Creative businesses are successful businesses. However, simply adding MBAs to your payroll won’t deliver innovation. Creativity emerges from diverse company cultures that harness as many viewpoints as possible.
According to McKinsey, the top quartile of diverse companies outperform competitors by 33%. Evidence also suggests that inclusive strategies result in better decision-making 87% of the time. Basically, diversity makes companies sharper and more efficient.
Steve Jobs said it best when he said, “The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” The same applies to marketing apparel, selling accounting services, or, as we know, providing recruitment services.
However, hiring a more diverse workforce with the necessary skills is easier said than done. But you can make huge strides with a diversity recruiting strategy. Here’s how to make diversity work for you.
TL;DR — Key Takeaways
Diversity matters because it’s associated with higher productivity and profitability. Candidates report that diverse companies are more attractive employers. For businesses, hiring more diverse candidates boosts retention rates, leads to more innovative thinking, and helps build an inclusive workplace culture.
Businesses cannot simply hire individuals because they come from a protected group. Savvy companies boost diversity by making application processes fair for everyone. This approach meets Equal Employment Opportunity regulations and avoids reverse discrimination.
Tools to neutralize bias include blind resume assessments, objective skills tests, and using a diverse range of talent pools. Interview structures should remove bias and make every candidate comfortable, while job ads and descriptions should use neutral language wherever possible.
What is diversity hiring?
Diversity hiring is the process of recruiting employees without applying unconscious bias. Done well, the process boosts workforce diversity while ensuring companies have the right blend of skills to meet business objectives.
We might not want to admit it, but everyone is prone to bias, even during what might be a seemingly “fair” hiring process. Even the most experienced recruiters might unconsciously privilege certain candidates based on their prior experience or educational background. Or, they may subconsciously discard candidates from different backgrounds.
Diversity hiring neutralizes biases related to age, ethnicity, religion, disability, and gender. HR teams assess candidates objectively, considering the skills and qualities required for the position. Underrepresented candidates have the same chance to shine as everyone else.
Before we discuss the benefits of diverse organizations and offer some tips for building a diverse candidate pool and reaching your diversity hiring goals, let’s clear up some misconceptions and define key terms.
Diversity vs. inclusion
Browse an HR blog or two, and you’ll quickly see that the words diversity and inclusion in recruiting often go together. There’s a reason for this, but the two terms don’t actually mean the same thing.
Diversity hiring refers to the processes and tools we use when building a diverse workforce. It’s a strategic approach to the recruitment process, not an overarching theme for all areas of business organization.
Inclusion is an ongoing task that extends beyond the goal to recruit diverse candidates. Inclusive companies develop policies and processes that contribute to cultivating diverse teams. For example, they might schedule work events to celebrate different cultures or implement cultural competence training.
Diversity hiring vs. diversity hire
Another key distinction is between diversity hiring and diversity hires. Superficially, the two terms are almost identical, but they refer to different workplace concepts.
Diversity hiring is a systematic process that applies unbiased candidate assessments to source candidates with the skills companies need.
A diversity hire is an individual recruited to meet diversity quotas or tick HR boxes. They may have the required skills and suit the organizational culture, but without the right recruitment metrics and policies in place, a “diversity hire” usually happens more by accident than design.
Diversity hires also tend to face additional challenges in the workplace. Employees from different backgrounds might feel under increased pressure to deliver, and they might feel more like a statistic than a human being — hardly a recipe for productivity and employee retention.
Diversity hiring helps leadership teams avoid this situation. With the right diversity and inclusion strategy, recruiters use techniques like skills tests to assess candidates, and HR teams use unconscious bias training to fine-tune their interviews and resume analysis.
The benefits of hiring a diverse workforce
You might still be wondering what makes diversity hiring important. After all, overhauling recruitment, building inclusion strategies, and training staff to overcome biases is hard work.
Before we explore diversity recruiting in practice, it’s important to understand why diversity and inclusion are critical parts of business success. Several studies and reports confirm the value of workplace diversity, but here are some figures that we find particularly persuasive:
The 25% most ethnically diverse companies are 33% more likely to enjoy industry-leading profitability [LSE Business Review]
76% of job seekers see workforce diversity as an important factor when applying for positions [Glassdoor]
39% of qualified candidates have turned down job offers due to a lack of diverse talent at potential workplaces [McKinsey]
Companies with above-average diversity report 19% higher innovation revenues [Harvard Business Review]
Financial companies with above-average gender diversity outperform less diverse competitors by 8.3%. In healthcare, the figure is 9%, while real estate companies see an 8.2% dividend [Morgan Stanley]
Other stats show there is plenty of room for diversity hiring to make a significant impact:
20% of workers at major US companies come from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared with 41% of the overall population [McKinsey]
Just 13% of UK and US executives come from ethnic minority backgrounds [McKinsey]
71% of black and 72% of Hispanic workers think employers should do more to promote diverse workforces [Glassdoor]
28% of US executives are female, but 75% of female employees under 30 aspire to be senior leaders [McKinsey]
The takeaway from those numbers is simple: diversity delivers financial and organizational rewards, and there is a lot of scope to capitalize on those benefits. But you can only achieve this by blending representation and talent acquisition.
Is diversity hiring legal?
For decades, recruiters drifted towards affirmative action to solve racial or gender disparities. HR teams set quotas and created training programs for underrepresented groups.
Critics often accused recruiters (and still do) of hiring minority employees at the expense of others (generally middle-aged white men). The idea of “reverse discrimination” argues that employers favor groups or special interests, skewing their recruitment processes to meet social or political goals.
A June 2023 Supreme Court case struck down “race-based admissions programs” to US colleges. Soon after, 13 attorney generals wrote a letter to Fortune 100 CEOs. The AGs stated that companies “must overcome…underlying bias and treat all employees, all applicants, and all contractors equally, without regard for race.”
Understandably, these developments raise questions about whether diversity hiring is legal. The good news is that the answer is yes — it is legal, provided companies adopt the correct procedures.
Existing laws like the 1964 Civil Rights Act compel companies to treat applicants equally. Recruiters are free to hire disabled workers over the able-bodied or to shortlist only qualified women.
But here’s the kicker: you cannot hire people from protected groups only based on their ethnic origins or other personal characteristics. You need a robust justification based on the role and skill requirements. Anything else is discrimination.
Confused? Let’s quickly explore some anti-discrimination laws to understand who they protect and what employers need to know.
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) manages a suite of laws that seek to prevent discrimination at work. EEO includes the hiring process, workplace compensation, promotion, and assigning workloads.
Under Equal Employment Opportunity laws, companies cannot discriminate against individuals based on:
National origin or ethnicity
Gender or sexual orientation
Disability (physical or mental)
The consequences of ignoring EEO legislation are severe. In 2021, Wal-Mart received a $125 million fine for discriminating against an employee with Down syndrome.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act has protected disability rights since 1990 and extends protected status to those with physical and mental disabilities (listed as conditions that “substantially limit one or more major life activities”). Employers must avoid discrimination when hiring and take reasonable steps to accommodate disabled employees at work.
Employment Equality Directive
The EED is the European Union’s version of EEO. As in the USA, European employers must make accommodations for all employees. Companies must also create and apply policies to prevent victimization, harassment, and discrimination.
Racial Equality Directive
The EU’s Racial Equality Directive (RED) complements the EED. The RED prohibits discrimination based on race and mandates support for victims of racial discrimination or harassment. Companies also need to quickly remedy any instances of victimization, whether individual or systemic.
Gender Equality Directive
The Gender Equality Directive (GED) prohibits gender-based discrimination across the EU. Candidates should be treated equally during recruitment, promotion procedures, or everyday work, regardless of their gender.
The GED includes provisions to enforce gender-neutral wording and imagery in job advertisements. It enforces neutrality throughout the recruitment pipeline — another good reason to create a diversity hiring strategy that minimizes bias at every stage.
8 tips for hiring diverse candidates
If you’re reading this, we have no doubt you’re a great person. But even the best of us can lose objectivity when sifting through resumes or grading video interviews. That’s just who we are.
Diversity hiring offers some simple ways to hack this tendency toward bias. The tips below will help you harness your team’s assessment capabilities and create more inclusive hiring practices.
1. Get creative with candidate sourcing
Let’s start with one of the core ideas of diversity hiring: If you can’t reach diverse groups of prospective candidates, you won’t ever be able to promote diversity in your workplace. Therefore, candidate sourcing is where diversity recruiting starts.
Start by researching job boards and online platforms. Instead of relying on Indeed, look at specialist diversity job boards like Diversity.com or Workplacediversity.com. These platforms tend to attract skilled individuals looking for diversity-conscious employers.
Social media campaigns on Instagram or Twitter could also be worth exploring. Time-poor younger audiences notice ads in their feeds but ignore traditional recruitment platforms. They respond well to video content showcasing existing diversity practices.
It also helps to attend recruitment events that attract diverse attendees. These events could be in person, but groups like Work Without Limits also run virtual recruitment fairs — a great way to attract those with disabilities.
Companies can also establish mutually beneficial links with diversity advocates or community groups. For instance, Lady Bird Talent runs Hire Women Week in January and promotes careers for women and non-binary folks all year round.
You can also leverage internal resources to attract diverse talent and build a diverse talent pool for future hiring initiatives. Existing employees from diverse backgrounds may have contacts with the skills you need. Generous referral programs provide employee incentives to mine their friend lists, easing the load on recruitment teams.
2. Use blind hiring tools
Another critical task when hiring diverse teams is removing sources of bias. And we get it; neutralizing bias isn’t easy. However, a good hiring manager can make progress by using blind hiring tools during the candidate screening phase.
One great thing about this kind of software is the ability to anonymize information during the hiring process. HR professionals begin to make judgments when they see names, gender identifiers, and facial and body images. Remove personal identifiers at the start of the screening process and focus on content like skills and qualifications.
You can take blind hiring further with skills tests or blind auditions, which provide proof of competence without disclosing identifying information. Symphony orchestras use this technique to capture virtuosos from all genders and ethnic backgrounds, but it applies across the board.
3. Revise job descriptions
Read through some of your past job descriptions, ideally for recruitment processes that failed to deliver diverse employees. Do they contain biased terms like “hard-hitting” (which could sound excessively macho) or “dynamic” (which could deter older applicants)?
Use inclusive language and focus on core candidate requirements. Foreground necessary skills and qualifications for job performance. Use appealing language to describe role responsibilities.
Keep things lean. Don’t overburden the text with requirements. Studies suggest that men happily apply for roles where they meet 60% of requirements, but for women, the figure is close to 100%. Adding too many “nice to haves” deters less confident people — a huge diversity hiring snafu.
Instead of requirements, highlight your commitment to hiring diversity and inclusion. 70% of job seekers prefer companies that value diversity. First impressions matter, so sell your values in the job description.
Don’t leave descriptions up to HR teams alone. Invite feedback from members of your diverse workforce. They often identify problematic language and suggest ideas to communicate with underrepresented groups.
4. Implement skills testing
Skills testing is the best way to remove bias from candidate assessments. Anonymized tests evaluate role-related skills and competencies, so recruiters can shortlist candidates based purely on concrete skills.
When creating tests, check for biases that steer candidates in certain directions. Tests must focus on standardized skills and use neutral language. Every candidate should have the same experience and chances of success.
If your tests include scenarios, try to make them diverse and inclusive. Build problem-solving or critical thinking assignments around real-world workplace challenges. Scenarios should flow from the job description while avoiding culturally specific references.
Timing the test also matters. Never schedule tests after HR teams have seen candidate resumes. Tests should precede direct interaction, providing objective data to inform candidate selections.
Regardless of your hiring practices, it’s always a good idea to provide transparent feedback to applicants. Candidates appreciate honesty and clarity. If they move to the next stage, candidates will remain engaged. Unsuccessful applicants will stay in your talent pool and are likely to re-apply in the future.
5. Develop a diverse employer brand
Poor brand reputation can sink diversity hiring efforts from the outset. Potential candidates don’t exist in a vacuum. They constantly form opinions about companies based on stories or (in the worst cases) scandals. Positive brand narratives make it much easier to reach diverse candidates.
Make diversity and inclusion campaigns a core part of your employer brand. Showcase how you promote an inclusive workforce — ideally via employee stories and shareable social media content. For instance, show how your Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) contribute to a welcoming, inclusive environment. Tell positive stories about the achievements of diverse employees.
Let candidates know if you engage with diversity charities or advocate groups. Shout about your training programs and promotion pathways. There’s so much branding potential. The way you tell stories matters in a social media-driven recruiting world.
6. Use a diverse interview team
Here’s an obvious fact that even hiring experts often miss: a homogenous hiring team produces homogenous results. Diverse recruitment teams are much more likely to hire a wider range of qualified candidates.
Take a look at your recruiting and hiring practices. Do recruiting panels reflect the diversity within your organization? Are you bringing many perspectives and experiences to bear when hiring candidates?
Diversifying panels makes a big difference. When Intel required panels to include at least two women or employees from minority groups, hiring diversity soared from 31% to 45%.
Sometimes, organizations struggle to diversify panels due to a lack of resources. In that case, training recruitment staff to understand the roots of unconscious biases is essential. Recruitment policies should also define neutral interview processes that treat all candidates equally.
During the interview, focus on behavioral interview questions that assess skills or qualities applicants will add to your company culture. Talking about experience or qualifications is fine, but it can bring biases into play.
7. Stick to structured interviews
The interview process should be structured and standardized. Don’t give your hiring team the freedom to improvise questions unless absolutely necessary. Use pre-defined interview questions and a standard scorecard for all applicants.
Stick to role-related questions during interviews. Ask about candidate skills and competencies that make them a good fit for your organization. Situational questions are also handy. They ask candidates to role-play relevant scenarios, providing valuable information about how they would respond to workplace challenges.
Avoid wide-ranging or vague questions. These questions suit confident candidates but can confuse and alienate others. The feedback they generate is also hard to evaluate fairly. Stick to strategic interview questions that assess core competencies and rate candidates based on predetermined criteria.
8. Measure diversity hiring metrics
Diversity metrics fall under two categories: metrics related to the hiring process and workplace diversity metrics. Covering both areas gives you a pretty good idea of whether your diversity recruitment strategy is on point or needs some work.
During the recruitment process, collect data about applicant backgrounds. Record the number and percentage of candidates from minority backgrounds, women, and those with disabilities.
Don’t stop there, though. Interview-to-hire ratios track whether candidates are proceeding through the recruitment pipeline. Acceptance rates also tell you whether applicants are excited by your culture and working environment. If not, you may need to find better ways to sell your company to diverse hires.
Operational key performance indicators include the percentage of employees from diverse backgrounds and diversity at executive or managerial tiers. Set targets if necessary, but don’t just hire to meet those targets. Stay focused on objectively measuring candidate skills.
Establishing workforce diversity as a strategic goal is preferable to simple targets. Make diversity a core value, integrated into every aspect of your business culture. Share metrics with employees. Gather internal feedback and ask for suggestions.
Build diverse teams with Toggl Hire
In today’s economy, diverse companies are strong companies. Organizations that incorporate different perspectives make better decisions and tailor their products to broader audiences. Valuing diversity also builds internal cultures of cooperation and empathy — the best foundation for productive teamwork.
Achieving diversity is tougher than singing its praises, though. However, you can make huge strides towards a more varied workforce with a diversity-focused recruiting strategy and the right tools, like Toggl Hire.
Use our skills tests to create neutral assessments for fair hiring. Tailor tests to different roles and search for core competencies that suit your company culture. Stay in control with our applicant tracking system, and deploy unbiased homework assignments to test situational skills.
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.