A Diversity Hiring Platform's CEO Shares 4 Tactics for Building More Diverse Teams

November 1, 2018

When Porter Braswell and his cofounder, Ryan Williams, first launched Jopwell, a career advancement platform for black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals, they recognized they had a unique diversity challenge: they needed to increase the number of white employees working there.

As they've grown, building a diverse team continues to be a focus. "And we take it incredibly seriously,” he says, “because we know that we need it. We know we won’t be as good as we can be if we don’t have representation from every ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background.”

There's no doubt that building truly diverse teams is a focus for many companies. In fact, LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 shows diversity to be the No. 1 challenge HR leaders are tackling today. That's why Porter left Goldman Sachs in 2014 to start Jopwell. The nearly four-year-old company has helped firms such as Spotify, Peloton, UBS, and the PGA of America expand their diversity pipelines.

In a new episode of Talent on Tap, Porter talks to Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s head of recruiting, about how companies can successfully achieve a diverse workforce.

1. Start by looking at the numbers to see where your company falls short

“I would say the first thing to do is just look at the numbers,” Porter says. “Where are you not as representative as you should be or could be?” As noted about, Porter concedes that even his company — which has diversity at its very core — continues to have to work to build diverse teams.

He suggests that companies step back and look at how they arrived at their current state. Did the founders hire their friends who, in turn, hired their friends? Did the executive team and the early investors recruit people from the small pool of schools they attended? When that assessment is done, Porter says come up with a plan of attack.

2. Measure what’s working and what’s not – and invest appropriately

Porter says that it’s crucial for companies to define their key performance indicators and that they should take time to identify and collect critical metrics to establish a baseline for success.

For example, Porter suggests conducting surveys to assess, say, what potential candidates think of your brand. Monitor the results over a year or two and see how the perception of your brand changes within different groups as you tweak your employer branding and implement your diversity strategy more broadly.

Companies can also measure changes throughout the hiring funnel, Porter says. Are you getting a more diverse slate of applicants? Candidates in for interviews? Hires?

Your business can look at those changes and see where it needs to invest more — or less — and make the business case for those investments. “It’s like anything else,” Porter says, “you try things, you test it, you pivot, you learn, you iterate. And you have to think of it with the same mindset you would any other business imperative.”

3. Make sure that you’re not only sourcing underrepresented candidates but hiring them too

Brendan asks Porter what a company should do if it is getting diverse people in for interviews but those people aren’t getting hired.

“If you’re getting the diverse applicants but they’re not converting, it’s not that they’re not qualified,” Porter says. “Something’s going on in internally.”

Look at the makeup of your interview teams and panels, Porter says. A diverse group of interviewers shows you’re committed to different points of view and helps decrease unconscious bias. For example, Intel began requiring diverse interview panels and, within two years, the diversity of its new hires skyrocketed. Make sure you have a diverse recruiting team as well.

Porter also recommends that companies review job descriptions and make sure that the requirements truly match up with what a candidate will need to be successful in the role. Otherwhise, you might be deterring diverse candidates who don't meet every single requirement but would do a great job. 

Finally, he says companies need to nail their employer branding: “You have to be thoughtful about how you’re articulating your company’s vision and story to these candidates,” Porter says, “making them feel comfortable that there’s a place for them here.” For example, HP created a compelling campaign called “Reinventing Mindsets.” Its message? “HP is hiring, and talent is our only criteria.”

4. Consider hiring in groups — for entry-level jobs and even more senior ones

Of course, hiring a representative workforce is just one step in achieving diversity. Businesses should also be paying attention to their retention rates to make sure that all groups of employees feel like they belong and can succeed.

Porter sees companies find success when they target entry-level positions with aggressive campus hiring. “You can hire classes,” he says. “So when you hire in a class, you have others who look like you, have similar experiences. . . . That’s really important because you feel you have advocates and champions and friendly faces that will enable you to stick through whatever kind of challenges may exist.”

Porter believes this same approach should be adopted for hiring managers and more senior people. “Why would it be any different?” he asks. He stresses the importance of new hires seeing people who look like them and feeling like there is a community at your company to support them. A straightforward way to underscore community is to encourage and support employee resource groups, in which women, veterans, LGBTQ+, ethnic minorities, and other underrepresented groups can meet to help each other with workplace challenges.

Final thoughts: Diversity is a business imperative

Once you’ve developed an initial strategy, put it in place and then be patient.

“Recognize nothing’s going to change overnight,” Porter says. “Diversity is not a one-year mission. It’s for the rest of your existence as an organization.”

Porter says that in addition to the reports from McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group that prove a more diverse workforce leads to bottom-line success, the case for diversity and inclusion is overwhelming.

“If you’re trying to change an industry, to build disruptive products,” he says, “if you’re trying to engage growing communities . . . if you don’t have representation from all different walks of life, from all different backgrounds, from all different ethnicities and genders, you’re going to lose.”

As he sees it, the need for every company to have a diverse workforce is black and white.

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