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12 Strategies for Attracting and Retaining a More Diverse Workforce at Your Company

12 Strategies for Attracting and Retaining a More Diverse Workforce at Your Company
Profile photo of Aaron Schwartzbord
Written by Aaron Schwartzbord

While DEI workforce initiatives have made progress over the past few years, there is still work to be done in recruiting diverse employees and creating a more inclusive workplace. DEI expert Roselle Rogers shares her top strategies for engaging and retaining a more diverse workforce.

12 Strategies for Attracting and Retaining a More Diverse Workforce at Your Company
5 (100%) 1 vote

While DEI workforce initiatives have made progress over the past few years, there is still work to be done in recruiting diverse employees and creating a more inclusive workplace. DEI expert Roselle Rogers shares her top strategies for engaging and retaining a more diverse workforce. 

We continue to have a tight labor market, and though U.S. hiring has slowed during Summer 2023, it still remains solid. Unemployment remains at historic lows, hovering at 3.5% to 3.6%. Businesses continue to backfill roles and are also feeling secure enough to add new positions, but with 9.6 million job openings and 5.6 million unemployed workers available to fill those open roles, there are nearly two open jobs for each unemployed worker. 

All of these statistics reflect the labor market continues to be very hot. And even with some cooling down, the competition and demand for workers remains strong, making recruiting talent very challenging (which is most likely eliciting a “duh!” from most of you reading this). 

Despite challenges in attracting quality talent, and talent acquisition teams doing anything they can to recruit candidates, it’s important to not lose focus on bigger initiatives and ideals, like DEI. And, while there has been some backlash to workplace diversity, equity and inclusion efforts recently, a majority of U.S. workers believe DEI at work is a good thing. 

At our recent RallyFwd Virtual Conference, DEI expert Roselle Rogers shared her proven strategies and pro tips for increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in your hiring and employee retention efforts. 

To help you make a bigger impact this year on your DEI hiring initiatives, we’re sharing Roselle’s strategies and resources for attracting, retaining and engaging diverse talent. 

But first, let’s meet Roselle!

Meet the expert

Roselle Rogers, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert

Roselle Rogers, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert

Roselle Rogers is a subject matter expert in HR and OFCCP Compliance, affirmative action, EEO, and diversity; and frequently speaks on these topics at various HR conferences and webinars, educating and keeping employers abreast of trends and recent developments in OFCCP/AA/EEO compliance and DEI. She was formerly Vice President, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Circa

Roselle shared, “DEI and recruiting diverse talent is something that is very near and dear to my heart. Not only because I’m a minority woman, but also because I remember how challenging it was as an immigrant to prove myself all over again, despite the fact that I was already a successful HR manager before I left the Philippines.” 

Rally Note: Circa was a sponsor of the RallyFwd Virtual Conference in May 2023. 

3 steps to successful diversity, equity and inclusion

In a recent study from Circa, the two areas where companies struggle the most when it comes to DEI are recruiting and retention. While 69% of organizations surveyed said that their workforces are more diverse and inclusive than they were two years ago, almost half of these companies said that their workforces do not actually reflect the diversity in the pool of talent that they are recruiting from. Bottom line, while there has been progress in hiring more diverse talent over the past few years, it is still a challenge. 

progress in diverse workforce but still more to do

Over the past 2 years there has been progress creating a more diverse workforce, but it’s still not enough. There is more work to do.

Another challenge is in retaining diverse talent. According to Roselle, many companies are experiencing a diversity revolving door where diverse employees end up leaving within 12 months, finding that the workplace isn’t as inclusive as they expected. An organization’s attention has been placed on diversity recruiting, but not on retaining diverse team members and creating a formal process that fights to keep these employees after they start. 

Ultimately, not enough time and resources are being put on building an inclusive culture, which is what’s needed to engage and retain employees. Roselle has organized 3 main steps to put your company on the path to stronger DEI in your workplace: 

  1. Diversifying the candidate pipeline
  2. Ensuring a fair and unbiased selection process
  3. Creating an inclusive and equitable workplace
steps to develop stronger DEI workforce: diversify candidate pipeline, fair and unbiased selection, inclusive and equitable workplace

The 3 main steps to developing a stronger DEI workforce at your company.

Each of these steps leads to the next, with #1 and #2 being key to hiring more diverse talent. Step #3 is how to keep the talent we hire. Across all these steps, Roselle has outlined X strategies to achieve them. So let’s jump further into the steps and strategies! 

Step 1: Diversify your talent pipeline

In diversifying your pipeline, you need to start by understanding your talent pool, what your current workforce data looks like and where you are underrepresented. It’s also important to know what talent is available based on your geographic recruitment market (For example, if racial and ethnic minorities only comprise 27% of the labor pool in your geographic area, then it might be unrealistic to expect your team to be made up of 30% racial and ethnic minorities).  

Roselle explained how she started the process when first joining Circa, “In looking at the makeup of our current workforce, we found that we were on par with the market in our area in terms of gender diversification, but we had only 9.7% minority employees (out of an available labor pool comprised of 28.5% minorities). We were grossly underrepresented when it came to race and ethnicity. Knowing this gave us visibility into the gap and a solid data-driven basis for moving forward.” 

Roselle and her team set a goal of having 15% minority employees in one year and 20.5% in the following year. 

So with an achievable goal in place, you now need strategies to reach it. For Step 1, Roselle shares the following strategies. 

Strategy 1: Build relationships with affinity organizations

A good place to start is by partnering with organizations that serve the diverse talent pools that you are targeting. If you’re not attracting diverse candidates through your current talent sources, then it’s time to start identifying new ones to go to. Outreach can seem time consuming, but you don’t need to start from scratch. There are existing resources that can help you. 

Identify community based organizations in your hiring locations that provide employment or job placement services for the pool of talent you’re trying to recruit. They exist for veterans, racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, women, indigenous people and LGBTQ+ populations. Reach out to them and ask them to refer qualified candidates to you. Develop a relationship with them so they can get to know your company, culture, the jobs you frequently hire for, the skills you look for and who to contact if they have someone that they’d like to recommend. 

Strategy 2: Seek out minorities at academic institutions

If you’re hiring college graduates, reach out to colleges and universities that serve the populations you’re looking to hire. It could be a group on campus, a specific academic department or the careers center for the entire school. 

Many of us know about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), but there are other academic institutions to explore, including: Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, American Association of Colleges and Universities, American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions

National organizations for colleges and universities that serve and support diverse populations.

Strategy 3: Partner with state workforce agencies

State workforce agencies include the division of vocational rehabilitation, veterans employment services, apprenticeship and youth training programs, technical education services and more.  In addition to that, each state has a job bank and one-stop career centers. 

Roselle shared, “I encourage you to work with these agencies. They can serve as an adjunct recruiting team for you.” She advises that you should bring them in for an information session and meet to get to know your company and needs. 

Strategy 4: Utilize online directories and platforms

You can also find and locate community based organizations, minority serving academic institutions and state workforce agencies easily with online directories or platforms that specialize in outreach. 

One example is Circa’s outreach management system, which helps talent attraction teams easily and conveniently identify and reach out to a wide variety of community based organizations and state workforce development agencies who provide employment and placement services to various populations or underrepresented groups.

Strategy 5: Meet people where they congregate

You can’t expect a different result if you continue to use the same tools and resources that aren’t yielding robust results. Instead of just posting on the same job sites, consider distributing jobs to diversity focused employment websites. 

Strategy 6: Be thoughtful about how your interacting with diverse talent  

Don’t just focus on which organizations or groups you are working with to attract talent, but also how you reach out and interact with them. Roselle offers the example of a job fair. While it may work really well in attracting veterans, it might not work well for people with disabilities as they may be more reticent in identifying themselves, or the job fair might not be as accessible to them.  

Consider alternatives, like a job shadow or an open house. When working with outside organizations, get creative helping them get to know your job and your company so they’ll refer qualified candidates. Job description can only do so much. 

Roselle offered an example of this, “I was working in disability employment and, when we had someone observe an employee perform different tasks, we had a light bulb moment happen. Having someone from the organization observe a job opened up ideas and conversations like ‘I can see Jane doing this part of the job and I can see Joe doing this other part of the job. Would you be open to hiring two part time people with disabilities to execute this FTE role?’ It turned out this was a great solution that worked well for everyone involved.” 

Step 2: Ensuring a fair and unbiased selection process

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have bias. In 2003 there was a study publish based on field experiment called Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakesha and Jamal. In the study, a group of researchers set out to measure racial discrimination in the labor market by sending out fictitious resumes in response to thousands of job ads in Boston and Chicago. Those resumes were assigned either a very African-American sounding name or a very White-sounding name. The results showed significant discrimination against African-American sounding names. White-sounding names received 50% more callbacks for interviews and applicants living in better neighborhoods received more callbacks as well. The amount of discrimination was uniform regardless of the occupation and industry, and federal contractors and employers who listed that they were an equal opportunity employer in their job ads discriminated just as much as employers who didn’t. 

In 2021 a new study was published by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago. And it unveiled vast discrimination from an audit of some of the largest US companies. They sent 83,000 fake job applications for entry level positions at 108 of the largest U.S. employers. Just like the earlier experiment, the researching found that the average applications from candidates with a Black-sounding name got fewer callbacks than similar applications bearing a White-sounding name. 

So we know that bias exists in recruiting, which is why training and up-skilling recruiters and hiring managers (or anybody involved in talent acquisition) on bias and myths about who is a good fit is necessary. It should be part of your recruiting strategy. With that in mind, intentional efforts to balance out your pipeline, making sure that there are enough diverse candidates competing for your opportunities, is important. 

But Roselle has some strategies that can help you make your selection process more inclusive and equitable. 

Strategy 7: Consider your selection criteria

Take the time to rethink your selection criteria and minimum qualifications to understand why the criteria are what they are. Why is the degree really required? Why is your minimum eligibility a 3.2 GPA? Why does this role need five years of experience in project management? Are these really accurate predictors of success on the job or are they functioning as mere proxies for what you are really looking for? 

We may think that a certain degree of proficiency is built up over a period of five years, but the literal five years isn’t really what we really need. It’s just the proficiency and competency. So the more you can sharpen your criteria and the job matching process to focus on matching job tasks to a talent’s skills, the more objective and bias free and inclusive your selection and hiring process will be. 

Strategy 8: Look at your job postings

Do your job descriptions exclude, rather than resonate with, diverse talent? Do they accurately describe the job responsibility and tasks? Do they include gender coded words and pronouns that tend to be more masculine or dissuade others from applying? How about writing job descriptions that make it easy, for example, for a veteran to understand how their military experience translates to your civilian job. How about including terms such as “or equivalent military experience” in your job descriptions. Once you include something like that, now you’re talking directly to veterans and they know you’re veteran friendly. 

There is also technology you can use that will check and normalize your job description to remove language that is not inclusive. 

Strategy 9: Blind screening applications

For recruiters and hiring managers, you can reduce the impact of bias by performing blind screenings. There are tools available that can help you redact or hide a candidate’s name, their gender, their neighborhood, their address, where and when they graduated. These are items that, when you think about it, have no bearing on the fitness for the role.  

Some technology has a matching feature that ranks candidates based on how closely they match the desired skills. This can all help you standardize your selection process, make it more objective and also save time. 

reduce bias during application screening process

An example of a candidate’s application that redacts specific information in order to reduce bias during the screening process.

While DEI workforce initiatives have made progress over the past few years, there is still work to be done in recruiting diverse employees and creating a more inclusive workplace. DEI expert Roselle Rogers shares her top strategies for engaging and retaining a more diverse workforce. 

Step 3: Creating an inclusive and equitable workplace

Now that you’ve brought that diverse talent in, it’s time to keep them. Your DEI initiatives aren’t successful if diverse talent doesn’t stay with your company. 

The top reason why diverse talent doesn’t stay at an organization is because they feel like an outsider, they don’t feel included and they don’t feel they belong. Roselle said, “I know talent acquisition professionals don’t have inclusion (or the ability to impact inclusion) as part of their wheelhouse. But inclusion needs to be a part of your strategy. You need to be partnering with other stakeholders in your organization to close that revolving door. Otherwise you’ll just be running in place, you’ll be adding and subtracting and wasting resources.” 

Strategy 10: Celebrate and observe all holidays and heritage months 

For diverse employees to feel included, make sure you’re honoring and celebrating a wide variety of observance and heritage months. Look for ways to celebrate and communicate these events to employees internally.

There are tools out there that can make it easier to do this, like Circa’s ABI (Advancing Belonging & Inclusion) product. With these tools, you can see a comprehensive list of DEI observances, holidays and awareness dates. Some have communication templates that you can easily copy and paste into an email. 

Strategy 11: Go beyond just acknowledging a holiday or heritage month

When you are observing a heritage month or holiday observance, and you send out an internal email acknowledging it, include a PDF flyer that explains the significance and background of that observance. This will help educate and inform all employees about the significant events that impact members of your company’s community. 

But my point here is there are tools like that that make it easy. And when you deliver tools at their fingertips, you’re more likely to get their cooperation and help them use those tools. 

Strategy 12: Encourage dialogue 

If your company doesn’t already have employee resource groups (ERGs), this is something to consider. According to McKinsey & Company, ERGs help to foster inclusion, improve diversity and promote external impact. 

Another idea is creating one larger group at your organization that helps steer DEI. When Roselle was at Circa, she created their DEI Council with members from all areas of the company who are committed to dedicating time every month to educate, ideate, engage and lead diversity throughout the organization. Their mission is to “help create an inclusive, equitable, culturally competent, and supportive environment… by promoting dialogue, providing information and feedback, fostering respect for all employees, and undertaking activities that build a sense of community.” 

—————

By taking action and implementing these strategies you can make a difference in DEI at your company. Roselle shared that Circa was able to move the needle in minority representation, going from 9.7% in April 2020 to 28.5% by December 2022 (surpassing their goal!). 

Thank you to Roselle and to the team at Circa for sharing these impactful DEI strategies! If you’d like to learn more, watch Roselle’s RallyFwd presentation on demand.

You can also register for our next RallyFwd Virtual Conference, Talent Acquisition Innovation, to learn about important innovations happening right now in talent acquisition, recruitment marketing, employer branding and candidate experience. Join us on Dec. 6, 2023 to discover what you can do to modernize your strategy and advance your skills, right now. 

12 Strategies for Attracting and Retaining a More Diverse Workforce at Your Company
5 (100%) 1 vote

About the Author

Profile photo of Aaron Schwartzbord

Aaron Schwartzbord

Aaron Schwartzbord is the Director of Marketing for Rally Recruitment Marketing. A data-driven marketer with 15+ years of experience, he is passionate about helping companies of all sizes and industries grow with creative strategies and efficient, streamlined processes.

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