To create a more inclusive and diverse workplace, a new perspective is necessary. While discussions often revolve around executive representation, change begins at the foundation. Rather than concentrating on the C-suite and upper management, we need a comprehensive approach prioritizing equitable pathways for early career talent. These efforts require supporting a diverse pool of entry-level candidates who may one day grow into mid-level and management positions, bringing unique perspectives and lived experiences with them as they become more visible leaders in an organization.
Reevaluating the origins of talent
To holistically enable diversity efforts, dive deeper into your talent pools and sources. Are recruitment efforts limited to a select group of elite institutions and existing networks? These conditions could restrict the inclusion of diverse perspectives.
Even if a talent pool might not appear homogeneous, taking an entire intern class from one or a few schools means every individual has at least one shared experience of attending that university and living in its geographic vicinity. It also means they’ve likely been trained similarly through coursework, professors and on-campus opportunities, which could further limit the diversity of perspectives they bring into an organization.
Expanding beyond a “core schools” mentality can introduce a broader mix of views and skills into an organization. Consider connecting with community colleges, vocational programs and online platforms to identify potential candidates. Creating partnerships with smaller schools could open doors to a less homogenous talent pool.
Rethinking the hiring process
Inherent biases can unintentionally infiltrate a hiring process, undermining diversity efforts. Therefore, a comprehensive review of hiring practices is crucial.
A few questions to consider: Are stipends provided to ease financial barriers? Are housing and moving expenses only paid as reimbursements? Do requirements such as driver’s licenses or personal vehicles prohibit certain candidates from applying? Exploring how such requirements can be financially subsidized or trained can lead to a wider pool of applicants.
Also, are your hiring managers trained to mitigate unconscious bias while screening resumes? An equitable approach requires actively advocating fairness within a team and a commitment to creating opportunities free from inherent biases. Without training, names, pronouns and locations can all become points of discrimination. Providing diversity and inclusion training for hiring managers can help ensure a more equitable assessment of candidates, cultivating a more inclusive hiring environment. Some firms even choose to remove personally identifiable information from resumes to ensure candidates are only evaluated based on their skills and experience.
Laying an equitable foundation early on
Initiating diversity and inclusion initiatives at an early stage is vital. Early engagement programs can be transformative by exposing a diverse range of next-generation talent to potential career paths.
For example, clarifying distinctions between job functions and industries can guide students toward opportunities aligned with their skill sets and passions. Additionally, empowering candidates to acknowledge and be proud of career motivators, such as money, can be extremely impactful.
By tailoring programming to meet students at their current level of development, organizations can establish a more inclusive pipeline of students that may not have otherwise been on their radar. Create programs, events and in-person engagement opportunities that introduce your firm’s function and values to students long before the hiring process starts. Explain the hard and soft skills that you seek out in good-fit candidates so that early-college students have time to build these abilities prior to applying for jobs.
Byron Slosar is the founder and CEO of HelloHive, a diversity recruiting platform.