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Influencing DEI beyond Talent Acquisition

DEI impact does not stop when a candidate is hired.

I know what you’re thinking – of course that’s true, especially as most of the employee’s experience is what happens after they’re hired, not before.

Unfortunately, for many in Talent Acquisition, this presents a problem. We can control (to some degree) what happens within our domain to ensure that hiring practices are as diverse and equitable and inclusive as possible. But many of us have little say over what happens once our carefully engaged and cared-for candidates join the organization. So, when the environments our candidates enter as employees are not diverse or equitable or inclusive, we are forced to watch them slip away as fast as we can bring them in.

But - what choice do we have?

When problems exist beyond our control that impact our goals and values and mission, that doesn’t mean we must put up with them. It is time to become the influencer.

Here are a few techniques to being an impactful influencer.

Always bring solutions

Have you ever gone into a meeting or conversation or email thinking “wow, I could really use some more problems!” Likely, not. And if you don’t like it, there’s a good chance most of the people you work with won’t either. Don’t be the bringer of problems, present solutions.

Introduce an opportunity for improvement along with potential next steps, or options for next steps to resolve the issue. Tie it to why it’s an issue worth solving and how you can help. When introducing the concept, keep it short, concise, and helpful and offer to continue the conversation with more detail.

Never blame

“It’s not my fault we aren’t meeting our diversity goals. I’m passing plenty of candidates. You’re the one who isn’t hiring any [demographic here].”

If someone said that to you, what would be your first response? Probably to defend yourself. Perhaps “none of those candidates were qualified” or “I’m hiring the best candidates independent of their demographics” or any other number of reasons why. What you’re probably not doing is considering underlying challenges or opportunities to address those challenges. Starting with blame toward an individual or team shifts the conversation to defense rather than solution.

Frame problems impersonally – the what, not the who. Then switch to inclusive solutions – how can We solve the problem.

Forge alliances

Presenting solutions to the decision maker is good. Presenting a cross-functional solution where those involved have already coordinated and agreed on approaches is better. Building alliances among your colleagues shows a level of consensus and commitment which signals to the decision maker that the change is being set up for success rather than political battle. In other words, you’re making it easier for the decision maker to say yes.

Identify the others who are impacted by the challenge you want to address – both those who would execute a solution as well as those who benefit from it. Ask for their perspective, input, and feedback. This will not only add diversity and depth to your recommendations, it also builds support which will make it easier to execute the change.

Celebrate others loudly and often

Want to motivate people to perform well? Reward them. Celebrating achievements is a common practice in some departments such as president’s club and employee of the month rewards. Plaques, ceremonies, monetary compensation, all wrapped in public recognition. It makes us feel good, appreciated, special. It also elevates the perception of value of the work. The work must be important if people are getting rewarded for it.

Nominate your peers for recognition of their work in DEI and employee engagement efforts. If you don’t have an award for that – make one! Add recognition for great corporate citizenship or creating welcome and inclusive environments. What better way to show how important DEI efforts are than to reward those who do them well?

Assign owners to committee decisions

DEI initiatives are commonly framed in committees to make sure that they are cross-functional, diverse, and inclusive. And that is a good thing. Committees are fantastic for conversation, exploration, and debate. However, committees are not fantastic at decisions. When was the last time you heard, “we need to act fast on this, let’s form a committee.” To gain the inclusive, diverse, and cross-functional value of a committee without the ‘indecision by committee’ challenge, establish decision makers.

For each topic or discipline within the DEI committee, assign an owner who’s responsible for the final decision. Ideally, assign this responsibility to a different committee member for each topic to distribute ownership. This shared responsibility will reinforce the inclusion and equity of the group. Set expectations that at the end of a debate or discovery period, the decision maker will make a call and the action will move forward.

Note: if the organization is uncomfortable delegating decision power, give the committee chair veto power. However, use the veto sparingly or it will be the same as if saying that only one committee member is actually important.

Bringing it all together

Successfully diverse, inclusive, and equitable organizations are diverse, inclusive, and equitable well beyond the hiring process. For many, that means we must go beyond where we have control, to influencing other departments and decision makers. There are many ways to be an impactful influencer. Focusing on solutions, building alliances, celebrating successes, and assigning ownership, are just a few great ways to help guide your organization to DEI greatness.




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