What the Best Do

Leaders in diversity recruitment share steps for hiring a well-balanced workforce.

When Staples wanted to increase its number of diverse hires, the company opted to think outside the box and seek new avenues for recruitment. Company recruiters proposed a plan to senior management that they hoped would interest and motivate managers to hire more college students. Staples CEO Ronald Sargent approved salary funding for more than 50 college hires temporarily. That way, money wasn’t an issue, and managers had a large pool of student employees to evaluate for a trial period. Many students were hired as permanent Staples employees after the trial.

Because Staples already recruits at traditionally black colleges, as well as those with a large Hispanic population, “We were comfortable that once we expanded our college recruiting program, a good percentage of the candidates would be diverse and we would improve our diverse recruiting opportunities,” said Carl Lopes, the company’s vice president of corporate employment. Support from the CEO was key to getting HR and managers behind the idea, Lopes says. “The CEO has to make the leadership team of the company accountable. It really takes senior-level commitment to get the whole process [of hiring for diversity] going.”

Staples was recognized in 2004 as one of the top companies in recruitment and retention of diverse candidates by DiversityInc., a trade publisher and leader in diversity benchmarking. Between 2000 and 2003, the number of diverse hires at Staples’ corporate office doubled across the board, according to Lopes.

However, for most companies, hiring for diversity remains a challenge. In a recent study of employee attitudes toward their companies’ diversity efforts, only 32 percent felt their employers were doing a good job with diversity initiatives.

“After decades of well-intentioned investment by businesses, it’s clear we still have a long way to go,” says Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, which commissioned the two-year study Diversity Practices That Work: The American Worker Speaks. The Urban League, an organization that empowers blacks to enter the economic and social mainstream, surveyed more than 5,500 American workers to capture employees’ views on diversity.

A number of companies have made progress and are reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce. Companies that have been noted for good diversity practices rated high in productivity. “The report showed that 75 percent of the companies generated productivity results that are in line with or better than those of select competitors. This indicates that diversity is not only good for people, but also good for business,” notes Morial.

What practices do the companies noted for their progress in diversity recruitment have in common? Read on for seven tips from top companies that have made progress on the diversity recruitment front.

View Diversity as a Business Advantage

One thing common with companies noted for their diversity efforts is that diversity is viewed as good for business and as part of the corporate strategy. “It has to be a business goal and presented as ‘Here are our business goals, and having a diverse organization is one of them,’ ” says Julie Cunningham, principal of the Cunningham Group, a college-recruiting consultancy.

The Urban League study found that most companies noted for good diversity practices have been involved in diversity-related efforts for more than 20 years on average and “their efforts are broad, strategic and holistic in nature.” By far, the most important traits are commitment and involvement of top leadership.

Define Diversity, Set Goals And Measure Progress

One of the ways companies show their commitment to hiring a diverse workforce is through setting diversity goals and then holding managers accountable for meeting those goals.

Texas Instruments, which has been recognized as “best in class” in the area of diversity recruitment by the Corporate Leadership Council, showed a major commitment to hiring a diverse workforce when it created a recruitment position specifically dedicated to finding and hiring diverse candidates. Data play a major role in setting goals and determining metrics.

As an engineering company, “we are into measurement,” says Diane Johnson, director of diversity recruitment and selection for Texas Instruments. Johnson says when she started working in the position in 2000 it was important to define which units and which positions had diversity needs; looking across the board at the company, she says, is not always a good assessment of diversity progress. Many times minorities and women are in the workforce but not in leadership or technical positions. “We look at talent from the point of view of driving the next generation of products,” she says.

Johnson studies U.S. census data to find out the market availability for the background that Texas Instruments requires, to determine how many engineers are in the population and to see the U.S. graduation rates for engineers. Then she looks at the percentage of women, blacks, Hispanics and other groups in these pools. From there the data are broken down further to look at specific kinds of technical experience, such as semiconductor experience.

Texas Instruments uses an outside company to help it map out the census data and provide information about what the diversity should look like by specific geographical sites. “We have quite a bit of detailed data,” Johnson says. “Then we compare our current population to see if we are on target.”

Having a function devoted to diversity staffing has helped Texas Instruments coordinate its diversity staffing effort by enabling the company to tap into all areas of the labor market. Following the first year of its dedicated diversity recruitment function, Texas Instruments noted a 10 percent increase in the number of diverse recruits.

But while having someone dedicated to overseeing the diversity piece of recruiting helps the program, progress comes from shared responsibility, Johnson says. Good planning, sharing accountability for diversity and getting managerial buy-in are crucial elements. Managers make the final hiring decisions, and their buy-in to hire diverse candidates is critical.

Hold Managers Accountable

At Pitney Bowes, selected in 2004 by DiversityInc. as its No. 1 corporation for recruitment and retention, Denise Rawles-Smith, manager of corporate diversity, says diversity metrics are built into the corporation’s business objectives. “Management compensation is tied to diversity,” Rawles-Smith says. “Diversity initiatives and objectives are linked to business unit operating plans, and we make hiring, promoting and retaining a diverse workforce a priority.”

Managers also are held accountable at Allstate, and diversity training is one effort that helps to lay the foundation for management buy-in. Managers must understand and accept diversity as a business goal and part of the way the company does business, says Wanda Wiebke, director of recruitment and selection. Allstate ranked No. 2 on DiversityInc.’s top 10 companies for diversity recruitment and retention.

To ensure employees and managers buy into diversity, Allstate has mandatory diversity training. New managers with direct reports participate in a facilitated workshop, “Creating an Environment for Success,” as part of the diversity initiative. Managers learn specific behaviors to help them work effectively with employees of various backgrounds.

Part of this training touches on the hiring process. The training covers Allstate’s commitment to affirmative action, which Wiebke says it views as a metrics tool to reach its diversity goals. “It means exercising good faith efforts in recruiting and developing and retaining women and minorities in order to achieve equitable representation at all levels of the organization.” But Wiebke stresses that the company has moved away from emphasis on affirmative action and looks at having a diverse workforce as a voluntary business strategy, as opposed to a legal mandate.

The diversity training provides managers with “helpful hints for leveraging diversity to create an environment for success,” says Wiebke. “Diversity is all about the quality of our relationships and unifying our common efforts toward desired business outcomes.”

Tap the College Market

Building a strong campus relationship requires companies to have a presence that is constant, positive and consistent, says Cunningham. Relationships enable companies to source for potential candidates and to demonstrate that they support diversity over the long run. Many companies, including Staples, have found establishing relationships with colleges a good way to diversify their workforce.

“The college recruiting program is more easily controlled [than other recruitment arenas],” says Lopes. But Lopes notes that the Framingham, Mass.-based company has had more success recruiting at northeastern colleges than recruiting from other areas. “We have found it harder to [convince new hires] to [come] to the northeast,” due to the high cost of living, he says.

Staples also has established ties with the student chapters of minority professional organizations, including sponsoring scholarships at schools, such as Northeastern University, for minority student groups like the student chapter of the National Black MBA Association. Another strategy Staples has found effective: bringing in students as interns with an eye toward eventually hiring them as employees. Most of these students participate in summer internship programs and some co-ops, Lopes says. “We are hiring with the future in mind.” Many entry-level employees go on to participate in Staples’ management training program.

Texas Instruments also has found college hires to be a good way to ensure diversity. Two of Texas Instruments’ strongest college relationships are with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Georgia Tech. Both schools, says Johnson, are excellent engineering and technical schools with their own strong diversity efforts. The students who graduate from these two top-tier engineering colleges are both highly qualified and diverse. Notes Johnson, “MIT has a special dean who really focuses on the diverse population.” Both schools also have active chapters of the Society of Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers.

Connect with Diverse Professionals

In addition to building college relationships, companies that are diversity leaders connect with organizations made up of minority and female managers and professionals. Pitney Bowes has been recognized for its strong support and sponsorship of minority professional organizations, and CEO Michael Critelli is the current chairman of the National Urban League.

Supporting such groups over the long term is one way Pitney Bowes stays on the leading edge of the diversity movement. One of Pitney Bowes’ newer initiatives is an MBA Leadership Summit for members of Hispanic and black MBA associations. “The whole focus of this event is centered on career and technical development,” Rawles-Smith says. Studies have shown that minorities find companies that offer career development and mentoring opportunities appealing. According to a 2003 nationwide New York Times job market study that asked diverse job seekers what factors attract them to employers, 80 percent who had participated in a mentoring program said availability of mentoring programs was extremely or very valuable. Pitney Bowes executives and outside management experts serve as workshop leaders for the leadership summit. The one-day workshop takes place at Pitney Bowes headquarters. Examples of topics include individual development and mentoring, executive coaching and “Ten Steps to the Office of VP.”

Pitney Bowes also maintains a strong presence with professional organizations by attending their career fairs and national meetings. The company often sponsors sessions and provides speakers for professional organization conferences.

Make Community Connections

Establishing relationships with community and philanthropic groups also helps in long-term diversity efforts, such as developing future talent, particularly in professions and industries where certain minority groups or women are underrepresented.

Texas Instruments has been involved in donating to programs designed to increase the number of women and minorities in engineering. “We start reaching all the way down into the grade schools,” Johnson says. The seventh and eighth grades are where decisions get made about what courses need to be taken in high school, and future engineers need to take advanced algebra in high school, she says. Texas Instruments supports programs that target diverse seventh- and eighth-graders, some of whom do not have local mentors encouraging them to go into those fields, Johnson says.

Allstate also is involved in numerous community programs, including several that specifically deal with tolerance, inclusion and diversity, such as “The Law and You,” a partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Crime Prevention Council, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement and the Hispanic Association of Police Commanders. This program engages youth, law enforcement and educators in a dialogue about current challenges. Other programs deal with economic empowerment. They include support for the Women’s Business Development Center, an organization that creates opportunities for female business owners, and the Entrepreneurial Youth Institute, a partnership with the NAACP that teaches entrepreneurial skills to young people. All these programs enhance the company’s reputation as one that is tolerant and inclusive of minorities, notes Wiebke.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 by Moorfield Storey, Mary White Ovington and W. E. B. Du Bois. Its mission is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination”. The group enlarged its mission in the late 20th century by considering such as police misconduct, the status of black foreign refugees, and questions of economic development. Its name, retained in accordance with tradition, uses the once common term colored people.

The NAACP bestows annual awards to African Americans in two categories: Image Awards are for achievement in the arts and entertainment, and Spingarn Medals are for outstanding achievement of any kind. Its headquarters is in Baltimore, Maryland.


Focus on a Long-Term Strategy

Companies that have been effective with their diversity efforts view diversity as a long-term business strategy and use multiple vehicles to find viable candidates. And that investment requires committed time and resources—whether it means devoting resources for training, hiring someone devoted to diversity issues or attending professional organizations’ events. Once the company succeeds in cultivating a good image and is known for supporting diversity, “everyone wants you to attend their conferences,” says Pitney Bowes’ Rawles-Smith. “It’s important to stay focused on the needs of your company and to look at what fits your business objectives,” she says.

Constant focus on business goals and the commitment of top leadership to making diversity an integral part of the way business is done are key to making any diversity effort work. An executive interviewed for the Urban League study on diversity efforts said, “Leadership commitment has to be real, not ceremonial.… It means being an advocate, interceding where appropriate, and ensuring that the company’s processes work for and are inclusive of all people. Most important, we as leaders must do this work ourselves. Diversity can’t be delegated.”

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