With the Great Resignation persisting, the competition for hiring and retaining talent has returned with a vengeance. Despite remote work opening up hiring options to a wider, more diverse talent pool, employees still have the bargaining power and, if employee satisfaction goes down, they will not hesitate to jump ship when a more attractive offer comes in.
Whether you're struggling to fill positions or concerned about keeping valuable talent, proof of employee engagement can be the ultimate deciding factor. And if your company is to compete in the global economy, diversity and inclusion (D&I) must be embedded in the company culture. Considering all these factors, here are some actionable D&I tips that will help give your company an edge in the fight for talent while also tapping into undiscovered or overlooked candidates.
1. Lead with Empathy, the Rest Will Follow
Now more than ever, our society needs empathy, the feeling of belonging and simply joy. In addition to daily work stress, your employees are navigating ever-increasing stress factors from life outside of work, including taking care of family, coping with personal health issues, adjusting to shifting pandemic rules and regulations, addressing widening political polarization and bracing for the latest global crisis.
The starting point is to show empathy to your colleagues. Be an active listener. Don't wait for someone to come to you with a problem—check in on your employees. Opening the door to honest dialogue shows that serious concerns can be discussed without fear of reprisal.
From there, it will be easier to assess the situation. Are managers pushing their teams too far and driving employees to leave? Invite experts to administer empathy coaching and have fellow executives and team leaders join the sessions.
Are people not joining company culture programs? Encourage participation in these programs by participating in them yourself.
Are people feeling unappreciated or burned out? Show that their work matters by celebrating the wins, professional and personal, of every employee. As a company leader—and by being the first one to take action—you will create a positive feedback loop and usher in a company culture that fosters empathy, trust and a sense of community.
2. Adjust Your Job Descriptions for Gender Balance
When writing job descriptions, a manager may already have a certain image of the ideal candidate in mind. This is prone to bias, which may also leak into the job description itself. Certain words can be gender-coded and may sway a candidate's decision to apply.
During one of the sessions for a group I organized for female employees, a co-worker described how she nearly didn't apply for the position. She ultimately applied only because she personally knew an existing manager. She confessed that she was discouraged by certain character traits listed in the job ad, including the word "aggressive."
Particularly in male-dominated roles, such as within IT or finance, words such as "guru," "rockstar" and "independent" can be replaced with words like "dedicated," "sociable" and "conscientious." Alternatively, a compromise would be to add in words that are more feminine-coded to balance the job description. There are various tools available to check your job descriptions for words that are observed to be aligned with either masculine or feminine traits. While it is not necessary to completely remove all descriptors, working toward having gender-balanced job descriptions can level the playing field from the start and help to ensure that all potential candidates are encouraged to apply.
3. Expand Your Current Definition of Diversity and Inclusion
In addition to gender diversity, racial diversity and the inclusion of LGBTQ individuals, D&I best practices are continually reaching further demographic segments, such as people who are neurodivergent or disabled. For example, Qualitest partners with the National Foundation for Autism Research (NFAR). Some characteristics people with autism may have, such as a meticulous attention to detail, are a major strength for roles in the quality assurance field, and graduates of the NFAR Tech program are filling positions in much-needed software testing roles at Qualitest.
Looking into talent placement programs for underserved communities will not only help you fill roles with untapped potential, but also allow your company to give back to the community in a tangible way.
4. Gather Data as Early as Possible
One of the clearest sources of information, but the hardest to obtain, is quantifiable data. When starting up a company, you may not have a designated person to keep track of employee satisfaction, so you might decide that face-to-face confirmation is good enough for a small team. But as the company grows, you will find out that keeping track of employee satisfaction gets put on the back burner when the company is busy scaling up.
However, any company leader can set up an initiative to survey their workforce's employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS). Ranging from -100 to 100, this employee engagement benchmark can help you determine workers' loyalty and satisfaction while allowing them to answer anonymously and honestly. Depending on the industry, a good rating is around 30 and a score over 50 is considered to be exceptional. An increasing number of companies are displaying their eNPS on their employer branding profiles, and high-ranking companies are able to corner the market in top talent.
From these data points, it will be much easier to ascertain how well your company is performing in hiring and retaining talent. And most importantly, you will be able to directly address the concerns of your employees.
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to be conscientious of what each of us as a leader is doing to set an example internally and externally. No matter how many initiatives are taken up or cultural clubs are made, the example of what it means to embrace diversity and inclusion has to come from the top. All employees must be involved in the conversation and participate in the programs, C-level executives included. As company leaders, we must reflect and ask ourselves if we are visibly taking part in these activities. How do we set examples in our daily interactions? Only through our own self-reflection can we decide which way to move forward to create a company culture that removes barriers for entry, attracts talented candidates and retains valued employees.
Einav Lavi is the chief human resources officer at Qualitest, an AI-powered quality engineering company. She has over 20 years of experience in the areas of human resource management, business and finance management.