fresh perspectives on diversity as a branding strategy to recruit and retain top talent. These branding strategies are becoming increasingly important as we prepare to meet the generational challenges and needs of the 2020 workforce, which will contain Millennials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers.

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Discussions around diversity used to primarily focus on the prevention of labor force discrimination. Employers are now expanding upon that to consider the value and impact that diversity of ideas can have on employee engagement, as well as company growth and performance. Recruiting and retaining talent with unique problem solving approaches, varied skill sets and cultural backgrounds enables everyone on the team to gain insight and inspiration that encourage a more collaborative environment.

The role of diversity will be further challenged by Millennials who are projected to make up 50 percent of the 2020 workforce. This generational group is very focused on the authenticity and meaningfulness of initiatives, so they will potentially seek to reevaluate how diversity recruitment programs should be implemented in the years to come.

“Gone are the days of homogeneous work environments, where everyone basically has the same approach to an organization’s business operations,” says Nancy Halverson, vice president of global operations for MRINetwork. “Globalization is the future of commerce, and in order for organizations to remain competitive, they will need to attract and engage top candidates that think differently and attack work differently from what the company has been previous accustomed. Employers that are able to communicate their commitment to this modern version of diversity, as a key component of their branding strategy, will be the most successful at enticing the best talent.”

For employers looking to revisit their diversity recruitment and branding efforts, Halverson advises starting with one initiative at a time. Here are some examples of potential initiatives:

Employee Development Committees – Open to all employees, these groups focus on providing networking, mentoring and career development opportunities to meet the specific needs of various members of staff including women, minorities, LGBT and veterans.

Heritage Events – Typically focused on nationally recognized months such as Black History Month (February), Women’s History Month (March), Hispanic Heritage Month (mid-September to mid-October), or National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October), your organization can use these events to celebrate the contributions of these groups to American society and culture.

Vendor Diversity Programs – Serving as a community outreach effort, the goal of these programs is to partner with small or disadvantaged groups like minority institutions, veteran associations or HUBZone businesses that are interested in working as a supplier for your company, and provide mentoring opportunities that increase the number of successful individuals within these organizations.

Once you determine your starting initiative, be sure to discuss it during the interviewing and onboarding processes. Promote it on the website in areas where you discuss the company culture, leverage it in marketing materials, and via community or public relations initiatives. Internally promote via flyers, email, intranets and internal work-related networks such as Yammer.

For organizations that already have diversity programs, consider surveying your staff annually to gauge their level of satisfaction and determine if these initiatives are meeting their needs. Then look at these programs, one by one, to see how they can be better implemented to provide meaning and value to employees.

Ultimately, companies will have to determine if simply meeting the legal diversity requirements affects productivity and the organization’s culture. Halverson adds, “Whether it’s acceptance of your employees’ race, age, sexual orientation or outside the box thinking, diversity recruitment really should be evaluated by how well employers celebrate and brand, both internally and externally, difference and flexibility within a variety of functions in the workforce.”


What Red Flags Could Your Team Be Giving Off in the Interviewing Process?

May 2015 First Friday Report

During the typical interviewing process, most companies focus on identifying red flags and weeding out candidates who are not ideal. While this is a necessary practice, employers should also give consideration to the red flags their team members could be waving, and how this may be deterring future hires. As the executive, managerial and professional labor market has become overwhelmingly candidate-driven in the last few years, more employers are realizing they must overhaul their interviewing procedures, to attract top performers who frequently have several job offers at their disposal.

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The main goal of an interview is to provide both the hiring company and the candidate an opportunity to determine if there is a mutual fit. On the candidate’s end, more emphasis is often placed on the tangible insight they can gain from the meeting, including how interviewers respond to certain questions, inconsistencies with how various team members discuss the potential role, and the aspects of the job that are emphasized vs. those that are minimized. On the company’s end, the assumption is the candidate has most of the required skills to take on the open role. The focus from their perspective is more about cultural fit, intangible insight and the overall impression left by the candidate.

In light of the fact that employers must now attract and recruit in a candidate-driven market, they should be thinking about the lasting impression they are leaving with prospective hires. “Companies really need to transition away from interview methodologies that are solely focused around what the candidate is bringing to the table, and think more about how they are presenting themselves to applicants,” says Suzanne Rice, director, U.S. franchise development.

Rice suggests the following for companies that are looking to revamp their interviewing process:

Provide direct responses about the role and the company.Candidates will see through vague or evasive responses. If the position has experienced frequent turnover or ongoing challenges, be honest about the issues and discuss how the role has been restructured. This is an opportunity to show that thought has been given to the position and its overall purpose in the company strategy, rather than just trying to backfill the role.

Demonstrate an enjoyable working environment. Candidates are looking at everything from their potential workspace, dress code and how team members interact with each other to work from home policies, office amenities and perks. Avoid any negative discussion of past or current employees, and don’t be dismissive of subordinates who may be briefly introduced to candidates. Use every opportunity to show a fun workplace, engaged employees and why you like working for the organization.

Maintain consistency. No matter what team members are tasked with interviewing, everyone should be on the same page about the responsibilities that will be assumed in the role. If the candidate receives conflicting information about the position, they have no choice but to assume this confusion will continue if they take the job.

Promote opportunities for advancement. Most candidates look at how a new role will provide them with new growth opportunities. Employers want someone who will remain in the position for a significant length of time, but it’s important not to forget to discuss any training or upward mobility programs, providing viable examples of how employees can advance within the company. Future employees want to feel their new employer is invested in their professional development.

Regardless of how your organization approaches the interviewing process, the main goal should be to leave candidates with a positive impression. “Not every candidate will be right for the company, but their ability to talk about their interview experience in the marketplace and potentially disseminate info that presents the brand in a good light, is invaluable. The ‘interview’ should be approached not only as a way to qualify potential new hires, but also leveraged as a marketing opportunity to communicate why the organization is a great place to work.”

April First Friday Preview: What’s your one hiring rule?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was recently quoted as saying “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person. I think this rule has served me pretty well … Facebook is not a company for everyone in the world.” This is apparently Zuckerberg’s one absolute for hiring. Regardless of whether you agree with Zuckerberg, consider your one hiring rule, or even your top three, and how they have impacted the success of your business. Have these rules been constant or have they evolved over time? Most importantly, how effective have they been in shaping a unique company culture that attracts and retains top talent?

Hiring rules are developed to help companies ensure they recruit candidates who are well-suited for their organization. Aside from degrees and certifications that may be state or federally mandated for specific roles, these guidelines have more to do with what companies attribute to successful hiring, as opposed to hard and fast hiring rules. No matter what businesses consider to be their hiring musts, every organization can benefit from periodically assessing whether their hiring rules are truly yielding the employees they seek, or if they are creating unnecessary hoops for candidates and interviewers.

Google is a prime example of an organization that is revered as the ultimate dream company, yet saw the importance of re-evaluating its hiring process. Up until a few years ago, prospective Google employees frequently were required to undergo more than 10 interviews. The lengthy hiring process created a time-intensive ordeal for hiring managers, causing the company to frequently lose top talent to its competitors. Google overhauled its process and limited each candidate to five interviews, recognizing that the longer candidates are on hold, the more time they have to get another job offer or accept a counteroffer.

If a major technology force like Google saw the importance of revisiting how it hires, perhaps it is time for your organization to do the same. “Many companies have established long-standing hiring rules that they swear by, but the reality is hiring is not a static function, nor is it effective if the process deters potential “right-fit” candidates,” says Nancy Halverson, vice president of global operations for MRINetwork. “Further, when employers have open jobs for long periods of time because they haven’t been able to find the “right” employee, it’s a clear indication that they may be out of touch with how to attract and retain high performers that will thrive in their organization’s environment.”

Halverson provides the following tips for re-evaluating hiring rules:

  • Review the number of hires over the last five years and assess how many of those individuals have become significant contributors in their respective domains, or to the company’s overall success. What characteristics do they have in common?
  • Annually consider the organization’s top hiring rules and whether they are still effective in recruiting quality talent that will fit seamlessly within the company culture.
  • Review hiring situations that didn’t work out, but don’t obsess on the reasons these individuals were unsuccessful in their roles. Instead focus on the positive skills or experience that they possessed and see how these attributes could be beneficial to the department or the company overall.
The rules of engagement are constantly changing when it comes to hiring, and potentially so are an employer’s hiring tenets. Halverson notes, “As retention is becoming more critical than ever, the true testament of whether an organization’s hiring rule(s) work is revealed in their ability to engage and hold onto top producing employees that are essential to the success of the company.”