Candidates know what they want from employers – and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is regularly emphasized, with 82% of job seekers considering diversity part of an ideal workplace. Not only do candidates value a diverse and inclusive staff, but it also directly impacts a company’s bottom line: Research consistently shows that DEI drives organizational growth, leads to better business performance, and encourages higher productivity.

Every department plays a role in building a successful DEI strategy, but talent acquisition should align especially close with the overarching diversity approach and goals. Jacquese Brown, Senior DEI Program Lead at Cielo, shares some insight on how TA can support a company’s overall diversity initiatives:

What is the role of talent acquisition in a company’s DEI initiatives?

In a perfect world, TA leaders would ensure talent pools are balanced with candidates from all backgrounds and then let recruiters source the most talented people from those diverse groups. Unfortunately, due to talent shortages that pressure quick fills, bias, historical and other systemic exclusions, the pool of candidates has been skewed and led to a need for legal mandates along with other checks and balances to recalibrate the process. This awareness has left companies struggling with many responsive efforts that only incrementally move them toward their goals. To include DEI effectively and intentionally in the TA process, leaders must understand the business goals, create a well-rounded strategy, and continually measure and monitor the process.

How can TA leaders ensure their team is prepared to properly carry out a DEI strategy?

Training recruiters, hiring managers and other talent acquisition professionals is key to successfully implementing a DEI TA strategy. Teach them how to address sensitive topics, like vaccine mandates or accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Understanding unconscious bias, which many companies provide training on, is important, but equally necessary is understanding conscious inclusion when sourcing for applicants. This will dispel the myths that companies do not search for diverse applicants due to a shortage in the pool and that it takes longer to source diverse applicants. That is not true, it just takes a strategic, intentional approach.

What are some recommendations in successfully building a DEI talent acquisition strategy?

First, assess your company’s current state. Companies must know how diverse their existing workforce is, both business-wide and by role. Once the current state is clear, then leaders can begin to map out DEI goals. While it can be challenging to look introspectively to understand and identify where a company is regarding diversity – it takes time, resources, and the ability to see past unconscious bias – it is absolutely essential.

If your business has an existing DEI strategy, make sure the TA strategy aligns with those goals throughout the attraction, engagement and retention stages. It is also important to set realistic goals based on the talent pools you aim to attract. For example, if you want to increase diversity by 30% but there is not 30% diversity within the target demographic, then that’s not a practical goal. Another DEI strategy to consider is the “diverse slate approach”: mandating hiring candidates from a diverse pool, such as requiring one woman or person of color in the group.

It is now important to track and measure your efforts. Most companies have data on where people are applying, the numbers of hires, and how many candidates are internal, but there are frequent gaps. To get a full picture of your DEI progress, you must track every stage of talent acquisition using technology, balanced with people and process. External and internal partners, such as HR, people and culture, marketing, and legal, can also help gather useful data.

Finally, ensure your approach is consistent while remaining agile throughout your DEI journey. The interview process is one area that benefits from regularity to ensure equity for applicants. Consider using the same interview process and questions for all candidates. Set formal post-interview debriefs where recruiters and hiring managers can talk through how they rated candidates. While uniformity is important, flexibility is essential at times. If a tactic is not delivering the desired DEI results, keeping a pulse on metrics can inform necessary changes to achieve those goals.

Talent acquisition is a crucial component in achieving a company’s diversity goals. To support you in building a full strategic approach, ensure you leverage the right DEI technology, partners and consultants. Whatever your plan, make it highly visible, attainable, and consistent.


Connect with Jacquese on LinkedIn.