November 2, 2023

Diversity Is More than a Certificate: How Staffing Firms Can Build a Diverse Talent Force

A lot of certified diversity firms vie for spots in lucrative MSP/VMS programs, leveraging their ownership status (minority, woman, veteran, etc.) as an advantage. However, that doesn’t mean the workers they provide are necessarily representative of the eclectic values a client seeks in new talent. In 2014, when Google released its shockingly poor diversity numbers, it signaled a “winter is coming” moment for the tech industry. Staffing providers can quell the raging storm by focusing on diversity and inclusion efforts that extend to their workforces—not merely their agency’s certification. We have a few tips that can help.

Tech Is Diverse. The Tech Industry, Not So Much

A Canvas in Need of a Colorful Palette

In its January 2017 spotlight on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) occupations, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the U.S. economy added 800,000 STEM jobs between 2009 and 2015. At the current rate of growth, according to the most recent BLS data, STEM roles will continue to increase 10.8% from now until 2026.  

When the eye-opening Google report became public, the tech giant exposed a pressing need for the industry to concentrate on inclusion. At Google, 83% of STEM employees were men. In terms of racial composition, the largest minority group, at 34%, were Asian. About 60% of the entire tech workforce was white. Despite a bit of public shaming, Google's transparency spurred a wave of reform across the tech space. But even the current figures show that more must be done.

Racial and Ethnic Diversity

According to federal data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 77% of the US workforce is white, 18% is Hispanic or Latino, 13% is Black, and 7% is Asian. This is a slight improvement from 2014, when white workers made up 78% of the workforce. However, there are still significant disparities in representation at different levels of the workforce. For example, white workers are overrepresented in management positions, while Black and Hispanic workers are underrepresented.

Gender Diversity

Women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, but their majority status in employment isn't reflected in leadership positions. For example, based on the "Women CEOs in America Report," women hold only 9% of Fortune 500 CEO positions.

LGBTQ+ Diversity

Data on the representation of LGBTQ+ people in the workplace is more limited. However, as McKinsey noted in its research on the topic, "Academic estimates have found that 5.1 percent of US women identify as LGBTQ+ as do 3.9 percent of US men. Their representation in corporate America, however, is much lower than these levels."

While LGBTQ+ women make up 2.3% of entry level employees, they comprise only 1.6% of managers and even smaller shares of more senior levels. Representation of LGBTQ+ men is slightly higher, with them making up 2.8% of managers and 2.9% of senior vice presidents and C-suite roles. The situation becomes more complicated for members of the transgender community.

"It is estimated that roughly 1.4 million adults in the United States identify as trans, and our data suggest that the workplace environment for trans people is heavily shaped by the experience of onlyness," McKinsey analysts explained. "Trans people are much more likely to report being an only, in both gender and sexual orientation. Trans people are also less likely to have the support of a sponsor (21 percent versus 32 percent of cisgender people)."

Diversity Must Be More than a Data Point

Inclusion, as a workforce issue, is often discussed. However, during the debates, the topic of diversity also seems to have fallen down a rabbit hole, at risk of becoming a data point or even a euphemism. To compete and flourish, organizations of every kind must promote an employment culture that encourages innovation. And innovation requires creativity, unconventional ideas, fresh perspectives, cultural insights, and opinions from a cross-section of society—people who understand the needs and pain points of all consumer groups. This is what drives service delivery, uniqueness of offerings, enhanced customer care, and entries into new markets.

Staffing agencies have long stood as icons of diversity. When selecting new suppliers for client programs, MSPs look for partners who hold memberships in groups like the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) or which are owned by women, veterans, or other underrepresented groups. Unfortunately, this is where the push for diversity ends in many cases. The staffing suppliers are diverse, but does that mean they bring a similarly distinct assortment of talent? Not all the time. The client’s notion of Inclusion typically centers on the workers. This is where staffing firms, regardless of their own status, can rise above to deliver what MSPs and their customers truly want.

Creative Ways That Staffing Agencies Can Build a Diverse Workforce

Diversity Centric Employer Branding

A compelling employer brand helps companies draw in the best candidates on the market. The effect is no different when hiring efforts focus on diversity. Crafting the right messaging can deliver a powerful, visible, meaningful, and persuasive approach to attracting diverse candidates.

Design customized and uniquely branded landing pages that reflect your clients and their individual job postings. These pages not only provide recruiters and candidates with important details about the company or position requirements, they can prominently display critical messaging about values, diversity commitments, inclusion goals, culture, equal opportunity and anti-discrimination policies, and more.

Include links to web pages or materials that showcase your company’s dedication to diversity. Examples include employee testimonials, relevant awards, industry recognition, publications, outreach programs, and alliances with related organizations.

Restructured Job Descriptions

Employment experts have found that subtle context clues or phrases in job descriptions can unintentionally turn diversity candidates away from a position. For example, researchers from the American Psychological Association conducted a study of 4,000 job descriptions that revealed a subconscious bias toward men.

One job requisition read: “We are a dominant engineering firm that boasts many leading clients. We are determined to stand apart from the competition.” However, more women applied when the description was reworded: “We are a community of engineers who have effective relationships with many satisfied clients. We are committed to understanding the engineering sector intimately.”

Staffing suppliers would do well to focus on crafting this type of content across job boards, social media, and other sourcing channels.

Look to Diverse Sources

When diversity is a critical hiring factor, identify dedicated diversity sources for your enterprise and recruitment teams.

  • Publicize job openings to alumni networks, universities, and professional associations that cater to women, people of color, LGBTQ communities, and other underrepresented groups.
  • Collaborate or partner with recognized leaders in core diversity areas. For example, the Human Rights Campaign in the United States and the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) are two major forces for promoting LGBTQ rights in North America.
  • Subscribe to targeted lists, directories, and social organizations.
  • Participate in diversity functions such as Business Expos, Trade Fairs, Opportunity Luncheons, and others.
  • Forge alliances with small business incubators and diverse chambers of commerce.
  • Get certified by agencies such as National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC) or Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

Diversity Referral Programs

Employee referrals frequently emerge in studies as the best farming systems for quality candidates. The presence of a bonus structure motivates workers to act, which fuels the success of referral initiatives. Staffing suppliers can extend these programs to diverse talent.

  • Develop personalized messaging to foster a sense of recognition that makes workers feel unique. The messages themselves should be targeted and individualized, not generic.
  • Place emphasis on desired skills or characteristics—by elaborating on specific criteria (such as the need for female web development managers), your teams can provide employees with a clear profile to help them identify best-fit candidates from their networks.

Clients Want Diverse Talent, Not Just Diversity Certificates

The truest measure of success in diversity efforts is the provision of a vibrant, multicultural, multigenerational, holistic, and representative workforce. This is, after all, the client’s expectation when it appeals for inclusive hiring. In this “game of thrones,” the victors won’t be the firms who ascend to the seat of power by virtue of banner or birthright (i.e., diversity certificate); the winners will be those who bring together all the disparate kingdoms and arrive with a united force that includes every face and voice in the land.

Photo by Jordan McDonald on Unsplash

Continue reading

Our newsletter

Get great curated articles every week.

Combine sections from Ollie's vast component library and create beautiful, detailed pages.
No spam!

Innovative talent powering a brighter future.