Here’s a truth no one wants to acknowledge: If you’re not hiring a cross-culturally diverse workforce, you’re probably working hard not to – even if you don’t realize it.
Think about it. The population is culturally diverse. Even in a place that’s racially homogenous, on any average day you’ll likely encounter people of both genders (and transgender), and of all ages, abilities, sexual orientations, religions, and personalities. If you’re in any cosmopolitan city in the world, you’ll also encounter people of all races and untold cultures. If your business is global, your hiring pool is a multicultural kaleidoscope. And therefore your workforce will be cross-culturally diverse, too … unless there are obstacles of some sort keeping people out of your jobs.
None of this would matter much except for the overwhelming evidence of positive correlations between cultural diversity and employee satisfaction, productivity and profits. That’s why almost all companies say they value diversity and inclusion and actively pursue it.
So why are most of them – by their own accounting – falling short?
I submit it’s because they are trying to solve the wrong problem. They’re so busy trying to find the right things to do that they aren’t thinking about what not to do. For example, many companies are working hard to diversify the applicant pool. But the applicant pool is already diverse – it’s just that diverse candidates aren’t getting hired. I don’t think that’s deliberate; rather, it comes from implicit bias that shapes and undermines virtually every part of the hiring process.
In other words, although companies believe they are working hard to hire a cross-culturally diverse workforce, biases that they don’t see are undermining their own efforts!
Achieving true cultural diversity (the prerequisite for true inclusion) depends on identifying and avoiding those biases. Here are eight “don’ts” – tips to help you stop undermining your own diversity goals.
1. Don’t Discourage People in Your Job Descriptions
It may seem that nothing could be more neutral than a listing of requisite experience or job responsibilities. If such lists were actually neutral, that would be true. But job postings are, in part, marketing – the goal is to attract interest and prompt candidates to apply. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, it can have unintended consequences. For example, research has found that including words that many perceive as more masculine – such as challenging or ambitious – discourages many women from applying. On the other hand, using words seen as more feminine – such as loyalty or collaboration – often discourages men. The point is not to avoid any such words, but to ask yourself whether they are really necessary.
Similarly, many employers post long lists of very specific required experience. Is that entire list really imperative? It presumes that experience is more valuable than aptitude or attitude. And because, generally, the higher you go on the organization chart the less cross-cultural diversity there is, considering only those who already have experience often results in maintaining the status quo. Also, research shows that men are more likely to apply for a job if they have only some of the specified experience or skills. Women are less likely to apply unless they believe that they meet all the criteria.
2. Don’t Hire for Fit
When posting jobs – and particularly when interviewing – companies are often looking for “fit” – shorthand for someone who shares company values and will easily adapt to the culture. Although there’s undeniable appeal in someone who already “gets it,” it also inevitably results in hiring someone who is a lot like people already there. In other words, it’s completely counter to creating a cross-culturally diverse workforce! Instead, shift your thinking from cultural fit to cultural add. Look for candidates who will bring experience and perspective that the organization lacks.
3. Don’t Depend on One or Two Interviewers
I get it: Interviewing takes time and time is valuable. Consequently, most candidates are interviewed by one or two people. What’s gained in efficiency is lost in perspective, though. Each of us sees others through our own lens (there’s that implicit bias), and the fewer the lenses we use the less likely we are to see potential. Including more perspectives in the hiring process is more likely to result in a more culturally diverse workforce.
4. Don’t Overlook Visuals
Any of us is more likely to apply for a job if we can see ourselves succeeding in it – see being the operative word. Visuals are a vital part of the data we use in making decisions. Therefore, adding photos to your job postings can make them more appealing, particularly if the images reflect the cultural diversity you’re seeking. Keep in mind that today’s media-savvy candidates will likely do some digital exploring beyond the job posting. Be sure your organization’s Web site and other media presence also reflect the diversity you’re seeking.
5. Don’t Expect Culturally Diverse Candidates to Come to You
If you were looking to make new friends, you probably wouldn’t just post an ad and then wait for the ideal friend to call or send an email. Instead, you’d go to an event for people with common interests, or you’d join a club, or you’d meet through friends you already have. And yet, so many organizations post jobs in the same places they always have, and then are dismayed when they get the same old results. Don’t put the burden on candidates to find you; go where they are. There are professional associations for virtually every profession. Go to those meetings and introduce yourself. (And don’t go just once – a single visit probably won’t persuade people that you’re genuinely interested.)
But don’t limit yourself to professional environments. One employer looking to hire more women started posting where many women go: daycare centers. The effort was very successful because the candidates who applied felt the employer already understood their challenges. You also can establish relationships with community organizations that serve older people, veterans, LGBT people, people with disabilities, and so on. Also, focus on referrals from existing employees. Engaged employees can be your most effective advocates.
6. Don’t Insist Everyone Work at the Office
We’ve come a long way in terms of employers offering alternative schedules and allowing people to work remotely. But many employers haven’t taken full advantage of what technology offers. People can now be literally anywhere and still connect, which opens up virtually unlimited potential for diversity. Tap into that potential.
7. Don’t Limit the Pool of Finalists
Regardless of how many initial candidates there are, employers ultimately narrow the field to only a few finalists. However, you’re more likely to achieve cross-cultural diversity if your pool of finalists is also diverse. Researchers at the University of Colorado determined that when there is only one minority candidate amongst the finalists (only one woman, for example) that person has virtually no chance of being hired. But things change dramatically when there are other minorities among the finalists. When there are two women in the final group, the odds a woman will get hired increase 79%. And when there is more than one racial minority among the finalists, the odds of hiring one of them increases 194 times.
8. Don’t Be So Ambitious
One of the biggest barriers to hiring a more culturally diverse workforce is that companies set goals that are too ambitious, too fast. They seek to expand diversity across the board (meaning to increase their hiring of women and people from other cultures and racial minorities and people of different ages and LGBT people) within a short timeframe. But such an ambitious agenda is a mistake, because anything less than 100% success will feel like failure. And it’s hard to succeed in any one area when your attention is so scattered. Employers are more likely to succeed when they set measurable, incremental goals (such as to increase the number of women in finance-related jobs by 15% within the year) and then celebrate their success in meeting that goal.
Whether you ultimately use any of these tactics is less important than taking an honest look at practices (intentional or otherwise) that are actively creating obstacles to a more cross-culturally diverse workforce and then removing those obstacles.
And, of course, getting a diverse workforce is only the start. Keeping that workforce, developing those people, and fully engaging them are all vital next steps in achieving true inclusion. We’ll be looking at some effective ways to do those things in future posts.