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Staffing Management: Cast a Wide Net

By Carole Fleck  4/1/2007

Vol. 3, No. 2

Reach beyond the typical pool of candidates to recruit a workforce diverse in thought and experiences.

Terry Yancey-Bragg, a diversity and inclusion manager at DuPont, is also a black single mother. Her mission at work: to create an inclusive environment at DuPont to increase productivity. What matters to her as an employee: quality child care benefits like DuPont's policy of funding alternative care when her daughter is sick and can't go to her regular day care provider.

"What's important to me is that my child is in a safe environment," says Yancey-Bragg. For other employees, such as those involved in same-sex partnerships, she says, DuPont offers benefits "that are supportive of gay partnerships."

To create a truly diverse environment at work, hiring women and people of color is no longer enough. Recruiters say differences also must include sexual orientation, geographic history, economic background, thinking and communication style, age, disability, and religion.

Open People's Minds to Diversity

"It's a matter of opening people's minds to think about why we look for diversity," says Lisa Brusack, a senior national trainer for AIRS Human Capital Solutions in Wilder, Vt. "The diversity of thought, integration and experiences are really what makes companies, groups and teams strong. If we're all thinking about the same thing, we can't grow."

So how does an organization reach beyond its typical pool of candidates to recruit a genuinely talented and diverse workforce-one that feeds the company's bottom line?

"We cast a very wide net, and it works," says Shannon Freeze-Flory, manager of recruitment and selection for DuPont's U.S. region. "When we look at [recruitment] vendors, we look at the diversity component," she says. "We partner with vendors who have diverse affiliates and we make sure the recruiting organizations have diverse constituents who visit their [job posting and portal] sites."

She says DuPont's recruiters also visit universities around the country and maintain ties with a variety of student groups and professional organizations. DuPont managers often attend national events and speaking engagements that professional groups sponsor. DuPont's network of minority employees also serves as a recruiting and referral system.

"Word of mouth from current employees is one of the best ways to find minorities" when job openings occur, says Karla Sanchez, an accounting major who graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and who now works for PricewaterhouseCoopers in France. "Once you recruit a minority, they will help you recruit other minorities as well. If you have a good experience, it's a lot more credible for other minorities."

Companies seeking experienced hires should consider race and gender groups affiliated with that discipline or industry, such as the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting or the nonprofit group Women in Technology, suggests Toni Riccardi, senior advisor on diversity at the Conference Board. She says alumni networks at colleges are also a resource for employers.

But Riccardi issues a word of caution when recruiters hit the road. Companies must take into account the racial and ethnic makeup of the team they're sending out to campuses, career fairs and other events to draw a gifted and diverse slate of candidates. Hispanic job seekers, for example, may question a prospective company's commitment to diversity if its representatives are all white men. Go for Diversity Early

DuPont incorporates a strategy to overcome candidates' concerns during the interview and hiring process. Make sure the interview team is composed of a set of diverse individuals who vary in age, position and tenure; use interviewers who look like a particular candidate; show the candidate the department in which they'd be working; and introduce them to in-house employee networks and policies they're interested in.

"You want [candidates] to say, 'OK, there are people like me in this organization,' " Riccardi says. She adds that companies must also consider their own policies and programs to attract diverse employees. Are they meaningful? Do they go far enough? And it doesn't hurt, she says, when a company has a reputation for being a great place to work.

"You have to keep in mind what different people value," Brusack says. "A diversity of benefits has to be there, and it's a huge part. If you want people to come in from different geographic areas, think about what they value and how they would thrive in that area, from lifestyle to education."

Older workers may be more inclined to work for a company that offers generous health care benefits, phased retirement or part-time hours. Flexible schedules, telecommuting options and tuition reimbursement may lure younger workers, parents and suburban dwellers. Employee support groups-gatherings of workers who share a particular ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or lifestyle challenge, such as working caregivers-also may draw certain individuals.

"Companies have to realize that, more than ever, one size doesn't fit all, that you want to have a broad enough range of offerings you can tweak to make that offer seem just right for that candidate," Riccardi says. "It's really about understanding who your potential hires are and what they want and adapting to that now.

"Candidates are going to want to know: is this an organization where I can feel comfortable?" she says. "They'll talk to their friends and read blogs and they'll say, 'Do I see people like me?' They'll get ahold of annual reports and look at the pictures of executive committees and boards to see if there's diversity. They'll go in for an interview and they'll walk the halls. They'll want to get a feel for the place and see who's there."

Show Diversity in Upper Ranks

If diversity isn't represented well in an organization's upper ranks, recruiting efforts are likely to be hindered. For companies that fit that bill, hiring managers should emphasize to candidates the company programs and initiatives currently in place to address and resolve that deficit, if that's the case. Discuss the idea of using role models for new employees or pairing upper- and lower-level management together in a mentoring program.

Most importantly, build a pipeline for middle management to advance. "If you start to develop a more diverse pool in middle management, you'll have a larger pool for upper-level management when those jobs become available," Riccardi says. "It's an organizational journey and a cultural shift. Organizations that have in place solid grounded initiatives that support diversity and inclusion will be the ones to reap the best talent out there."

Brusack urges companies to hold managers accountable for recruiting and promoting a diverse set of employees.

"What gets measured gets done, and what gets compensated gets done first," she says. "When companies put diversity initiatives in place but don't tie them to anything, when people in the organization aren't held accountable, they're not going to do it.

"These goals and programs have to be set up and supported so a person can see where they fit in," she adds. "The more diverse your teams, the more you'll understand the needs of more people. That's the only way we're going to service our customers to the best of our ability."

Carole Fleck is a writer in the Washington, D.C., area.

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 Tips for Recruiting

 
a Diverse Workforce

Explain to managers and employees the ways in which diversity and inclusion favorably impact your organization's bottom line-from decision-making and product design to service delivery-and get everyone on board. Employees become more engaged when they observe a more inclusive environment. Ask employees for referrals when jobs become available, and consider offering incentives when candidates are hired.

Find new ways to reach diverse audiences. Research colleges with high numbers of students from mixed cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds, as well as women and people with disabilities, for example. Send a recruiting team of diverse individuals to those schools.

Develop relationships with diverse community organizations and professional and trade groups such as the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, the US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce, the Black Student Union, the Society of Women Engineers and others. Advertise in trade associations' publications. Attend career fairs and events sponsored by ethnic, racial or gender-based groups.

Build your company's image as a great place to work and grow. Sell candidates on your business goals and show them how the position meets their needs and criteria.

If women and minorities are not represented well in top-level positions, let candidates know your organization is aware of this situation and is committed to addressing it. Diversity in upper management is critical to attracting and retaining talented candidates. Discuss programs or efforts that support this goal.

Create a mentoring program. Pair diverse mid- and upper-level management leaders with younger or inexperienced workers to illustrate that opportunities for growth and advancement exist within your organization. Role models can be an important recruitment tool in your bid to attract talent and diversity.