Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
When it comes to diversity initiatives, there are several foundational steps organizations can take to give these efforts a better opportunity to succeed. The most effective diversity programs are formal initiatives with strong support from the top and cultures that are aggressive in engaging top minority candidates, and then are strategic about developing and retaining them as employees.
“A company has to understand its DNA and embrace the idea that diversity is not a compliance effort,” explains Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “Diversity is a values-based business imperative. Diversity programs at companies that see it as a compliance effort and push it only as an HR department initiative are going to fail.”
Morial explains that American businesses put a great deal of power in the hands of their CEOs, chairmen, and boards of directors.
“Those that treat diversity as a high-level priority in their organizations will see much greater success,” he adds. “A CEO who champions a diversity initiative, is willing to talk about it, embraces it, and understands why it’s important to the company is a powerful asset to these efforts.”
That said, organizations need to have someone in charge of the diversity initiative. This person needs to be committed to its success, and have the clout and authority to make things happen. In addition, companies that create strategic plans around diversity and hold their front-line managers accountable also achieve better success.
“While most companies in the Fortune 1000 do not have an active initiative to promote diversity among people of color and women, there are several companies in the United States that do, in fact, have aggressive, mature, successful diversity initiatives,” Morial says.
Some of these organizations—he lists UPS, Verizon, AT&T, and Pepsi among them—have been focused on diversity for a long time and have done it well.
Then there are companies such as Comcast and Charter Communications that have entered into written agreements with civil rights organizations like the National Urban League and made specific commitments around diversity.
“This approach creates a level of transparency and elevates diversity to a new level within the company,” Morial notes.
These organizations create a memorandum of understanding that the company will develop a strategic diversity plan that establishes benchmarks and goals, allowing them to achieve success over several years.
“The goals and benchmarks in these formal commitments tend to be very nuanced,” Morial explains. “Businesses may have one set of goals for certain job classifications versus other job classifications based on availability, pipeline, and more. However, the important thing is that those companies that have approached it as a business proposition always have better success than the companies that do it on an ad hoc basis.”
Morial stresses that when the National Urban League evaluates a company’s diversity, it does so on multiple levels. These elements of diversity, he explains, include:
- Governance—Is the company’s board diverse? This is an important first consideration.
- Personnel—This includes the diversity of everyone from the those in the C-suite to front-line employees.
- Procurement—This is particularly important for large enterprises that outsource a substantial portion of their work. Is this collection of contractors, consultants, and businesses diverse?
- Philanthropy—Is their philanthropy focused on minority-led and minority-serving institutions in the communities that form their customer base?
- Business—This differs from company to company. For example, with telecommunications companies, who has an opportunity to be on their network? Do they have minority-owned and minority-focused channels included in their packages? Do they have women-owned and women-focused channels?
Morial says that, in terms of diversity initiatives, there are “pacesetters” and there are those trying to get it right. However, there is also a collection of “lip service” companies that really don’t have substantial initiatives.
“They may have a lot of goodwill in their heads, but they haven’t really taken the steps to put together an initiative,” he points out. “The good news is that there are many companies that have achieved a great deal of success. There is a lot of learning, there are a lot of best practices, and there are a lot of examples to point to for organizations trying to do this. Employers that are trying to develop a diversity program should talk to the successful companies. There are beneficial lessons and best practices they can use.”
Morial says one place companies that do have diversity programs can sharpen their focus is by conducting an audit of the schools where they recruit and assessing how their recruiting takes place on college campuses. He has worked with employers looking to boost their diversity, but that revealed that they only recruit at three or four colleges, ones from which the recruiters graduated. Therefore, their reach was extremely limited.
“We tell our business partners all the time that they have to recruit diverse students on mainstream campuses,” Morial says. “The University of Maryland, for example, graduates more black students each year than any historically black college and university [HBCU] because it’s a huge school. Companies looking for the best results must cast a wide net by recruiting diverse students at mainstream schools, HBCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions, and others. Companies have to be aggressive and intentional about their diversity recruiting efforts.”
It’s also important for companies to make their campus partners aware that they want to engage and recruit diverse candidates. To this end, some companies have made minority student organizations and fraternities and sororities part of their recruiting networks on campus, in addition to career services and key faculty members. This targeted approach gets the word out about the company’s campus events to boost attendance among minority candidates.
Another agency is working with the National Urban League to identify a combination of campuses—both historically black and majority campuses—and then market and hold information forums during which representatives talk to students of color about careers in housing, real estate, banking, and finance.
“We are trying to interest diverse students in these industries, answer their questions, and help them overcome some of their hesitancies and trepidations,” Morial says. “This goes beyond just showing up, putting up a table, and hoping some students come by. We’ve had a lot of success with this approach in terms of sparking interest.”
Morial says it makes a difference to young people that a company is committed to diversity. The data support this. In NACE’s 2018 Student Survey, 90 percent of African-American and 82 percent of Hispanic-American college bachelor’s degree students across all class levels indicate that working for a diversity-conscious employer is “very” or “extremely” important to them.
“It’s a positive thing for a company to say it’s an equal opportunity employer and it has a commitment to diversity,” Morial says. “In addition to saying it pays well, it has good benefits, and it has good career advancement, it’s important for young people to hear that a company has a commitment to diversity, has affinity groups, has a support system, matches hires with mentors or coaches, and more.”
He says it’s even better if the recruiters who deliver this message to candidates are, themselves, diverse. They can tell their story firsthand about what it’s like to work for the employer, the organization’s culture, and the life in a job’s location.
These components and considerations—when applied to existing or burgeoning programs—can help to accelerate diversity both within an organization and beyond its own walls.
“Business is in a unique position to lead the way for America when it comes to diversity,” Morial says. “Companies that have a strong focus on diversity can show that it has enhanced their operations, and that they’re more profitable and successful than ever. There is momentum building in this area.”