How to Engage Hiring Managers to be Strong Partners in Your DEI Efforts

March 25, 2022
8 min

If you asked most hiring managers when they need their new hire, they’d say yesterday. Organizations of all sizes are struggling with a historic talent shortage that’s stressing already overwhelmed workforces and threatening to worsen turnover rates.

At the same time, many companies strive to strengthen their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, which demands a more thoughtful (and often time-intensive) hiring process.

For recruiters and other talent acquisition professionals, this can be stressful. You’re working hard to balance your organization’s demand for top talent while fostering a more diverse workforce. Meanwhile, leaders across your organization pressure you to speed up your processes and quickly bring in qualified candidates, so they don’t miss their goals.

It’s easy to feel alone in your DEI efforts, but for diverse hiring to be sustainable, it must be an organization-wide effort. And that means engaging hiring managers to be better partners.

To learn more about how real organizations are accomplishing this, we sat down with two experts: Natalia Pedroza, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the United States Tennis Association (USTA), and Katie Turrel, VP of Talent Acquisition at Bowery Farming.

Today we’re sharing some of their valuable advice from our recent webinar.

Developing a Process

The first step in engaging your broader organization — especially hiring managers — is creating a thorough DEI hiring process. 

For example, Katie shared that when Bowery Farming realized they had a racial and gender diversity gap, they started by creating a vision of what they wanted their organization to look like. Together with the senior leadership team, Katie and her peers defined DEI and developed pillars for their efforts. Then, the company founder led an organization-wide discussion on diversity, and Katie’s team committed to sharing data around hiring and retention at least twice per year.

UTSA is also committed to its DEI process from the top-down. The organization hired a chief diversity officer and a large DEI team to support the work, which they measure closely.

However, even after taking the right steps as an organization, some hiring managers struggle with new processes. They may veer off the path if they feel it’s too restrictive, especially if they’re hiring for a specialized role or attempting to fill an opening quickly. Natalia says that when hiring managers think the system is working against them, it’s a sign they need your guidance to help them understand why the process exists.

“It’s a very important conversation that has to happen, and sometimes it has to happen more than once,” Natalia says.

“Inclusiveness is a competency, and it should be developed at every level.”  - Natalia Pedroza, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at USTA

And no matter what, it’s crucial you stay the course until you make the hire. In addition to not rushing the process, it’s also vital you’re not adding additional qualifying steps. When managers attempt to add another element to the process, you’ll need to have another conversation.

“Managers will push back in different ways, like, for example, ‘I need to understand a little bit more, and I just need to give this additional exercise,” Katie says. “There's a lot of education [necessary] for why that's unfair.”

Once everyone sees the results of these diverse hiring practices, the process will become normalized, and hiring managers will begin to accept it without question.

Providing Education

Education is essential — but it’s critical you handle those conversations with care and get comfortable being uncomfortable. As Natalia says, you need to call people into this work instead of calling people out.

“I always like to start with opening the door to a level of self-awareness that maybe they didn't have before,” Natalia says. “And I think that's perhaps the problem in the world today — we're not willing to have conversations about difficult things that may feel awkward, but we have to open up those gateways of conversation.”

Additionally, it can be helpful to educate managers in a social setting where they can discuss ideas among themselves and gain insight into how to broach these topics with their teams.

Natalia and Katie also shared a few ideas about what this education should include:

  • A holistic view of diversity
    Diversity has many dimensions that extend what you might be able to ascertain from a LinkedIn profile picture. It’s essential hiring managers understand the many different types of diversity that should be represented within your organization.
  • The value of casting a wider net
    Reaching more qualified individuals also often means rethinking required credentials. For example, Bowery Farming has removed required education and years of experience.
  • Realistic hiring timelines
    Set clear expectations about how long it will take to build a representative timeline and communicate with hiring managers throughout the process. In some cases, you may want to suggest they leverage a contractor to fill the gap while the talent acquisition team completes a more thoughtful search.

It’s also worthwhile to have a frank conversation about your role to help hiring managers better understand DEI efforts from your perspective and how your work impacts the organization.

“As your recruiter, you have to know I'm bringing the best, but I'm also fulfilling what the organization is asking for, which is diversity slating, and a commitment,” Natalia says.

Navigating Referrals

Hiring managers often have someone in their network they want to hire, and because they know their contact’s qualifications and skills, they may wish to fast-track them. But, to ensure fair hiring and meet DEI goals, it’s crucial you never deviate from your process.

Natalia and Katie shared suggestions for navigating referrals:

  • Discuss affinity bias
    It’s human nature to favor people and things familiar to us. By becoming more aware of this bias, we can work to avoid it within hiring (and other areas of work and life too).
  • Consider not allowing hiring managers to refer people to their own teams
    There are many reasons hiring managers shouldn’t refer their own hires. Not only does this often encourage affinity bias, but it can lead to clique-ish behavior and favoritism.
  • Only allow blind referrals
    If you allow employees to refer candidates, the hiring manager shouldn’t know who referred them — or even that an applicant was referred.

When hiring managers support DEI efforts, it’s much easier to foster a more diverse workforce. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to meet your diversity objectives without their buy-in. Fortunately, by heeding Natalia and Katie’s advice, you’ll be well-poised to earn hiring managers’ partnership and meet your DEI goals.

Watch the full webinar here to learn more expert tips and advice for engaging hiring managers.

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