By Sukriti Nayar
New York City welcomed me this summer in its caustic way that some people grow to love (I’m not sure I’m one of them). I interned at Inspiring Capital, a firm that provides social impact consulting services to nonprofits and social enterprises. The company strives to change how “impact” is both defined and delivered. For the summer, I was paired up with a large national workforce development nonprofit. The organization provides training and hands-on experience at corporate partners to youth without a college degree in an effort to close the opportunity divide.
My project this summer brought together two things I care about deeply: helping nonprofits succeed and having diversity and inclusion discussions that lead to action. I was tasked with re-thinking the hiring process to be more inclusive of diverse candidates (in this case, specifically racially diverse), from sourcing candidates to bringing them into the fold, specifically for the marketing team. Marketing is well-known for being a homogenous field, and the nonprofit’s headquarters are in Boston, a historically white city (at 73% of the population). I spent the summer researching not only hiring practices, the marketing field, and diversity and inclusion initiatives, but also thinking through a high-level strategy of how to bring them to bear in an office space with a clearly stated mission.
I broke up the hiring process into stages, and provided recommendations along the way. Below is an excerpt of those suggestions.
Get creative in where you’re looking – and how.
We, in our relatively elite professional circles, take LinkedIn for granted. In our on-campus recruiting, we are used to the idea of being pursued. However, LinkedIn can be much more than a job board. In a small pilot conducted by another department at the nonprofit, the group anecdotally had success in hiring diverse candidates by searching for key words or specific skills, and reaching out to them personally to see whether they might be interested in the organization or the role. Taking unconventional measures and using existing platforms in innovative ways can help organizations branch out and potentially open up pathways to non-traditional, but qualified, candidates.
Add diversity to the interview process.
One consistent theme I noted in my research on the hiring process is how to make the process more inclusive for all applicants. Signaling matters to candidates, and one powerful signal that the organization values diversity is by having diverse interviewers. Even if the staff would not be suited to interview for technical skills, they could interview for organizational fit, or serve as points-of-contact – ambassadors throughout the process.
The buddy system works.
Bringing someone, classified “diverse” or not, into a tightly-knit group with established norms can be overwhelming for the new hire. Documenting team values, norms, operating procedures, and workflows can serve to help the new hire “hit the ground running.” However, having an assigned staff member to be transition buddy can help to speed up the new hire’s orientation. A “buddy” can foster quicker, and closer, workplace relationships and pass along institutional knowledge that may not be documented anywhere (or best left unwritten). It’s often in the systematic unwritten, informal knowledge, relationships, and mentorships, that people of color get left behind.
Diversity and inclusion must permeate throughout an entire organization; widespread change requires widespread commitment. While there are many ways to do that effectively, one thing remains true: firms must stop hiring the same kind of people, using the same paths and processes, if they want to transform.