HR’s Role in Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Culture

Part 1: Inclusive Hiring Practices

This post was written as a part of an ongoing collaboration with SeeKing HR.

Building a corporate culture that is diverse and inclusive is the responsibility of everyone within the organization and not the role of Human Resources alone. That said, throughout the employee lifecycle, HR is typically both the first and the final interaction an individual has with your organization–so while it may not be HR’s role alone to create your organizational culture, HR is the gatekeeper of your culture.

What is DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion)?

Ask your colleagues what “DEI” is and you’ll likely get varying answers and understanding of what they are and what they mean. The first step toward inclusive hiring practices is making sure there is a uniform understanding of DEI within your organization.

  • Diversity is about making sure all people are represented. People themselves are not diverse, but your organization should be.
  • Inclusion is about more than demographics, it’s about a sense of belonging. Can your audience see themselves represented in your organization?
  • Equity is about acknowledging that people have different experiences and different needs.

Reaching Diverse Talent

A complaint often heard is that employers want to hire diverse talent, but they just aren’t reaching them. Advertising in the same places and attending the same career fairs as you always have won’t get you what you want. To use a real-life example, it’s akin to sending a teenager an email to relay an important, time-sensitive message. Chances are, they won’t see it (or won’t see it in time) because you aren’t communicating to them in a format they use or communicate in often.

Reaching diverse talent is the same… If you want to reach a more diverse talent pool–you need to diversify your recruiting efforts. Go to where the talent is, don’t expect them to come to you.

  • Try experimenting with new ways of sourcing talent to make sure your applicant pool for open positions is reflective of the broader job seeker population.
  • Build relationships with organizations that provide access to talent from specific communities.

Help Talent See Themselves Reflected in Your Organization

When was the last time you updated your recruiting collateral? Which social media channels does your organization use and do you post updates regularly? Does your organization have a dedicated careers site or page? Audit your collateral (both print and digital) and even your job descriptions through an inclusive lens.
Remember, inclusion is all about a sense of belonging and representation–the language and visuals you use to tell the story of your organization are important:

Inclusive Language

  • Use them/they instead of he/him or she/her whenever possible.
  • As of this writing, the preference of the communities referenced is either “BIPOC” (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) or the actual names of the nationalities, ethnicities, or other specific identities that the referenced people themselves claim. Each of these should be capitalized.
  • Use “disabled” vs. “special needs” or “differently-abled.” When referring to a specific disability it is not necessary to capitalize. However, use of a capital when referring to the culture and community is preferred.
  • When describing an individual, do not reference his or her disability unless it is clearly pertinent to the story. If it is pertinent, it is best to use language that refers to the person first and the disability second.
  • Avoid words like “underrepresented,” “underserved,” “marginalized,” “minority,” or “non-white”–they are deficit-based and belittling.

Inclusive Visuals

  • Pay attention to visual hierarchy. Pay close attention to whether certain people and experiences are being emphasized more.
  • Colors matter. Avoid “standards” like pinks for women and blues for men. Also be aware of the cultural implications of colors.
  • Use photos, illustrations, and icons that help your audience connect with diverse experiences.
  • Use images that represent diverse identities, but not in a way that enforces stereotypes. This includes people of different races, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, body types, etc.
  • Check whether the colors you are using are accessible for those with visual impairments.
  • Utilize captions on videos.
  • Use the Alt Text functionality for your website and social media posts.

Create an Accessible Application Process

Just as you took a look at your collateral, take a look at your application process. Traditional recruiting processes can unintentionally filter out the talent you’re trying to hire, and don’t always allow candidates to showcase their true talents.

  • Is your application process (or website) easy to use? Does it take into account the needs of disabled applicants?
  • Check whether the interviewee needs any reasonable adjustments, then remember to make them and communicate them to the candidate.
  • Involve diverse people in the hiring process-including those beyond just your recruitment and hiring team.
    Reaching out to other departments, team members, and company leaders can remove bias by taking different perspectives into account.

“Process” Over “Project”

Inclusive recruitment is the first step toward dramatically increasing the diversity of your organization. Doing the work to implement changes in your hiring practices may check the box, but creating and maintaining an inclusive culture is an ongoing process. Ongoing investment in time and making inclusivity a part of your culture is well worth the effort.

About Shannon Hernandez

Shannon is a gifted communication and marketing strategist who has created game-changing initiatives that facilitated organizational and personal growth for some of Texas' most beloved brands.

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