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Solving Organizational Diversity Is Still an Issue: The Cost Is Steep, But the Rewards Are High This article includes information about the costs for failing to solve organization diversity issues and the simple tactics that can resolve them.

By Maryam Ishani Thompson Edited by Joseph Shults

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Despite all the advocacy and awareness to improve employment equality and inclusion standards in the workplace, the hard numbers for diversity in hiring are still quite poor. Yet, it is one of the most damning errors a company can make, especially when seeking investment and partnerships. Beyonce famously walked out of a meeting about a potential collaboration with Reebok over a lack of diversity in their team.

This isn't just about appearances. Leading companies cannot shirk these questions any longer. A lack of diversity costs money. Diverse organizations are more efficient, innovative, perform better financially and have higher levels of employee engagement.

McKinsey's annual report, "Delivering through Diversity" consistently shows that organizations with gender-diverse management were 21% more likely to experience above-average profits. Whilst companies with a more culturally and ethnically diverse executive team were 33% more likely to see better-than-average profits. This figure grows to 43% when the board of director level is also diverse with regard to gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

  • Companies with diverse management teams report 19% higher revenues

  • Companies with diverse teams are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their markets

  • 67% of candidates say diversity is an important factor when evaluating a company

  • 85% of CEOs say improving the diversity of their workforce improved their bottom lines

Related: Board Diversity: Why It's More Important Than Ever

Most recruiters and managers would agree that a diverse team helps companies be more innovative, creative and achieve better results.

Even with all these obvious benefits and the best of intentions in hiring there are still common mistakes in a recruitment process which can allow for underlying biases to be introduced:

  • Hiring managers or recruiters can discourage applicants using gendered or ageist terms in job descriptions.

  • Large volumes of applicants often lead to screening CVs for advanced job titles and big brand company names while favoring certain universities or education providers even when there is no need for the role.

  • Managers can unconsciously filter applicants in favor of names that sound male and white.

  • Managers can allow any one of a 100 different forms of cognitive biases like confirmation bias, affinity bias or status quo bias to filter applicants.

Not finding a way around these challenges in hiring is not only a social and ethical problem for organizations, but a commercial one and not one that is going to solve itself:

1. Evaluate your job postings

Start by reviewing your past job postings to see where you might have missed candidates in your search. Use this as an opportunity to evaluate whether your brand identity or your company policies appeal to diverse audiences to begin with, you may discover your company's digital presence isn't even accessible to people with visual or auditory impairments. This is a valuable discovery process for a company's audience and reach, even mission, that can have untold benefits to your results as an organization.

Related: How to Implement Inclusion and Diversity at Your Organization

2. Diversify your sources

You can't get new results or new candidates for your search if you're always using the same sources. Seek out new opportunities to source candidates online and offline. There are great networking membership sites for women in technology or people of color in media and advertising who are keen to do the headhunting for you, consider them allies. If possible, create a diverse candidate referral program and give your team the tools they need to promote the company for you in their networks.

3. Identify emerging talent

Many companies have started internal diversity programs that offer internship positions to candidates from specific backgrounds. Reach out to schools and community groups in your area to determine opportunities to make connections with students. Often, communities will have their own programs to encourage growth and would be more than happy to have your engagement.

4. Create a company that diversity is drawn to

Examining whether your company lives the values that you aim for can be an uncomfortable journey for a team but possibly, the most rewarding and high-impact thing that you can undertake as an organization. Take some time to ask for feedback from your team and even candidates you are meeting with to proactively identify which of your company's policies appeal to diverse candidates. Things like scheduling policies that allow for religious holidays, and participating and supporting their own community events, can be attractive to high value candidates. That kind of investment in the personal lives of candidates can draw a lot of loyalty and attract hires that invest in their projects inside and outside of work.

Related: How Language Could Be Sabotaging Your Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

5. Go blind

An increasingly popular technique to remove bias from the recruitment process is to "black out" any and all personal information on resumes such as names, schools, date of birth, home addresses, any information that contributes to some degree of bias on gender, ethnicity or class. This can be done with very effective artificial intelligence technology, but it can also be done manually by working with your preferred recruitment platform to focus only on how the candidate described their previous work, their problem solving skills and and special projects they worked on. This is most effective early in the recruitment process, before questions and interviews get too technical, and more detail is required and in person interviews begin.

Finally, encourage your management teams to encourage and support employees speaking up if they think certain policies are hindering diversity in any way. This can be advanced by roleplaying those uncomfortable conversations to break down any fear or defensiveness in your teams. Individual human bias will always be a factor in how we perceive and navigate the workplace but effective simple strategies are low investment with very high rewards for the whole organization.

Maryam Ishani Thompson

Co-founder and Chief Content Officer of systemCHANGR

Maryam Ishani is a co-founder and the chief content officer of systemCHANGR, an ESG/SDG expert community think tank supporting scalable solutions for ESG advancement. She's covered politics, conflict and trade in the SWANA and APAC regions for AFP, Reuters and The Guardian.

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