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Using Talent Acquisition Excellence to effectively select DEI consultants



We all need a little help sometimes. Whether it’s augmenting overburdened resources, or filling in a gap in expertise, or adding validity to an effort, there are times when we need to look beyond the organization and engage consultants.


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts are no exception. For many, DEI is relatively new with trailblazing efforts and aggressive goals, which is the perfect opportunity to augment with consultants.


Luckily, there are many, many, many DEI consultants ready to engage. Huge organizations, boutique operations, individual contributors, and everything in between. Unfortunately, not all of them are good or good for you. And some of them are not just bad, they are detrimental and could end up moving your organization backward on its DEI journey (more on that in the next blog).


So, how do you find the right consultants for your DEI efforts (or any other effort, for that matter)?


Consultants or candidates – different group, same equation


Selecting consultants uses the same techniques as finding the right candidates:

  1. Identify what you need.

  2. Evaluate consultants against those needs.

  3. Select the best fit.

And, just as with candidates, consultant selection should be as equitable and inclusive as possible, with objective, pre-defined criteria, evaluation questions, and selection steps.


Step one: the need – what, why, so what


The first step, just like with hiring, is to define the need. For a consulting engagement, start with the scope, purpose, and expected outcomes. In other words, the ‘what’ and ‘why’, and the ‘so what’.


For the expected outcome or the ‘so what’, avoid the common mistake of replacing the ‘so what’ with ‘how’. Consulting, like any other function within an organization, is not about the work, it’s about the value the work provides. In other words, identify how the consulting engagement will effect change.


Consider, the value of customer services representatives is not ‘answering phone calls’, it’s to help customers. The value of developers is not ‘writing code’, it’s creating products that customers want and/or need. Answering the phone and writing code is how they provide value, but the value itself is in the results.


And consider, the need of a DEI consulting engagement is not ‘to deliver diversity training’ or ‘to provide inclusive language’. Rather, it’s to increase inclusivity in the culture to drive retention and employee satisfaction or to increase the demographic distribution of candidates applying to jobs to drive more diversity in the workforce.


Note: if you don’t have an expected outcome of change (such as diversity training to “raise awareness” with no behavioral or process impact to the organization), reconsider engaging a consultant. Don’t waste money or time on an investment without return (i.e. no change).


For example:


Purpose: Increase diversity of the workforce by increasing the diversity of the candidate pool.


Scope: Improve inclusivity of the job descriptions, career site, and social media outreach. Six month project with a total budget of $15,000.


Intended outcome: Attracting a wider demographic range of candidates across all entry & midlevel positions.


How: Evaluate job description templates, career pages, and social media content for inclusive language and update when appropriate. Track demographics of candidates before and after updates to measure impact.


Once you have the scope, purpose, and expected outcome, you can then define the ‘how’ or ask the consultants to tell you the how as part of step two.


Step two: Evaluate against needs


The second step is to evaluate potential consultants against the needs of your organization (the scope, purpose, and intended outcome).


Just like with evaluating candidates, evaluating consultants against needs is all in the requirements and questions.


Start with the basics, the simple criteria required for a consultant in order to be a viable option. This usually includes things like availability, travel, area of expertise, basic offerings, and costs. This is the equivalent of the basic requirements for candidates to ensure no one is wasting time.


Also, include any general requirements to do business with your organization such as licenses, required contracts and agreements, security audits, background checks, citizenship, proof of insurance, etc. Initially you shouldn’t require that the potential consultants complete these steps, but make sure they are aware of the requirements so those who will be unable to complete them can remove themselves from consideration.


For example, using the above project to increase diversity of workforce through more inclusive job descriptions, career pages, and social media outreach.

Basic requirements:

  • Available for 10 hours a week for six consecutive months between x and y dates.

  • Available to be onsite at XYZ office for two days three times – beginning, middle, and end of project.

  • Expertise in writing inclusive language in the United States and Canadian markets for descriptions, web content, and social media outreach campaigns.

  • Offers content audit and drafting services.

  • Costs between $10k - $15k for engagement.


For consultants that meet the basics, dive into the detail. Evaluate the consultants on their approach, methodology, track record, etc. This is the equivalent of candidates interviews that allow candidates to prove how great they are for the job. Keep the questions consistent and pre-determine good vs. bad answers so you can objectively evaluate consultants.


For example, using the above project to increase diversity of workforce through more inclusive job descriptions, career pages, and social media outreach.


Evaluation questions:


1) Question: What are three common examples of exclusive content that you find when auditing career sites, what impact will they have to candidates, and how they should be fixed.


Answer: look for examples that represent multiple demographics, are clear and easy to understand both in issue and why it’s an issue and have practical ‘fixes’ that when applied still accurately represent the organization and career opportunities.


2) Question: Please provide an example of a job description you drafted and highlight what language techniques you used to increase the level of inclusion in the description. If possible, include the demographic impact of the job description (the before/after of candidate demographics).

Answer: look for quality writing that clearly conveys the job in an engaging and exciting way with language that balances inclusion and accuracy.


Check out our next blog for tips for evaluating DEI expertise, approach, philosophy, and style.


Step three: Select the best


The final step is to compare the consultants and select the best fit. Or, if only evaluating a single consultant, use the results to validate that they are a good fit.


‘Good fit’ does not mean perfection (this is not a search for unicorns and purple squirrels) and it does not mean allowing the problematic culture excuse (“I feel like they would fit in”). Like with candidates for a job, ‘Good fit’ for consultants means that they meet the basic criteria and have provided the strongest answers to your evaluation questions and will best meet the objectives of your project.


Bringing it all together – leveraging TA expertise for consultant selection


Effectively selecting consultants that will drive your program forward, engage your employees, and successfully deliver on the goals of the project is just like selecting the right hires. It starts with understanding the needs, evaluating potential consultants against those needs, and using the results to select the best fit. So let your TA strengths shine and engage fantastic consultants to drive your DEI programs to success.


Disclosure: We at career.place are not consultants. We offer inclusive, anonymous candidate screening technology and DEI in TA best practices training. For us, great consultants are fantastic partners and change agents helping us drive our mission of more equitable, inclusive hiring. Happy choosing!


#NoBias #diversityandinclusion