Lots of companies made big commitments in 2020 to bring greater diversity, equity and inclusion to the workplace. Now, it’s time to see which leaders will put their words into action as a new wave of hiring activity is poised to roll in.

While hiring activity was flat for most of last year, a new Reuters survey of 500 economists says times are changing. According to them, “The global economy will recover this year from its coronavirus slump at a pace not seen since the 1970s.”

That’s good news, and as job growth picks up, hiring managers have an opportunity – and an obligation – to build back their workforces better than before, with diversity, equity, and inclusion as a cornerstone.

One essential step for organizational leaders to take in this moment is to thoughtfully review hiring policies, practices, and objectives. Start by embracing the fact that times have changed, and the way you’ve always done things likely needs to evolve. Your employees, prospective employees, customers, and shareholders have new expectations regarding how you do business.

Outline what you’re trying to achieve. Are you looking to increase the diversity of your talent pipeline? Do you want your workforce to look as diverse as the communities your serve? Is there a specific diversity imbalance you want to address?

Then, look under the hood and determine the changes required to ground your hiring and retention in DEI best practices. For example, does your organization have an unjust bias against – or an outright ban on – hiring people with a non-violent criminal history? Does your organization require four-year college degrees for all jobs even when a short-term credential or industry certification should suffice? Could your company be doing more to hire neurodiverse talent?

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As you ponder these questions, it’s also wise to consider how updates to your hiring practices might affect your reputation. New findings from Kelly’s recent Equity@Work survey provide some guidance here, including:

  • 81% of Americans say companies should do more to remove discriminatory hiring policies or practices that keep people from being hired or promoted.
  • 76% are more likely to support businesses committed to breaking down discriminatory barriers that prevent Americans from finding employment.
  • 71% of Americans believe employers should eliminate bans that automatically reject job seekers with minor, non-violent criminal offenses.
  • 64% agree it is wrong for employers to require applicants to have four-year/bachelor’s degrees at a time when short-term credentials and industry certifications offer increasing and/or equal value in the workforce.
  • Nearly three in four (74%) of respondents are more likely to support a business or company that makes employment opportunities available to individuals on the autism spectrum.

Improving DEI is not only the right thing to do – it can also have a significant impact on your bottom line. McKinsey’s most recent report on diversity and business performance found diverse executive teams are 36% more likely to demonstrate financial outperformance.

To dismantle systemic barriers, I encourage everyone to look within your organization and ask yourself: what assumptions are getting in the way, and where can improvements be made? What are some steps you can take to update your policies and procedures? Then, commit to change and make it happen.

We are taking these actions within Kelly and making opportunities available to a wider talent pool. Won’t you join us?

As the job market recovers from the pandemic, and a new wave of hiring rolls in, how will your organization respond? I contend that it’s time to take the training wheels off your DEI hiring plans. You may fall down along the way, but you’ll never hit your fall stride until you put diversity, equity and inclusion at the center of your workplace.

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