Diversity has become a buzzword. The ubiquity of discussion around the importance of inclusion runs the risk of undercutting its importance. If we all assume that we support diversity, we may not be doing the hard work of evaluating our preconceptions, making space for other perspectives, and advocating for others. Diversity is a long-term commitment; it requires ongoing work.
Within an institution, diversity can begin with hiring. Your human resources department makes choices that shape the composition and culture of your organization. Far too often, institutions approach hiring on a case-by-case basis without considering their overall objectives. It’s vital that your organization approach hiring decisions strategically. The character and culture of your organization are too important to be dictated by the urgency of the moment. Your hiring practices should be in line with your institutional values and strategic objectives. Diversity must be central to that list.
Through the courageous contributions of many, we’ve come to recognize the work we still need to do to make sure that our country is a harbor of “liberty and justice for all.” Creating colleges where everyone has the opportunity to thrive is right and just. While each of us knows this, it can seem daunting to know how to work for equity in our sphere. Hiring is one pivotal area that makes a lasting impact.
If the ethical argument isn’t enough to sway everyone, it should be noted that there are financial benefits to having a diverse workforce. Companies with gender-diversity have been shown to be more profitable. Research indicates that diverse companies are more adept at capturing new markets—by a whopping 70 percent. Diversity has also been linked to increased employee productivity.
These statistics shouldn’t be surprising. We all have blindspots. When employees come from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, they can anticipate problems and see multiple solutions. This not only has a positive effect on your bottom line, but fosters a rich workplace culture.
Inclusive hiring is a proactive practice. You are not only making sure you avoid discriminatory practices, but also seeking to value and celebrate diversity. This strategic approach sees hiring as an opportunity to grow as an organization. Here are four ways you can foster a diverse workplace at your college or university.
Consider Your Community
Take stock of the current composition of your workforce. Compare that with the demographic make-up of your students. Then, look at the diversity of the surrounding community. How has the diversity of your faculty and staff changed in recent years? How have you made progress with inclusivity already? Where have the inroads taken more time? These questions allow you to establish your goal and identify where you have work to do.
Develop an Inclusive Job Posting
Craft your job description with inclusivity in mind. Are the degrees you note as requirements essential or is demonstrated experience and competency just as effective? Eliminate jargon that would alienate those outside your field. Recognize that qualified employees come through a variety of paths, not only the ones you’ve traditionally utilized. Be sure your job postings comply with accessibility best-practices so that they work with screen readers and other technology.
Your search committee must include the diversity that you seek to emulate in your company. Seek out the under-represented members of your community and ask for their perspective. It is paramount that you avoid tokenism as you do so. They are not there so you can check a diversity box and move on. They bring valuable insights that you can—and must—learn from.
Changing the culture of your organization won’t happen overnight. You will face growing pains as you integrate inclusivity. Make a habit of reflecting on both your progress and your process. How are your efforts going? What is working and what needs adjustment? Who can help you adapt your approach? Learn from other institutions that are fostering diversity well.
One final word of encouragement. We have seen the benefits institutions reap when they practice inclusive hiring. Diversity helps us flourish. It is worth the effort it takes to get there.
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