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I just haven’t met you yet – driving diversity through future candidate engagement

“And I know that we can be so amazing And being in your life is gonna change me And now I can see every single possibility…”

Michael Bublé’s optimistic lyrics tell of fantastic, life changing love that is perfect in every way except one little detail…

“I just haven’t met you yet.”

What would happen to this beautiful future if that moment never comes?

The day I met you

It was the early 90s and I, along with group of other young teen-aged girls, were crowded into a conference room. Colorful packets lay under large nametags around the conference table and on the far end, a small crew of mostly men dressed in blue button-down shirts and khakis smiled at us.

“Welcome to take your daughter to work day!” one of the men said, with a welcomed smile.

For the rest of the activity-packed day, we were introduced to various departments within my father’s workplace – One of the engineering and manufacturing facilities of Mars Inc.

We walked through huge rooms full of high-speed precision manufacturing machinery, large displays of enticing products framed by packaging designs, oscilloscope-lined labs full of parts and prototypes… WOW. At the end of the tour, we came to a large room full of partitioned workspaces. Each cube was filled with stacks of papers, devices, and a single busy occupant. These were the engineers.

Several of the men, including my father, jumped up and met us with big smiles. Then we split off to go on private father-daughter tours. My dad showed me his workspace littered with electronics and schematics and showed me vending machines that housed his designs (one of his specialties was bill accepters that accepted crinkled bills), then took me to lunch in the cafeteria.

So, this is what my dad did when he disappeared off to work – this is what it was to be an engineer.

I had always known my dad was an engineer – though for many years, I thought it involved driving trains. But this was the first time I experienced the scale of design and manufacturing and how the one small part – a single engineer – influenced a large-scale system.

This was the day I met my future love - engineering.

I was lucky. My father is an engineer, exposing me to a profession that still sparks awe and excitement.

Unfortunately, there are so many who do not have such fantastic luck.

I know that we can be so amazing … I just haven’t met you yet

While there are many reasons behind the lack of diversity in various professions and industries, one driving force is the lack of exposure.

Consider the profession you chose and/or the path that got you to where you are today. Who influenced you? Who introduced you to the possibility of the job or industry or discipline? For many of us, it was our families, friends, influential educators, etc. But, for those who are part of a demographic that have been excluded from the profession or industry or role, when and how do they get that introduction?

It’s a frustrating thought, isn’t it? How much amazing talent out there is missing from professions and industries because they were never exposed to the possibility.

So, let’s break that cycle.

Rather than lament the lack of diversity in a profession or industry, lets change it. Introduce your future workforce to all the amazing opportunities.

And now I can see every single possibility…

Just as with candidates, future candidate engagement can mean the difference between fighting for talent and talent fighting for you. And it can be the key to diversity or a missed opportunity. But unlike with current candidates, future candidates may not even know the job exists (let alone the company).

Here are a few tips to help:

Start early

By the time kids leave high school, many have already chosen a general direction if not a specific path. They’ve selected their educational institutions, military branch, or vocational studies, or first jobs. They’ve developed the nomenclature to describe the job or profession or industry they think they want. They have an answer (albeit a rough one) for “what I want to be when I grow up.” In other words, targeting those who’ve left grade school may be too late.

Start earlier. Consider working with middle schools and high schools and engaging with the communities through family-oriented programs. Showcase how amazing your profession and industry and organization is so that kids come away thinking “that’s what I want to be when I grow up!”

Here are some examples of engagement:

  • Career days

  • Open houses/facility tours

  • Demonstration events

  • Camp programs

  • Competitions

  • Internship/apprenticeship programs for pre-high school graduates

  • Career-path mentor programs

Connect the dots

Go beyond the ‘what’ of the discipline or industry to describe the ‘how’. Help your future employees recognize how their strengths and interests play into the position and arm them with the path to get there.

For example, answer the questions:

  • What subjects are important and why?

  • What disciplines should they study?

  • What post-graduation paths should they take and how do they get into them?

  • What is the ‘entry level’ of the career and how do they get it?

  • What steps can they take right now (age appropriate) to put them on the right path?

Cultivate over time

Just like with your current candidates, engaging with your future candidates is not a once and done. Continue to cultivate interest and excitement over time with multiple age-appropriate touch points. The open house for younger children and their families, the career fair in middle school, the design competition in high-school, the week-long summer camp for high-school Juniors and Seniors, the post-graduation shadow internship program. Cultivating future generations over time keeps them engaged, oriented, and empowered as they approach key decision points in their lives that can lead them straight to successful careers in your workforce.

Target intentionally

While the value to engaging your future workforce is demographically agnostic (i.e. every potential future employee would greatly benefit from these efforts), not everyone may have equal access to you and your efforts. Therefore, take steps to ensure your programs are as broadly accessible and welcoming as possible.

Be intentional about where and how you are engaging your future workforce. For example, go beyond the school districts of your current workforce or communities where you already have a heavy population of employees. Seek out the underrepresented and actively include the underprivileged.

When intentionally targeting, consider things like:

  • Transportation: how will families and communities reach your events? What if they don’t have a car or the public transportation doesn’t stretch as far as your facilities?

  • Resources: how will students effectively engage or compete in your events if they or their schools lack funding or facilities?

  • Time: how will families and students of multiple income households engage? Families that have extended obligations or responsibilities? What about kids who must juggle school and work or those who can’t afford camps or unpaid internships?

Bringing it all together

“And I know some day that it’ll all turn out You'll make me work so we can work to work it out And I promise you, kid, that I'll give so much more than I get, than I get, than I get…

Let’s give this song and our future workforce a happy, successful, amazing ending!

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