3 Strategies from Top Talent Leaders for a More Equitable and Inclusive Workplace

February 17, 2021

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Companies everywhere are working hard to get it right in terms of diversity — and for nearly all, that’s still a work in progress. “If you are taking steps, it doesn’t have to be perfect,” says Danny Guillory, head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Dropbox. “Diversity efforts are never going to be perfect. They’re always going to be a sideways journey.” 

Along that “sideways journey,” though, there are plenty of steps forward you can take. Danny joined Melissa Thompson, SVP of talent acquisition at Nielsen, for LinkedIn’s recent virtual event, Driving Change: How to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace, to discuss the winning strategies they’ve implemented in their own companies.

During the hour-long event, held in honor of Black History Month, Melissa and Danny shared their approaches to attracting Black professionals, conducting inclusive interviews, and creating a workplace that will keep employees happy, engaged, and growing. This is the first of two posts that will share some of the best practices and highlights that emerged during Driving Change. This post focuses on recruiting and retention; the second will look at culture and inclusivity.  

Check out three strategies Melissa and Danny shared for getting it right along the journey. 

1. Make sure your job descriptions and talent brand authentically position you as an inclusive workplace

If you want to develop a more diverse workforce, you first need to attract diverse talent. At Nielsen, that means rethinking job descriptions to make them significantly shorter.

Melissa is concerned that when job postings list too many requirements job hunters will take a pass because they think they fall shy of the mark. “That puts the onus on us to write job descriptions in such a way that we can screen [in] people who meet most of the requirements,” she says. “So we’re doing quite a scrub this year at Nielsen around our job descriptions to really make them more aligned and focused on just a few things.”

Melissa has seen the bloat in job postings and isn’t a fan. “I know my team hates it,” she laughs, “but I say all the time, ‘When I first started recruiting, we had a two-by-two-[inch] square in the newspaper.’ So, why do we need such long pieces now? We need something that has the core requirements. But it doesn’t need 55 requirements, right?”

Another way to build more diverse talent pools, Danny says, is to ensure that your talent brand — especially when it trumpets diversity — is aligned with your actions, even if you’re in the early stages of diversity work. “It’s great,” Danny says, “to put something up on Instagram that says you support Black Lives Matter, but what have you actually done?” 

To which Melissa replies: “You need an amen to that one, Danny.”

She also adds that “the authenticity of your talent brand” will come through loud and clear. “So,” Melissa says, “if you’re saying one thing and then people arrive and see something completely different, it’s going to destroy you in the market.” 

2. Shape your interview process to screen candidates in and to ensure inclusion

The interview and hiring process can often seem like one long effort to rule candidates out. But what if that’s backward thinking? “One of the things we found as we started to look at our interview process at Dropbox,” Danny says, “was that we were trying to be gatekeepers and determine who can come in and out, versus interviewing ‘in.’” 

To change that, Dropbox shifted its mindset, looking at how they could interview a candidate “in.” “We all know that every candidate who comes in is never going to be 100% on meeting what we need,” Danny says. 

By the time that someone has reached the interview stage, however, a recruiter has already determined they have the skills to do the job. “So,” Danny says, “the question is, ‘what kind of support does this person need to be successful? And how does that differ from somebody else?’ It sounds subtle but it’s actually very, very significant when you think about putting it into practice.” 

Hiring for certain levels in their organization, Dropbox also uses a modified form of the Rooney Rule — originally created by the NFL to address hiring inequities — to ensure that there is at least one woman or one candidate from an underrepresented group who is brought in for the onsite interviews or, in other cases, the manager interview.

Melissa says that at Nielsen they are currently pushing for 90% of its openings to meet a diverse slate requirement. The company has also begun training all its hiring managers in inclusive interviewing practices, which include assembling a diverse panel of employees to conduct the interview. They are reexamining the questions they ask and trying to identify the unconscious bias that sometimes leads hiring managers to gravitate toward candidates who went to the same school or who worked at the same consulting agency they did.

Last year, Nielsen also engaged its business resource groups, particularly its Black Business Resource Group, to participate in an inclusive interviewing pilot project. “We want people that come in for interviews to see the diversity of our workforce,” Melissa says. “So we’re bringing in the BRGs to help us, and providing that resource so we can widen the funnel in terms of who can interview.”

3. Use predictive analytics and stay interviews to retain talent 

Once you hire new talent, it’s the company’s job to make sure they stay. Dropbox recently took two innovative steps to do just that. 

In the first, the company uses predictive analytics to determine which employees are the greatest flight risk. IBM created quite a buzz two years ago when it announced that it had developed a predictive attrition program that could predict with 95% accuracy employees who would leave in the next six months. “We actually looked and tried to identify underrepresented minorities and women who we thought were most likely to leave,” Danny says, “and it wasn’t based on what they said or what their managers said. It was based on time in role, their experience, and other factors.” 

After identifying these employees, Dropbox conducted “stay interviews” with them. “Stay interviews,” Danny says, “are a little bit different than your typical development conversation because if they’re done right, the idea is that you, as my manager, are talking to me about what is required [for the company to do] for me to stay at the organization.” 

The programs have been a resounding success. Dropbox identified 200 flight-risk people through these programs by the end of last year and a remarkable 96% of them have stayed.

“I often say, ‘Don’t have me bringing them in the front door and then the HR team is not retaining them, so they’re going out the back door,’” Melissa says. “We can’t solve the problem with just more and more hiring. We have to solve it around engagement and retention too.” 

Final thoughts: This is everyone’s job, not just recruiting or D&I

Both Melissa and Danny emphasize that the whole company needs to work together to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace that supports Black professionals and gives them the tools and space to thrive. Danny’s diversity, equity, and inclusion team at Dropbox works closely with talent acquisition, to make sure the hiring process is fair. Melissa’s talent acquisition team interacts with HR to ensure that the employees they hire stay. 

“It’s not just one thing,” Melissa says. “It has to be this thread of things to make it successful to bring someone on board, retain them, and keep them engaged.”

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