The MeToo Movement, Black Lives Matter and the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have heightened awareness, but moreover created a catalyst for social justice. There is an awakened conscience, with candidates and clients increasingly interested in understanding how staffing firms are responding to social issues. Is it part of the company fabric? Is the effort a core company value? For staffing firms, their actions could become a differentiator as talent evaluates prospective employers based on their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

This also remains an important topic for corporate America as companies rationalize their vendor base and evaluate their talent partner ecosystem. Users of staffing services will look for staffing and workforce partners that are not merely presenting diverse candidates, but rather are contributing in a meaningful way to the communities that they operate within as well as to their overall workforce strategy.

Building a diverse workforce is just one part of the equation. Diversity in isolation of equity and inclusion will not be sustainable. As professionals, we have to remember that just because we see our organization as diverse, it does not mean that it is inclusive and that there is equity. Diversity, equity, and inclusion means cultivating an environment where all employees can progress, regardless of background — and that, in turn, requires systemic change, starting with demonstrated behaviors from leadership. Those changes need to be authentic in order to be sustainable and engrained in the company culture.

Every step of the process and every action must be taken with intention to ensure diverse talent is treated equitably and inclusively. Here’s how companies are moving the needle and evolving their DE&I programs.

An Equitable Hiring Process

Companies can support building diverse candidate pools by ensuring their hiring and promotion processes are as equitable as possible, with gender-neutral job descriptions and managing metrics and goals to track progress. This is a starting point. Societal bias often limits our thinking during the hiring process. Even though each of us probably thinks we are not biased, at some level, we have beliefs about the type of person who should fill a position or the expected behavior in the workplace based on gender and role.

Often during the hiring process, recruiters and hiring managers alike will evaluate a candidate based not just on competency but also cultural fit. Cultural fit is a way to describe if someone would mesh with a team or the organization. If cultural fit is part of your evaluation process, then be certain to include multiple interviewers; have clear, structured guidelines with tangible qualities; and use a weighted scoring mechanism to reduce the effect of biases.

For select roles, consider requiring a competency test before a candidate can be eligible for consideration, thereby creating a level playing field of qualified candidates regardless of gender or race. Another approach is to complete a blind résumé review — removing a candidate’s personal information — which enables reviewers to evaluate a candidate without knowledge of a candidate’s gender or race, which might inject bias into selection decisions.

Implementing Change

These types of small changes in the hiring process can minimize the risk of unconscious bias and can improve the hiring process. People who successfully build great teams constantly seek not to add more of the same, but to build capabilities that are lacking, yet complimentary. Instead of choosing people who fit the present mold, smart leaders consider what a team is missing and look for qualified candidates who can bring these capabilities to the table.

Bringing together a workforce that has a variety of perspectives and experiences, and is representative of the communities that we live within, is the advantage that diversity brings within the workplace. After all, shouldn’t a person be hired, promoted, or recognized for a job well done based on merit? Shouldn’t members of the team feel respected because of their contributions and not because of the way that they look?