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What to do when there is no diversity in your candidate slate

You’ve done everything you can – expanded your active and passive sourcing, removed every extraneous requirement, added generous relocation packages, benefits plans, and competitive salaries. But, with it all, the diversity is just not there. That nagging thought you’ve tried so hard to avoid comes bubbling back up:

“There are no [demographic here] for this job.”

Now what?

Now you have an opportunity to become part of the solution to address the gaps in the candidate pool itself. Here are a few ways you can cultivate talent based on where the lack of diversity resides.

1. Promotion reform

Due to a variety of reasons, diversity thins for many organizations and industries as you look up the ranks. For example, women and people of color disappear in middle and higher-level positions, leaving few in the candidate pool in mid to upper management. Competing from the few is not solving the problem.

Consider, instead, cultivating the talent internally to draw diversity up the ranks. Management and advance-skill training programs, mentoring programs, and reforms in promotion practices to create more equitable and inclusive choices will all contribute to increasing the pool of qualified people for everyone.

2. Training programs and apprenticeships

When the lack of diversity is not within the promotions, but instead, within the experienced (i.e. those with honed skills), the lack of diversity may be due to in-equal access to opportunities. Without the first job to turn raw talent and skill into experience, individuals are never able to gain what they need to be qualified as experienced professionals.

Consider cultivating experienced talent through training programs or apprenticeships. Be that first employer that takes a chance on people to allow them to hone and grow those skills. Create learning environments that balance learning and contributing, gives people room to make mistakes, and has a well-defined end goal and timeline.

Not only will this increase diversity of the candidate pool, it also cultivates loyalty, pride, and organization-aligned habits for those that are retained from these types of programs.

3. Education partnerships and internships

When the lack of diversity is at the point of entry with the candidate pool of those that have nothing but the raw skills and interest in the position, then the problem is at the education point.

Consider partnering with educational institutions that teach or can teach the required skills. Internships, scholarships, collaborative programing to help teach or expand courses can all help cultivate raw talent. Focus on institutions that cater to or represent the missing demographics. If possible, extend efforts further back to what feeds those institutions. Promotional events and educational programing in local middle and high schools, for example, to expose children to future opportunities in the fields and show them how to obtain those opportunities.

4. Rebranding

When the lack of diversity is at the point of interest – when it isn’t the skills that are lacking, but the interest and appetite to apply, the problem may be in the way the position or the organization is perceived or described.

For perception – some Industries or roles may be so strongly correlated with what it is to be in that profession, that many don’t even consider it as an option so never bother looking or applying. Stereotypes, culture norms, organization reputation all contribute to this perception.

To address perception, consider rebranding. Take control of the narrative and breakdown those perceptions to those that hold them. Everything from social media campaigns to community outreach to commercials can help move the brand. If you know a good Hollywood producer, a movie depicting more diversity in those roles definitely won’t hurt (consider the effective rebranding of stormtroopers).

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