3 Practical Ways to Establish DEI Ambassadors in Your Company
Why is it so difficult for companies to achieve more diversity from recruitment efforts? One reason could be that the challenge stems not from a lack of desire, but from a poverty of network. Recruitment historically began with referrals through personal networks. People know people and recruit them to join their companies. But what happens when existing leadership and recruiters are mostly homogenous? A simple solution is to have them expand their network by spending time and getting to know people who don’t look, love, and live like them.
In my last blog post, I began a series addressing recruitment, beginning with how to improve your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) recruitment strategy. Today we will look at some practical ways to establish DEI ambassadors so that the people you attract to work at your company are more representative of your diverse community and customer base.
Solution #1 – Encourage Senior Leaders to Participate in Diverse Organizations
Increasing your senior leadership’s exposure to people of diverse backgrounds enlarges the network from which talent can emerge. As a company, facilitate and support this work, setting aside a part of the budget and allowing your senior leadership the time to attend events. Have your DEI teamwork with the senior leaders and their executive assistants so that these opportunities are scheduled into their calendars. For example, if your VP of Engineering is a male, require or highly encourage him to speak at a “Women Who Code” event. Or have your able-bodied VP of Talent Acquisition speak at a gala supporting those who are visually or hearing impaired. Encourage senior leadership to join a professional organization that represents underrepresented demographics and actively leverage their membership by giving presentations and attending events.
Even if senior leaders don’t identify with the people they are meeting or speaking to, the very presence of your company’s senior leader at these events communicates that there is a place for them within your organization. Also, ask your senior leaders to leverage their new network by posting and amplifying open positions within your company at those events.
Solution #2 – Encourage Underrepresented Employees to Participate in Professional Underrepresented Communities
Establish a list of professional organizations representing the diverse demographics in your company, for example, your local African-American, LGBTQ, or Asian bar association for attorneys. Review your current employee population and determine who identifies as part of which group. Encourage your employees to join these communities if they aren’t a part of them already. If they are already participating, encourage them to stay and continue building those relationships. As a company, show your support for these employees by sponsoring their memberships and events.
By encouraging your underrepresented talent to spend time with their communities, your company gains ambassadors. You can also ask these employees to leverage their network by posting and amplifying your company’s open positions.
Solution #3 – Leverage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in Your Recruiting Efforts
Your ERGs can be your brand ambassadors so make sure you invite them to be part of your recruitment events. Send ERG members to be recruiters at job fairs, particularly at universities that are historically black or at schools with large populations of underrepresented talent. The main point is to send people who can be an example of your company’s makeup and provide honest conversations about what your company’s culture is really like.
Another way to include ERG members in the recruitment process is to leverage them as part of your interview team. By including them as part of the decision-making, you add more equity to the hiring process. For underrepresented candidates, seeing someone who looks like them on the interview panel can make them feel more at ease.
My Experience as an Underrepresented Brand Ambassador
During my time at Apple, I chaired an ERG. I was part of university recruiting events where I spoke with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and shared my story with others.
At one event, in particular, we were at a booth in the university gymnasium with about 60 other organizations. I staffed the table alongside two recruiters from the HR department (both white women), as well as an employee who was part of the LatinX ERG group. The lineup at our booth was long, mostly because of our company’s well-recognized brand, but I hope it was also partly because students could see themselves represented in who was at the recruitment table. Students had been encouraged to bring a one-page resume with them and we held conversations about projects these students had worked on, projects they hoped to work on, and internship opportunities. As a non-native English speaker, immigrant, and Asian American, it was meaningful for me to participate in this event and to help by being a brand ambassador for our company.
Who your company recruits are reflective primarily of the networks your staff is connected to. By encouraging people to get to know others, particularly those who are historically marginalized, you can broaden those networks and enlarge the talent pool from which you can recruit. From senior leaders through all the ranks, leverage the potential of your brand ambassadors. This will not only enrich the experience for underrepresented talent, but for your company as a whole.