How To Address The Workforce Diversity Gap

Thursday, March 9th, 2017 | by Tayo Rockson

Stop me when you have heard this before: the current talent pipeline is broken and isn’t diverse enough to hire from. The problem however isn’t that the pipeline isn’t diverse enough. It’s that we are not looking enough in the right places. We are not tapping into enough of the world’s potential and it is time we change that.

I want to make the case for a different approach. Companies that are serious about fixing the workforce diversity need a strategy that puts the issue front-and-center and expands the talent pipeline. Companies need to redefine what quality candidates mean in the 21st century and address their sourcing problem.

Redefine Quality

The goal of every company is to hire quality candidates that positively impact the bottom line and simultaneously improve the employer brand, but I find that a lot of companies look at quality through a narrow lens. No longer should it be defined as JUST Ivy Leaguers with high GPAs. Companies need to widen their scope and tap into the wider talent pool today’s world offers.

Austin Belcak, the founder of Cultivated Culture, writes “Someone who taught themselves to code in a country where technology is slightly outdated will look at a problem from a completely different angle than a Stanford computer science graduate. That’s not to say that either individual is right or wrong. Instead, the combination of those two minds tackling the same problem is where the magic happens.”

Austin is right. We live in a time when the intersection of digital media and globalization has never been higher. These intersections of markets, customers, ideas, races, religions and worldviews are shifting and influencing our priorities today and will continue to influence them tomorrow.

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Fix the Sourcing Problem

If this is the case, the question then becomes how do we find this untapped talent and bring their unique experiences and perspectives to the workplace. Sandra Revueltas, co-founder of UYD Management suggests that in order to ensure the magic happens, “we have to diversify the workforce pipeline and rethink the “sources”. She believes that “it’s not about compromising on quality candidates, but about re-defining what quality looks like and means. Where are the lost opportunities and hidden gems?”

I couldn’t agree more with Sandra. When it comes to the sources that recruiters hire from, their plates aren’t diverse enough because they have been tapping into the same sources expecting different results. We need to move beyond posting job ads and paying agencies to do the work.

More effort needs to be made by recruiters and HR professionals. As Anada Lakra, the co-founder of day100 puts it, “companies should put more effort in recruiting from organizations that provide training and resources to minorities (such as coding bootcamps serving people from underprivileged backgrounds).”

Lakra goes on to say that “the problem isn’t only on the top of the funnel, but also throughout the recruiting funnel, where many great, diverse candidates may be passed on because they don’t meet the “first impression” criteria in a resume view.”

That “first impression” criteria that candidates don’t meet is a direct result of unconscious bias and is something that needs to be acknowledged at every level because of its impact on hiring decisions.

Building relationships with HBCUs, specialized high schools and organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Change Catalyst, Make School, Girls Who Code, Anita Borg InstituteNational Black MBA Association, National Sales Network, ALPFA, and National Association of Asian American Professionals can help counteract unconscious bias in hiring while producing positive business impact

This approach builds a pipeline of diverse candidates that can change a company’s culture from within. The more hiring managers get to know people from different backgrounds, the more exposed they become to different cultures. Exposure helps reduce bias. As you nurture these relationships with these organizations, you also build a referral network among the candidates which improves your employer brand because you become known as an environment where people of different backgrounds feel like they have an opportunity to grow.

Additionally, building talent pipeline partnerships with such organizations allows you to measure how diversity helps your bottom line. Companies that are intentional about the way they assess their hiring strategies can track data to reveal improvements in metrics such as employee engagement, productivity, and a workforce composition that mirrors the customer population.

Lakra explains a solution to the diversity gap concisely: “switching from over-reliance on superficial resumes to a more data-driven process will yield better and less biased hiring decisions.”

I don’t believe as much of a gap in the pipeline that is being reported. I believe the problem we have is lack of an effective sourcing plan.

An effective sourcing plan lays out all the channels you want to use, sets goals and budgets for each, and tracks results so you can see what is working and what needs adjustment.


Tayo Rockson is the CEO of UYD Management, a strategic leadership and consulting firm that helps corporations improve their bottom line by incorporating diversity, inclusion and social justice strategies.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.