Building a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion at your organization

Staffing firms can’t afford to fall behind in today’s tight labor market. And while client retention might be top of mind, a fundamental piece to success is how firms and employers are approaching diversity, equity and inclusion – if they’re approaching these efforts at all. 

CareerBuilder recently partnered with research firm ClearlyRated to survey hundreds of staffing buyers and professionals on their views and experiences as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion, and the findings show how crucial DEI work is: 

  • 13% of respondents report witnessing discrimination, and that number is higher among non-white women and LGBTQ+ workers.
  • 14% of non-white employees believe they’ve been passed over a promotion based on non-performance criteria, versus 8% of white employees.
  • Firms not committed to DEI have much higher levels of dissatisfaction, which is a leading indicator of turnover.

We know from recent federal jobs reports that more people quit in August 2021 than in any time in the past 20 years. Retention and staffing are at a pivotal moment, and DEI plays a critical role. Our findings also show that leadership tends to think the state of DEI is better than how field employees view it. 

What can companies and staffing professionals do if they haven’t started, or have hit a plateau in DEI efforts? 

CareerBuilder Chief Revenue Officer Steven Cerny and ClearlyRated Founder and CEO Eric Gregg recently hosted a webinar to discuss these findings and answer this question with staffing industry and DEI leaders: 

  • Terri Ford, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility at Nesco Resource 
  • Audra Woods, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Kforce 

Here are some highlights from the conversation, with tips on how to implement new strategies at your company. 

Audra: Recognize that it’s a journey. Everything is not going to be done in a day. And it's not an initiative. It’s truly something you’re embedding in the culture and instilling in the culture. That can be a paradigm shift.  

You have to listen to your people. After George Floyd, our COO started town halls across the organization and heard from people, then we mapped out the strategy and our commitment. Some companies are quick to react and don’t take the time to hear their people. What one company does may not be best for another. And it can’t just be the DEI team doing the lifting; there needs to be collaboration across the board. 

Terri: Start with the willing. Not everyone will see the “why” behind it right away. There's a great number of people who do, and that will grow. Our book club grew from there. It is a journey. Little steps can turn into miles. 

Steven: Listening is so critically important, those types of actions that start with listening that we internalize and then materialize. CareerBuilder has done unconscious bias training from two vendors. We’re sponsoring two Black employees for McKinsey Black Leadership Academy. We’re partnering with diversity job boards, veterans jobs boards. If you keep going to the same place to hire, things aren’t going to change. 

Eric: We found that white males don’t see discrimination at their firms, and they run two-thirds of staffing firms in country. 

Terri: There’s frustration on both sides. My son plays soccer. The ref never calls in his favor, always against us. There’s frustration as a parent: “Don’t you see what we see, that there are things happening to our kids but not other kids?” Some parents yell and it becomes a defensive response. Sometimes we see the game, but we don’t see the players. 

There is a bit of education and opportunity for white males to open up. They may not see that diversity affects them. Bringing them into the room, some hand holding, and saying, ‘This means all of us.’ 

Audra: Prior to working at Kforce, I was in conversations with my leader at the time and made her aware that I was looking to get my MBA, before I got my MBA, and she asked ‘Will you be the first in your family to receive your MBA?’ Actually, I’m the last. I’m one of four siblings and all have MBAs. That made me feel she had a perception that Black women are not educated. Made me feel not as motivated, not as valued to the organization. 

I tie it back to emotional intelligence, self-awareness. A lot of people don’t understand micro aggressions. They are comments that can be insensitive: ‘There's only one race’ or ‘I don’t see color.’ A person of color may perceive that as, My color or history does not matter to you.  

Eric: That defense mechanism: ‘I came from nothing, everything I got I made on my own.’ Disconnect white privilege from being a hard worker. You can have worked hard and gotten lifts along the way because of your privilege. 

Let’s talk about working from home. When it comes to remote work, we found, men, boomers and white workers are more OK with full office setting. We also found that 4 in 10 are going back to the office, 1 in 10 want to be there. 

Terri: When we think about inclusion, a single mom needs to make sure she can get her kids off the bus. I saw somewhere recently that Black people feel more comfortable at home. These can be your strongest players, but they’re going other places because those companies offer those benefits. 

Eric: I get that remote and hybrid has challenges, but turnover has challenges, so I’d much rather solve the first issue than the second. 

The biggest key to remote work policy and strategy is: 

Audra: Belonging and communication. 

Steven: Surveying your people and monitoring the trending. 

Terri: Set clear expectations, build a clear foundation and trust your employees. 

Eric: Learn and evolve. You’re not going to get everything right out of the gate. 

Watch the full webinar and see the survey results.

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