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Why Events Are the Backbone of Any Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Written By
Emily Friedrichs
Associate Editor

Even though events are a well-known strategy for some roles, such as recruiting programmers or recent graduates, they are somehow overlooked for other TA challenges like sourcing diverse talent. But events are the best way to get talent inside your doors and interacting with who you hope will be their future team. Events are also a more compelling way to communicate your employer value proposition: curated content cannot compare with the lived experience of attending a community event (like Black in Tech) that is sponsored by your company and is focused on inclusion and growth rather than on filling positions or selling roles.

D&I Goals Have Financial Rewards

There is growing consensus worldwide that workforce diversity and inclusivity (D&I) drive company performance. Credit Suisse and McKinsey have led investigations into how financial performance correlates with employee diversity for thousands of companies globally, and both repeated those investigations a few years later. Credit Suisse’s second report concluded an even higher correlation than in the original, which found that companies where women made up at least 15 percent of senior managers had 50 percent higher profitability than those where female representation was less than 10 percent. (Gender 3000: Women in Senior Management, Credit Suisse, September 2016).

McKinsey found that a company was 35 percent more likely to outperform the national industry median if it was in the top quartile for ethnic diversity and 21 percent more likely if it was in the top quartile for gender diversity. As much as diversity was a driver, homogeneity hurt: companies in the bottom quartile for diversity were 29 percent less likely to achieve above-average profitability (Delivering through diversity, McKinsey, Jan 2018).

The idea that diversity improves decision-making, operation, and results is leading companies to seek talent with diverse experiences in various areas, like veteran status. Comprehensive research in Harvard Business Review found that when leaders exhibit various aspects of both inherent and acquired diversity, firms are 45 percent likelier to grow their market share and 70 percent likelier to capture a new market (“How Diversity Can Drive Innovation”, HBR, Dec 2013).

Diversity Recruiting Events: An Idea for Everyone

Depending on your resources and objectives, there is an approach that works for every company. But no matter the event you choose, take advice from Dell’s playbook and make sure that “the focus is very much on targeting talent with messages of how [what they seek] can be achieved at Dell (“Dell’s SVP of talent reveals key to hiring diversely”, Human Resources Director: New Zealand, 11/24/18).” Consider sponsoring diversity-focused community organizations, but if you can’t sponsor an event, create your own by getting other companies together to talk about what is and isn’t working in D&I.

L’Oréal USA’s Think Tank gatherings provide a space for promoting a more inclusive workplace for underrepresented groups, including people of color, LGBTQ and people with disabilities. These employee resource groups (ERGs) have helped HR identify changes to disability benefits and healthcare coverage so that the company can better support all employees. ERG members have also created marketing campaigns speaking to a diverse audience (McKinsey & Lean In, Women in the Workplace 2018 report). Imagine the impact of Think Tank-type events opened to the wider community. Even if you don’t have the physical space to host such an event, you can always organize one virtually to grow your talent pool just as effectively.

Diversity might also be a part of your decision-making about where to open new locations. Events not only help you build your employer brand and source talent, but can also be your answer to staffing new locations. This can even work for hard-to-hire talent like engineers and coders: Sirius XM Pandora held epic recruiting events that smashed the goals set by the hiring forecasts for their new Atlanta offices.

Six Ways to Optimize Events

Once you’ve defined your event strategy, there are many opportunities to optimize ROI. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your event:

1. Invitations. Post events on social networks and let attendees register using their credentials for Facebook or LinkedIn. This is particularly useful for D&I events because your existing contacts are likely a part of online communities of diverse professionals. Having the event in a readily shareable format makes it easy for your attendee list to grow organically.

2. Branding. Grow your employer brand by utilizing fully-branded landing pages and emails, including custom reminders. Multiply your impact by making sure you’re consistent across all channels.

3. Mobile events app. Managing events from an app gives you the freedom to walk around and interact more effectively with attendees. Choose an app that can handle onsite registration and update attendee profile information even without an internet connection. Not only does this alleviate the stress of a slow network or depleted data plan, but it broadens your event possibilities: how about an event outdoors or one that is combined with volunteer work?

4. No lines. You’ll want an event solution that enables you to capture people’s basic contact information without expecting them to stand in line, and even if your recruiters never have the chance to talk to them personally. Take advantage of technology that incorporates QR codes and messaging capabilities to achieve this. This also means all attendee data is already uploaded and waiting for you once you get back to the office—your first action post-event will be to reach out to top talent immediately, not lose time processing spreadsheets and sorting resumes.

5. Feedback. Send post-event surveys and solicit relevant feedback. For example, asking “Did you experience any difficulty arriving at or using our offices?” will help you to improve the experience of people with disabilities, and since many disabilities are invisible you are unlikely to even know of their challenges unless you ask explicitly.

6. Engagement. Whatever technology you use for recruiting event management, its crowning feature must be painless integration with your talent pool. There could be nothing worse than organizing a fantastic event and then not having the functionality to transition attendees into active candidates. Leverage built-in email marketing capabilities and engagement workflows to help you build meaningful relationships with leads—automation makes a huge difference in making these goals possible, even for small teams. Try ending your post-event communications with a question that invites further dialogue, and always make sure to follow up.

From Events to Recruiting

Your event was a success, and you’ve built out your talent pool. You still need a way to attract that talent. As you move from sourcing to hiring, here are three pointers to help you succeed:

  1. Add personalization to your communications with a candidate. Consider asking the hiring manager or the candidate’s future team, to write a template that shares what it’s like to work with them and what kind of work they’d be doing together.
  2. Confirm whether that talent you’ve sourced is advancing to interviews. You can check whether shortlists for positions include a diverse candidate pool by leveraging analytics and automation as part of a one-platform approach to HR. A leading national bank in Europe has been so successful with this approach that their goal now is to deliver a highly diverse shortlist every time, for every role. They now are considering following Deloitte UK’s example in making alma maters anonymous to lessen class bias. For the UK, it’s already common practice to avoid gender bias in hiring by anonymizing first names.
  3. Define what diversity and inclusion mean at your company. Make those definitions a part of your onboarding and talent management programs and not just a part of your recruitment marketing. Whatever you communicate about your employer brand, your hires will expect to live the same experience as they come onboard.

Continue Building Your Case for D&I

Diversity and inclusion initiatives don’t end once a contract is signed. Reporting functions can help you connect the dots between different initiatives and build the case for scaling up programs. With people analytics, Sodexo found that among their own business units, those with more women in leadership performed better for key financial metrics as well as in nonfinancial categories—such as employee engagement. They used this information in a business case to improve executive buy-in for their diversity initiatives. Sodexo now relates senior leaders’ compensation to making progress towards D&I initiatives (McKinsey & Lean In, Women in the Workplace, 2018).

Even modest initiatives can yield surprising benefits and catalyze larger change. One major US pharmacy retailer began with the goal of hiring 200 people with disabilities for one of their distribution centers. With those new hires in place, subsequent data revealed that that distribution center was more productive and safer than their other locations. Now 10 percent of their employees at distribution centers are people with disabilities, and the center with the highest percentage of workers with a disability remains their most productive and safest (ODEN Center, “Case Study:Walgreen’s Distribution Centre,” May 2017). Start small and track your data to identify larger opportunities.

Achieving your diversity and inclusion goals require recruiting solutions that work with you to scale up initiatives and adapt to changing industry needs. Whether that means HR technology that complies with OFCCP regulations or empowers your current diversity recruiting strategies, you’ll need highly-configurable HR tech. You’ll want to implement best practices such as allowing talent to self-identify biographical data, making it voluntary to share diversity information, and treating such information as confidential so that hiring screenings are blind. You’ll also want a way to easily manage job descriptions so that they are always aligned with D&I. A true partner will have deep industry experience and a customer community at the forefront of D&I strategy.

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