This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
Diversity hiring is a simple concept: It means creating recruitment, evaluation, and hiring practices that attract a diverse set of quality candidates. It’s not just about casting a wide net or hiring from underrepresented demographics but about removing bias and ultimately finding the best candidates that infuse your workplace with energy and ideas. The end goal, after all, is to have the best employee base to grow your business.
Although historically, diversity hiring has focused on efforts (bolstered by federal requirements) to hire racial minorities and women, it has grown beyond racial and gender lines. There are three kinds of diversity:
- Internal: This is the kind one is born with, including demographics like race, ethnicity, and age. Gender identity and physical capability are also included here.
- External: This refers to characteristics that influence a person’s development such as education, religion, citizenship, geographic location, socioeconomic status, family status, and even personal experiences.
- World-view: This includes political and cultural beliefs and even attitudes toward life.
True diversity hiring, therefore, recognizes these levels of diversity, and weeds out bias where it does not apply.
Need to learn the basics of hiring first? Read our article on how to hire employees.
How Diversity Hiring Helps Small Businesses
Studies show that companies with a diverse workforce benefit from better communication, innovation, and company reputation. According to a study by Deloitte University, 83% of millennials say they are more engaged when they feel their company has embraced a diverse and inclusive culture. This leads to more idea sharing and a greater ability to emphasize with a wider range of customers.
This impacts your bottom line. In fact, McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top 25% of gender and racial diversity were 25% and 36% more likely, respectively, to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom 25% of those two measures. A Credit Suisse study reported that companies with women in 20% or more of management roles generated 2% higher cash flow returns on investment than companies with women in 15% or less of management roles.
People from different backgrounds bring different perspectives and ideas, leading to new innovations. In the sales and service industries, it means you have employees who can identify with customer needs.
How to Hire for Diversity
There are many ways your company can appeal to diverse candidates and integrate diversity-focused practices into your recruiting and hiring processes. Posting to job boards that promote diversity, including career-specific boards, and blocking out information that signals age, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status (among other factors) when evaluating resumes are two examples.
Other tips include:
Establish Yourself as a Diverse Company
According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important to them when evaluating companies and job offers. Make sure your website reflects the diversity of your workforce, blog about it, or create a recruiting video dedicated to workplace diversity.
Promoting yourself as a diversity-friendly workforce won’t mean much if you don’t practice it day-to-day as well. Build a company culture based on respect for different people, the free sharing of ideas, and promotion of people based on merit.
Create Job Descriptions That Promote Diversity
This goes beyond gender-neutral language. If you use templates, be sure the requirements are accurate to the job. Nice-to-haves don’t just narrow down qualifications—they decrease the opportunity for diversity. According to Forbes, for example, men are more likely to apply for jobs when they meet only 60% of requirements, while women tend to apply only if they meet them all. Nice-to-haves that aren’t needed, like “being able to lift 50 pounds,” may discourage women or those with certain physical disabilities.
Learn more about how to write, publish, and follow up on a strong job description.
Have a Blind Hiring Process
A blind hiring process applies to more than just the resume. It means using tools like pre-skills assessments and adopting bias-free interviewing practices. It helps, too, to have a heterogeneous team interviewing candidates, so aim for a mix of ages, genders, and ethnicities.
A blind hiring process also means hiring for talent and qualifications instead of singling out someone for demographics, even if you do so with the best intentions. This is important, as hiring someone because they meet a certain minority demographically can be just as damaging as rejecting them.
What Laws Govern Diversity Hiring?
There are federal and state laws concerning diversity hiring, mostly in terms of anti-discrimination. It’s best to approach increasing the diversity in your workplace as organically as possible—avoid setting processes that largely favor certain disadvantaged groups over others, i.e., transgender candidates vs those who have a disability or are of an ethnic minority.
The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It applies to government agencies and employers with 15 or more employees. Nonetheless, it’s a good rule to follow regardless of your company size.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 forbids age discrimination against people ages 40 and up. As it applies to hiring, it means it’s illegal to make a hiring practice that denies someone over 40 a job based only on the factor of their age.
If you are a federal agency, work government contracts, or get federal aid in any way, you need to pay attention to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The non-discrimination provisions apply to all companies with contracts of $10,000 and more. If you have over 50 employees and contracts of $50,000 or more, then you are also compelled to follow the affirmative action provisions, which require you to set a goal of having 7% representation of disabled persons in your workforce. Depending on where you’re located, there are usually local nonprofits that partner with organizations that are open to hiring candidates with disabilities—they have a database of potential candidates they can refer.
The American Disabilities Act of 1990 takes it a step further. Employers cannot ask applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. However, you can ask about their ability to perform certain job functions.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 is also for employers with 15 or more employees, plus employment agencies, labor organizations, apprenticeship programs, and government agencies. It prohibits discrimination based on genetics, which can include testing results or family history, as well as using genetic information for making employment decisions. For example, you cannot refuse to hire someone for a high-stress job because the applicant has a family history of heart disease.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1973 prohibits treating a woman unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
Many states have their own laws concerning diversity and discrimination in hiring. Be sure to check with your state employment office for specific laws.
Diversity is an ideal whose time has come. As more millennials take on leadership positions, hiring for diversity will become the standard—and that’s good for business as well as society. Additionally, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown changed how we think about workplaces, creating new opportunities for you and for applicants. Flexible work hours and remote work opportunities can make it easier for women with children in the workforce and enable employers to reach out to a more geographically diverse pool of applicants.