Stating the obvious here: DEI (Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion) programming is being challenged (and some may even say attacked) like never before. It has even become a campaign issue with some lawmakers seeking to ban DEI altogether. Corporate DEI budgets continue to get sliced and pared down and DEI professionals are feeling burned out. And with the recent Supreme Court decision on June 27, striking down affirmative action in higher education, many in the business community are wondering how and when DEI in the workplace might be impacted, too.
Despite these current DEI debates, today’s job seekers are still prioritizing solid DEI programming when considering potential employers.
There is, however, widespread skepticism regarding how committed companies truly are to creating inclusive cultures. One study revealed that nearly two-thirds of workers, particularly Millennial and Gen Z employees, believe that leaders have failed to take meaningful action in promoting diversity and inclusion. And beyond that, 76% of job seekers and employees in general say that DEI is an important factor for them when evaluating new opportunities or in making a decision about staying with their present company. Because of this, during interviews leaders and hiring managers would do well to highlight the company’s DEI initiatives, rather than letting it be an afterthought.
The company’s DEI strategy may be the subject of some of the questions from your stand-out candidates. Answering effectively (and honestly, of course) could make or break the interview.
1 What Is The Company’s DEI Strategy?
Candidates will want to know if there is even a DEI strategy to begin with. They most likely would have been on the website and noticed certain diversity optics (or the lack thereof) but will want to hear from you about the company’s commitment to diversity across the board. Literally. Is there talent from underrepresented groups in key leadership roles? On the board, too?
Consider highlighting how the company leverages sponsorships or other professional development opportunities (coaching for example) to elevate underrepresented talent. It might be helpful to also provide some history on your DEI initiatives over the past few years. Talk about what has worked well and not so well, which speaks volumes about the company’s transparency and commitment to its people.
2 How Are You Measuring Progress on DEI?
Candidates might also be interested in knowing how your organization assesses DEI progress on DEI initiatives. Point out any metrics or meaningful differences (employee survey data could help) that demonstrate how the company’s DEI efforts are impacting employees directly. Share about the growth and development that you’ve noticed first-hand from the time you started there.
Also, humble brag a little. Mention any DEI awards or recognition that the organization or its thought leaders have received. It’s a great way to show off that others outside of the organization are seeing the changes and the dedication towards creating an inclusive workplace. This can go a long way in reassuring potential job applicants that they’ll be joining an organization that values and celebrates making a measurable difference.
3 How Detectable is DEI?
A candidate will want to know that the company they are considering supports DEI by having policies and frameworks in place that are observable and easy for anyone to participate in. Point out how there is opportunity for contributing to internal training and dialogues around paramount DEI topics like intersectionality, active allyship, anti-racism, and gender identity and expression for example. Mention the ways that these types of programs have helped employees grow into more inclusive leaders or active allies. Also, be open to discussing the recruitment process that the candidate is already a part of, and especially mention how the DEI strategy has helped to improve retention within the organization.
4 How Are Microaggressions Addressed?
People want to work for an organization in which they feel respected and valued. It is imperative to be explicit about how your company addresses situations when that does not happen, particularly as it relates to issues and conversations around microaggressions. That looks like describing the channels of communication and advocacy available to employees if they want to raise concerns against harassment, discrimination, or subtle acts of exclusion (words or actions that spring from conscious or unconscious bias).
Leaders should be upfront and clear about how they have recognized and addressed microaggressions and equipped and empowered others to do the same. A potential new employee wants the reassurance that they are coming into a workplace culture where psychological safety is a business imperative.
As part of your next interview with a potential new team member, be open, transparent, and eager to share about the organization’s DEI efforts. This will not only set the company apart in the mind of top talent but could also earn their loyalty over time as today’s job seekers are looking for more than just a paycheck. The Great Resignation (remember that) proved that. People are looking for an organization that demonstrates it truly cares about DEI and will act on it in meaningful ways. Let them hear it from you right from the start.