In the rapidly evolving business landscape, diversity isn't just a nice to have—it's a business imperative and a strategic advantage. Diverse teams fuel innovation, ignite creativity, and consistently outperform their non-diverse counterparts. Yet, achieving diversity requires more than just good intentions—it demands a systematic approach, backed by research and proven strategies.
This is where our Diversity Hiring Playbook comes in. Drawing on our extensive experience in hiring diverse talent for hundreds of clients, including some of the world’s most prestigious organisations, we've distilled our insights into a concise, actionable guide.
From candidate attraction to retention, our playbook equips you with the tools you need to build a workforce that not only mirrors the society we live in, but one that will attract and retain the very best talent in the market.
Diversity hiring is a fair and inclusive approach to recruiting that aims to attract, select, and retain a diverse workforce. It involves actively seeking and considering candidates from various backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. It's not about meeting quotas but about providing equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or cultural background.
Diversity hiring is not a one-size-fits-all process. It should align with your specific business needs and goals. The first step is defining your objectives.
Do you want a workforce that mirrors your customer base or the communities you serve? Or is your aim to provide more opportunities for underrepresented groups? It could be a combination of each.
Your objectives will shape your strategy. If you're aiming to reflect your customer base, you may need to gather demographic data about your customers and compare it to your current workforce composition. If your goal is to increase representation for a certain group, your strategy might involve partnerships with organisations that can help you connect with potential candidates from that group.
The ultimate goal should be to foster an inclusive, fair, and balanced work environment. This goes beyond hiring diverse talent; it involves creating a company culture where every employee feels valued, respected, and can thrive.
The case for diversity hiring goes beyond moral and ethical reasons—it also yields strong business benefits. A diverse workforce enhances business performance, fuels innovation, and boosts employee satisfaction.The research is clear. Diverse teams outperform their non-diverse counterparts. Below is a summary of some of the advantages you can expect:
Diversity hiring is something most employers struggle with. Aside from biases, there are socio-economic and systemic factors that lead these groups to be underrepresented. A concerted effort is required from all involved in order to be effective.
Before we look at direct sourcing, we’ll take a closer look at candidate attraction. This involves everything the candidate can see or hear about your business before speaking to someone from your organisation.
Inclusion is important right from the start of the hiring process. This begins with the job advertisement and the application process. Craft job descriptions to focus on essential skills, avoiding unnecessary requirements.
According to a study from Harvard Business Review, women are less likely than men to apply for a job unless they meet 100% of the qualifications. By limiting your job requirements to only essential skills, you can encourage more candidates, particularly women, to apply.
The language used in job descriptions can unintentionally favour one gender over another. Tools like Gender Decoder or even ChatGPT can help identify biassed language, ensuring job postings appeal to all genders equally.
One way to create an inclusive application process is by including a field where candidates can voluntarily share their preferred pronouns. This shows that your company values and acknowledges individual identities.
You can incorporate this at different stages, such as during applications, onboarding, or qualification calls when directly sourcing candidates.
Your employer brand communicates your organisation's identity, values, and culture. It's a critical tool for attracting talent — a LinkedIn study found that a strong employer brand can reduce cost per hire by up to 50% and decrease turnover rates by 28%.
However, merely portraying an image of diversity and inclusion is not enough; it has to be authentic. Candidates today have access to a wealth of information about companies — from social media to employer review sites — and they can easily detect insincerity.
Therefore, your employer brand should accurately reflect your diversity and inclusion practices. This involves showcasing your diversity goals and achievements, highlighting stories from diverse employees, and making a clear statement about your commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Direct sourcing is a crucial part of diversity hiring. It involves proactively identifying and engaging diverse talent pools. Recruitment teams should ideally implement a “top-of-funnel” approach. This means diverse candidates are proactively engaged, but decisions on whether to hire or progress interviews are not made based on diversity criteria.
By widening the talent pool of diverse candidates, you’ll significantly increase your organisational diversity while always selecting the best candidates for the role based on merit.
There are several ways to proactively identify and source diverse candidates. This can include the use of name lists (e.g. typically female names). Tools like SeekOut and HireEZ include certain filters for diverse candidates within their enterprise plans. Neither of these are foolproof, for obvious reasons.
You can also engage with various communities, both online and in person, that attract individuals from specific backgrounds.
Genderize.io has an API that can be used to predict gender based on first names. This can be integrated into your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to streamline diversity sourcing efforts.
Another effective strategy is to source using anonymous sourcing. This means removing personal identifiers like names and photos from CVs before they are reviewed, as well as removing identifiers before sending profiles to hiring managers. This strategy further reduces unconscious bias, ensuring candidates are evaluated solely based on their skills and experiences.
In LinkedIn Recruiter, you can anonymise profiles to help reduce unconscious bias. This has the downside that proactive diversity sourcing becomes harder. Though, you can work around this by anonymising profiles after adding candidates into a project for hiring managers to review.
Asking candidates about their previous salaries during the hiring process can unintentionally perpetuate wage inequalities, particularly for underrepresented groups. The practice can anchor the new salary to the previous one, which may have been unfairly low due to systemic biases. This is why several jurisdictions have outlawed this practice, acknowledging that it can reinforce wage gaps.
This may, of course, mean that you’re offering significant pay rises to certain individuals, or more than you might have needed to attract them. However, this can be great for your organisation. Fair pay boosts employee morale, productivity, and retention. A 2023 report from PayScale reveals that improving fair pay perception can reduce intent to leave by 27%. By not asking for salaries, you’ll increase the perception of fair pay.
In building a reputation as a fair and equitable employer, you’ll increase employee satisfaction and improve your chances of attracting more qualified candidates in the future.
If you still want to ask for salaries. It’s important to implement measures that mean you don’t reinforce previous inequalities. The use of strict salary bands can be useful here.
Compensation strategy is a difficult topic. You may have an exceptional candidate in a tight market and project deadlines around the corner. Setting clear guidelines on exception processes can be helpful for those times where you may need to break salary bands for exceptional circumstances.
By strictly requiring degrees for certain positions, companies may unintentionally exclude talented individuals who have gained relevant skills and experience through non-traditional routes, such as self-study, online courses, apprenticeships, or on-the-job experience.
This is particularly relevant when discussing diversity and inclusion. Systemic biases and socio-economic factors can often limit access to traditional higher education for certain groups. By making a degree a non-negotiable requirement, businesses may inadvertently exclude these individuals from their talent pool.
Companies like Google, Apple, and IBM have already begun "degree de-emphasizing", where the focus is on the skills and abilities that a candidate can bring to the role rather than their formal education.
Diversity sourcing can be challenging. It takes time to find and attract candidates that both meet your skill requirements and help you increase your organisational diversity. With that in mind, partnering with a good recruitment agency can be a huge time-saver.
The interview and hiring stages are a crucial moment where an organisation's commitment to diversity and inclusion is tested. It's important to be aware of any unconscious biases that could affect outcomes. The more data you gather throughout the hiring process, the better. Monitoring of offers, acceptance rates, and salaries based on demographics is useful during this stage.
A positive candidate experience is crucial not just for attracting talent, but also for maintaining a strong employer brand:
For many, the candidate experience is the first real interaction they have had with your company. The goal should be that all candidates leaving your process, regardless of outcome, go on to become an ambassador for your company.
Specifically with regards to diversity hiring, providing an excellent candidate experience that is fair, accessible and unbiased, will build your reputation as an equitable employer in the market, making it easier to attract future employees.
A critical aspect of an equitable hiring process is the establishment of clear, objective hiring criteria or scorecards. These criteria should match the skills, experience, and abilities needed for the role:
Different organisations have different policies on candidate feedback. However, it’s important to consider that candidates pour a huge amount of time and energy into application and interview processes.
From the context of diversity and inclusion, it’s important to set feedback guidelines and stick to them consistently. This removes the risk of bias or the perception of bias at the feedback stage.
Understanding the demographics of those who receive job offers and those who accept them can offer important insights:
Include a diverse group of people on the interview panel. This helps in evaluating candidates fairly and reduces the risk of bias influencing decisions. It also shows your company's dedication to diversity and can positively impact a candidate's perception of your organisation.
Take-home tasks or challenges can provide insights into a candidate's skills, but they can favour certain groups over others.
Before you decide on sending out a take-home task, consider the following:
Take-home tasks may be unfair to groups such as single mothers or those in economic hardship who may not have the free time to spend on take-home tasks. More generally some candidates are weary of take-home tasks as they've had bad experiences with this portion of the recruitment process. This suggests that these assignments may deter talented candidates, reducing the diversity and quality of your applicant pool.
If you do decide to use take-home tasks or challenges, keep in mind to:
The Rooney Rule is a policy in the NFL. It requires teams to interview at least one diverse candidate for top coaching and senior football operation positions. It was established in 2003 and named after Dan Rooney, who was a former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and led the league's diversity committee.
The goal of the Rooney Rule is to make sure that underrepresented groups have a fair chance at senior roles.
While it doesn't guarantee hiring, it ensures that diverse candidates are included in the interview process, giving them visibility and opportunities they might not have had otherwise.
In the corporate world, the Rooney Rule can be adapted to improve diversity in hiring. Companies can commit to interviewing a specific number of underrepresented candidates for each role, creating a more diverse candidate pool. This not only increases the chances of diverse hires but also promotes fairness and inclusion throughout the hiring process.
When it comes to the decision making process, it’s important for each interviewer to evaluate the candidates in private, writing down their reasoning. Then you can bring the panel together to discuss their reasoning. Bringing evidence for each of their conclusions.
Each interviewer should be given the opportunity to discuss their views and why they feel the candidate would be a good fit, before a final decision is made. This ensures that the loudest voice in the room isn’t the only one heard.
It's vital to challenge biases in the hiring process. Biases are inevitable. We can’t eliminate them, but we can make people aware of their unconscious biases through unconscious bias training. Here are some important examples to look out for:
The focus should be assessing whether the candidate aligns with the company values, not on culture fit. The latter can inadvertently promote homogeneity, while values alignment ensures candidates are in tune with your company's mission and ethos.
Ensure your hiring process is accessible. This includes accommodations for differently abled individuals and user-friendly, accessible application processes.
External assistance can be invaluable in helping to identify blind spots in your DE&I strategy. Devanta provides consultants who can aid in crafting an inclusive and equitable interview and hiring process. If you’d like to discuss further, please contact email@example.com
It’s important to hire diverse talent, but equally important is retaining them. This section will focus on fostering an inclusive and welcoming culture. This has the knock on benefit of improving happiness and, therefore productivity for all employees. On top of this, being a great place to work improves your chances of attracting top talent in the first place.
Monitor for wage gaps within your organisation. Wage disparities can be a significant factor in employee dissatisfaction and turnover. Depending on your jurisdiction and company size you may already have a legal obligation to do this. However, even if you aren’t obliged, taking the time to assess your organisation's wage gap can be hugely beneficial.
Collecting anonymous satisfaction data can provide insights into employees' experiences and perceptions. For larger organisations, consider including optional demographic data to understand different experiences across your workforce.
Employee referrals are a valuable hiring tool that brings numerous benefits, both for the organisation and for the employees. It's a strategy that often leads to a faster hiring process, increased job performance, and higher retention rates.
According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), referral hires have greater job satisfaction and stay longer at companies - up to 46% higher retention rates.
Referrals can be particularly effective in fostering diversity within your organisation when approached thoughtfully. If employees feel valued and included, they are more likely to refer candidates from their diverse networks. By actively communicating your diversity hiring goals, you can prompt your employees to think about diversity when they make referrals.
However, there's a caveat. If your organisation is currently homogeneous, relying heavily on referrals could potentially limit the diversity of your applicant pool. People often tend to network with others who are similar to them in terms of race, gender, and socio-economic background.
Referral schemes can be a powerful tool for attracting new talent, but they also have the potential to perpetuate a lack of diversity if not managed correctly. Redesigning your referral scheme with diversity in mind can significantly impact your organisation. A great example of this is Pinterest, who saw a 24% increase in women referred and a 55% increase in referrals from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds after they offered larger bonuses for referrals from these groups.
However, while encouraging employees to refer diverse candidates, it's also important to reduce nepotism and potential biases in the hiring process. As part of the redesigned referral scheme, ensure that referees are not part of the interview process. This helps maintain impartiality and prevents potential conflicts of interest.
Provide benefits packages that meet the needs of your diverse workforce. For instance, single parents may appreciate flexible options, like remote work, to accommodate their responsibilities. Research shows that flexible arrangements can greatly improve job satisfaction and employee retention.
Different groups may prioritise different benefits. Conduct surveys or research to understand what your employees value most in their benefits package.
Another option is customizable benefits packages that allow employees to choose the benefits that suit them best. However, keep in mind that this approach may have drawbacks, such as potential higher costs or administrative complexity.
Understanding your employees' motivations can help tailor their career plans to suit individual needs and aspirations. Regular career development discussions can help align company goals with employees' personal and professional growth aspirations.
Workplace accessibility is important to ensure that all employees, including those with physical disabilities, can perform at their best. This can involve making physical accommodations such as wheelchair ramps, accessible and gender neutral restrooms, as well as providing accommodations for individuals with sensory or cognitive disabilities such as visual aids or modified workstations.
Returnships, mirroring internships in a few ways, are programs designed to assist individuals, such as recent mothers, in reentering the workforce after a career hiatus. These structured schemes are gaining popularity for their effective approach to ease the transition back to work. They can be excellent at retaining staff who have taken a career break, but also in attracting diverse talent to your company.
Returnships extend an opportunity for people who have taken time away from their careers - often to attend to familial responsibilities like raising children - to reintegrate into the professional environment without feeling overwhelmed or disadvantaged. These programs commonly last a few months and offer training, mentorship, and a refresher on recent industry trends, thereby boosting the confidence of returning employees and ensuring their skills align with current market needs.
Companies, on the other hand, benefit immensely from returnships as well. They are able to tap into a diverse talent pool, often comprised of experienced individuals who bring unique skills and perspectives to their roles. By implementing returnship programs, companies can increase workforce diversity, enhance corporate reputation, and enrich their talent pipeline.
However, as innovative and beneficial as returnships are, they also present challenges. There can be elements of bias or stigma associated with career breaks, and returnees often struggle with confidence or imposter syndrome. The success of returnship programs depends on a supportive and inclusive culture.
Fostering a welcoming culture is essential for employee retention. Ensure your workplace values diversity and inclusion, not just in words, but in everyday interactions and practices. You can aid in fostering a welcoming culture by:
Promoting Respect and Inclusion
It's important to make respect a fundamental part of your company's culture, showing it in how people interact, the policies you have in place, and the way you conduct your business. Ensure that everyone's voice is heard and valued, particularly those from underrepresented groups.
When hiring, regardless of technical skills, if it becomes clear that an individual doesn’t share your company's inclusive values, you should avoid hiring them, as this will only cause you more issues down the line.
Having Zero Tolerance for Discrimination
To create an inclusive workplace, it's essential to establish a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of discrimination. This policy should address all interactions within the company, including jokes or comments that could make others feel uncomfortable. Moderating jokes can sound authoritarian. However, these are often the biggest culprit for individuals not feeling welcome. The individual on the receiving end of the joke often doesn’t want to speak up, and left unchecked, this can create a very uncomfortable environment.
Encourage employees to speak up if they witness or personally experience any form of discrimination. It's important to have clear procedures in place to address these incidents and ensure there are appropriate consequences for such behaviour.
Acknowledge and appreciate the diversity within your workforce. Take steps to recognize and celebrate the various cultural holidays and traditions that are important to your employees. Conduct diversity and inclusion training sessions to promote understanding and acceptance.
Encourage open conversations about diversity, where employees can share their experiences and perspectives. By actively embracing and celebrating diversity, you create a welcoming environment where everyone feels valued and included.
Providing Opportunities for Growth
Creating a fair workplace goes beyond hiring. It's important to give everyone equal chances to grow and advance, regardless of their background.
Transparent promotion processes are crucial. Employees should know the criteria and procedures for promotions, which should be fair to everyone. Avoid hidden biases and recognize achievements and potential equally.
Clear plans for pay raises and promotions are helpful and reduce the risk that someone will feel discriminated against. When employees understand what's expected, they can work towards their goals more effectively. It also gives them a clear idea of their future in the company, making them happier and more likely to stay.
Mentorship programs are beneficial for career advancement. Pairing employees with mentors provides guidance and support for professional growth.
Providing opportunities for continual professional development can also aid in retention. This can include courses, workshops, or conferences.
Supporting Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Support the establishment of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which are also called affinity groups or diversity groups. ERGs offer support, promote career growth, and contribute to personal development at work.
Creating a welcoming culture takes continuous effort and dedication. It means creating an environment where everyone feels included and can contribute their unique skills and perspectives. This greatly affects employee satisfaction, retention, and overall company performance.
Keep in mind that a truly welcoming culture starts at the top, with leaders setting an example of inclusive behaviour and fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and respected.
Embracing diversity hiring is essential for success. It drives innovation, improves decision-making, and enhances financial performance. To start, understand what diversity hiring means and align it with your business goals.
In candidate attraction, prioritise inclusivity. Use gender-neutral job ads and focus on essential skills. Show your commitment to diversity in your employer brand to attract a diverse candidate pool.
Direct sourcing is crucial. Tools like Seekout or HireEZ help cast a wide net for diverse candidates. Make the hiring process fair and inclusive by using diverse hiring panels, challenging biases, and ensuring accessibility.
Retention is key. Analyze wage gaps, collect satisfaction data, and understand employee motivations. Create benefits packages that cater to diverse needs. Encourage referrals and foster a welcoming culture with zero tolerance for discrimination to retain diverse talent.
Overall, diversity hiring requires a holistic approach. It's about creating an inclusive culture that values everyone's skills and perspectives.
This document was made collaboratively by the team at Devanta in consultation with numerous Talent Acquisition teams and senior leaders globally. It draws on our collective decades of experience in building diverse hiring teams around the world.
We appreciate that the landscape is ever-changing. If you’d like to contribute to this document, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Equally, if you’d like our assistance in building a diverse team for your organisation or implementing any of the strategies highlighted, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
Founder Talent Strategy Director Recruiter | Copywriter