Heidrick & Struggles is actively engaged in helping companies with attracting and retaining diverse workforces. This in turn leads to clients’ increased financial performance since results are overwhelmingly positive for companies with a diverse board, diverse executive team and diverse employee base.

Through our work and conversations with corporations, we have seen the following best practices used effectively as companies address the issue of hiring, developing and retaining a diverse workforce.

Start with Commitment at the Top

diversity_not_just_human_resourcesHaving a diverse workforce starts with commitment at the top, not just initiatives in human resources. Intel has embraced this with their CEO pledging $300 million in spending over the next five years toward improving workforce diversity.

Create Diversity Strategies That Work

McKinsey’s study, Unlocking the Full Potential of Women at Work, found two strategies of ‘fat’ funnel or ‘steady’ pipeline in the more successful gender-diverse companies. Some companies filled the talent pipeline with women candidates and this percentage stayed intact as the pipeline matured. Other companies retained an equal mix of women keeping the levels steady as careers progressed.  

Hold Business Units Accountable

Diversity objectives need to be embraced throughout the entire organization. A financial services client has implemented a successful practice requiring each business unit to have quarterly diversity events partnering with local diversity organizations, whether women executives, STEM, black, Hispanic, LGBTQ, etc. Business unit executives commit to attending and speak on current topics in the industry.

Set Goals and Measure

The best way to get results is to set goals for diversity and then measure and publicize the results. Silicon Valley companies are taking heed to this advice with the visibility of workforce diversity data.

Interview at Least One Diverse Candidate

Diversity recruiting often cites the Rooney Rule requiring National Football League teams to interview minority coaches which dramatically improved minority hiring. When a major technology company implemented “interview at least one woman” for a highly technical group, it doubled the hiring of women and women now represent 50 percent of this group.

Include Diversity in the Interview Panel

Interviewing can be subjective with people tending to hiring candidates like themselves. A leading technology company preferred to hire a woman for a critical controller position; they had two women and two men with equal qualifications on the short list of candidates and selected the latter. The entirely male interview panel could easily have included a female board member leading the audit committee. Add different perspectives to the jury and listen to the input.

Introduce Diverse Role Models Early in the Interview Process

Candidates want to come into an environment where they see others like themselves. Clients have seen increased acceptance rates by diverse candidates when similar role models are introduced early in the interview process.

Improve Performance Evaluation Processes

Gender bias research by NYU professor Madeline Heilman and others shows that in traditionally male roles, women are evaluated as lower performers than male peers even when their performance is better. In addition, men are often promoted on potential while women are promoted based on competence in the next role. Companies should establish subjective performance reviews and provide equal career progression opportunities.

Provide Opportunities to Meet Sponsors and Leadership

Sponsors and opportunities to interact with executive leadership are critical in accelerating career advancement as Catalyst research identified. Client organizations have invited diversity talent to key meetings and special events with company executives to provide exposure for advancement.

Create a Culture for Inclusion

Robin Hauser Reynold’s documentary, CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, discussed the “thousand cuts” in a company’s culture that eventually cause women to opt out of technical roles and companies. Corporations should diagnose their culture and unfreeze the behaviors contributing to this while applying and reinforcing elements for an inclusive culture.

Think about implementing these practices so your organization can take to increase diversity of thinking for a competitive advantage in the marketplace.


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