Hiring Is Slowing For Many. It’s A Good Time To Evaluate Your DEI Strategy

Jessica Green, SVP of customer success at Employ
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‘Focusing on DEI in the quiet hiring season can pay dividends to your diversity efforts when a business is positioned for growth again,’ says Jessica Green, SVP of customer success at Lever.

During this “quiet hiring season,” HR leaders can take time to reevaluate their recruitment and retention strategies—including their goals related to diversity, equity and inclusion, says Jessica Green, senior vice president of customer success at San Francisco-based Lever, an Employ brand.

Green spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about not being “performative” on DEI, why actions are more important than words and why DEI isn’t just an HR issue.

Why is a hiring slowdown a good time for HR leaders to focus on DEI?

When hiring slows down, as we are currently seeing, HR executives can leverage this time to strengthen their recruiting strategies, processes and other initiatives, such as DEI.

A company can have diversity quotas and initiatives within the hiring teams, but those efforts will fall flat if there is not equal attention put into all other parts of the employee experience. Focusing on DEI in the quiet hiring season can pay dividends to your diversity efforts when a business is positioned for growth again.

An inclusive, equitable environment that fosters belonging is paramount to attracting and retaining diverse talent. By taking the time now to focus specifically on equity and inclusion, companies can equip themselves to ensure DEI is in every part of their culture.

Once hiring increases, companies will be in a better position because they took the time to understand and learn how DEI is accounted for throughout their company. Taking the time to invest in equity and inclusion during a slow hiring season can inform and strengthen the recruitment strategy for diverse talent when an organization can begin to hire again.

What are some steps HR leaders can take to ensure that their DEI efforts are genuine and well received by employees?

Every company will have a unique strategy around diversity, equity and inclusion because that is the nature of DEI. Each company, team and person may be at a different stage of DEI maturity. The first step to making the efforts genuine is to look inward and be honest about where you are so that the strategy is built accurately and represents a path to progress.

Once you have done that, there are a few things to keep in mind to build trust in your employee base.

DEI is everyone’s responsibility, not just HR—and all leaders need to show consistency in their commitment. While HR can drive programs and policies, they cannot be the only ones pulling the company along when it comes to DEI progress. HR should partner with executive leadership and leaders throughout the company to ensure they lead by example in their daily interactions with their team members, peers, partners and customers.

Create space for feedback and participation across the team. For DEI efforts to be as effective as possible, companies need feedback from diverse perspectives. Creating open lines for feedback is a key way to make sure that their DEI efforts resonate with employees. This can include conducting listening tours and/or anonymous surveys to gauge employee sentiment about current and future DEI initiatives. Based on the feedback received, leadership can adjust their efforts as needed to better adapt to employee needs.

Consistency and progress, not perfection. In a recent survey, Lever found that almost a third of employees think their company is less focused on diversity than it appeared in the hiring process, proving a need to better align discussions around DEI in the hiring process with reality. Employees are more likely to believe that DEI efforts are genuine when they are consistent, and they see progress.

When working on a new project regarding DEI, there are a few questions you can ask yourself or the team you are working with to ensure this is not a singular performative action but instead a part of a longer, more sustainable program: What are we trying to accomplish with this event, policy, committee, etc.? What is the follow-through or reinforcement?How will we know if our work had the intended impact?Is this something that should persist over time? What needs to happen for that to be true?

What are some DEI initiatives that HR leaders can create this year if they are stepping away from a focus on hiring new talent? If HR leaders are continuing to hire new talent, how can they ensure that DEI efforts are a focus throughout the hiring process?

Those still hiring in 2023 should ensure that DEI efforts in the hiring process are genuine, not just performative. Lever found that 62 percent of employees felt they were interviewed for a job so the company could meet a diversity requirement. HR leaders should have honest and genuine conversations around DEI efforts during the interview process and be able to point to tangible examples of what the company has done regarding DEI.

Talent teams can do so much to further a company’s DEI efforts. Here are some focus area examples that could move a DEI strategy forward. A slow hiring season is a prime time to:

  • Build a more diverse talent pipeline and nurture that talent over time
  • Review job descriptions to ensure they have inclusive language
  • Stand up a pay transparency strategy 
  • Upskill the talent team and hiring managers on how to think about hiring for skills instead of education to open opportunities to non-traditional backgrounds
  • Translate the DEI efforts internally into your website to strengthen recruitment marketing

How can HR leaders advocate for DEI efforts with executives? Why do DEI efforts typically fall on HR leaders to advocate for?

Investing in DEI has radiating benefits to a business that are not always at the forefront of the way DEI investment is positioned. Beyond the fact that it creates a more welcoming and inclusive environment to work in, studies show DEI has the potential to increase sales revenue, increase customer base and ultimately increase profits. These initiatives help cultivate a workplace where employees feel respected and therefore are more motivated to support the company.

Historically DEI efforts fall on HR leaders because many aspects of equity and inclusion require policy to be created, managed and maintained—things like creating an employee handbook or benefits, for example. The challenge for many organizations today is moving away from a single owner and making diversity, equity and inclusion the responsibility of every leader and individual in the company. When the organizational mindset shifts from a single owner to everyone participating, the DEI progress can be more stable, consistent and pervasive throughout the organization.

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