4 Important Ways to Bring Employer Brand + Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Together #DEI

In-clu-sion  noun

An act of taking in as part of a whole : the state of being taken in as part of a whole
The action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure

In our 2021 Employer Brand Predictions and Trends post, senior strategist, Emily Fritz shared, “This year (2020) companies spoke up and made public commitments to end systemic racism in their organizations. They promised racial equity and increased diversity in leadership. Next year, they will be held accountable to show the results of their promised actions.” Meaning, corporate Twitter posts (like this one generalizing so many statements we saw last year) expressing vague solidarity with social justice must now be backed up with demonstrable efforts. 

Additionally, the SEC recently introduced enhanced human capital disclosure requirements to “modernize disclosures of business,” provide insight into human capital, and address the development, attraction, and retention of employees. Recommendations by PwC, suggest companies consider diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) when building their disclosures, as stakeholders, investors, employees, and candidates will be looking for information to better understand organizational DEI commitments.

And employer brand leaders have a responsibility to help lead the way. 

Employer brand and DEI should co-exist at every turn, not exist in separate silos. Now, more than ever, employer brand professionals need to see these functions as two threads in the same fabric. The important work is weaving them together. 

“I firmly believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion need to be embedded in the business strategy in order for it to be prioritized in a company and become a holistic, sustainable strategy as opposed to just in time programs,” advises Nina Madoo, exaqueo’s DEI consultant who has advised organizations such as Boeing and Hilton on their diversity and inclusion strategies. “If embedded in the business strategy, it cascades to the talent management and employer brand strategy. When that happens, business leaders and hiring managers are held accountable, there are targets and metrics in place, HR policies are disrupting bias and leaders ensure management engagement.”

In This Together: Employer Brand + Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

If you are going to help support and lead your organization through DEI strategy, the approach needs to be authentic and intentional. Here are four key ways:

  1. Workforce Analytics: Most organizations struggle with the diversity of their workforce in some fashion. Therefore, it is vitally important for employer brand professionals and HR leaders to know their organization inside and out, and that starts with understanding your people. It’s not enough to look at people analytics at a high level, it’s essential to analyze what the numbers actually mean.  

    This comes from understanding the insight behind the numbers: the challenges and expectations of employees across locations, functions, and roles. Armed with that understanding, you can address your workforce using tailored strategies, custom approaches, and personalized content. Only with this knowledge, can you begin to balance understanding your people with the values you espouse as a company.

  1. Authentic Messaging: Recently, one of our San Francisco Bay-area tech clients shared that they “want to attract people who understand diversity and inclusion, and care about it … your skills are secondary to your humanity.” What a powerful philosophy and statement to share with us … and with employees and candidates. And they’re not the only ones. Around the world,  employers are being called and moved to action.

    Part of our job as employer brand experts is to help our organizations connect the internal experience to the external environment. Having a clear, consistent message around the company's efforts to attract, retain, and support talent from diverse groups is incredibly important to this particular client. Together, we’re working on a strategic message framework—a powerful tool to help provide needed transparency and truth around DEI initiatives and goals.

    Words fuel movements, inspire, and endure. For many organizations, 2020 changed the employment experience. Employees are hurting right now in this highly charged social (in)justice climate. ”In addition to supporting employees internally at work, there needs to be an understanding that their experience outside of work impacts them day-to-day, at work and home,” advises Madoo

    “Companies that understand that and are truly invested in improving the employee experience through the internal culture and external investments that influence positive change will benefit from a committed and loyal workforce.” As employer brand professionals, now is the time to start asking yourself and your colleagues: 
  • How has the employment experience changed? 
  • What do our employees expect of us? 
  • What do candidates now expect? 
  • What is the voice of our employees and how do we ensure they are being heard? 
  • What DEI-related questions are our recruiters being asked to answer? 
  • How do you authentically iterate, adapt, and share your new employment experience story?

  1. Creative Expression: The way you show DEI visually may be one of the most important elements of your strategy. Some organizations view diversity as critical to the future of their business, others care but are more superficially motivated by the fear of not being seen to be diverse.

    “Showing ‘diversity’ in employer brand marketing and advertising can be overly simple, highly complex, nuanced, and paradoxical. In my experience, the creative briefs I’ve been asked to work on operate on a spectrum,” shares Roger Cayless, exaqueo’s executive creative director. 

    “At one end are creative briefs where an organization has identified a lack of diversity in a particular area and want to tackle it head on. The sole purpose of these briefs is to recruit underrepresented groups. At the other end of the spectrum, are briefs that feature a request to ‘make sure diversity is represented.’ This is generally code for ensuring people of color and equality of gender are featured in any photography used.” 

    The danger—in employer brand creative work—is that simplistic 'diversity' can breed tokenism. Where as long as you’re showing some form of diversity, it's done. Stock photo libraries pander to this demand with ‘Workplace Diversity’ images designed to tick every box, and are very obvious and even insulting to an aware audience. 

    There is also a very real danger of miss-selling or misrepresenting a diverse environment, where new joiners feel they have been deceived from day one. Ultimately, the hope would be that diversity and inclusion is woven into the fabric of organizations to the point where it’s not regarded as a separate ‘thing.’ 

    Be aspirational by all means, but be honest too.

    “Throughout my career, I’ve seen very well-meaning intentions around diversity, but with different motivations,” Cayless states. “As a creative, it’s important to not reach for the obvious representations of diversity, and to look for more interesting and authentic ways to show inclusion.”

  1. New Audiences: Diversity isn’t just looking around where you are, it’s exploring in places you haven’t been. In his recent HBR article, “To Increase Diversity, U.S. Tech Companies Need to Follow the Talent,” Bhaskar Chakravorti, writes, “As companies have moved to remote work during the pandemic—and possibly forever—tech companies ought to envision a recruitment and retention strategy targeted at talent from places far from the usual clusters.” Perhaps, this advice extends beyond the tech realm to other industries now realizing that work from anywhere is possible?

    Rethinking remote work policies and talent strategies, will allow employers the opportunity to attract individuals from new markets. When physical location is put aside, recruiters and hiring managers can truly focus on hiring the best and most diverse talent. No longer are roles landlocked by city preferences, cost of living, or commutable distances. Giving employer brand professionals and recruitment marketers a real opportunity to listen to, reframe, and share their organization’s jobs and stories with broader and more diverse audiences. 

All of this leads to DEI becoming the fabric of the culture, as well as the candidate and employee experiences. The research is clear. Diverse perspectives “boost innovation(Forbes) and research conducted by Boston Consulting Group determined, “there was a statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes.” And by diverse perspectives, we mean more than just diversity of thought because we know that experiences, backgrounds, ethnicities, and all dimensions of diversity impact our perspective. 

Here at exaqueo, we want to see this change come to light. In 2021, we want to see more honesty, integrity, and inclusion in the employer brand and employment experience, because organizations are committed to DEI as part of their strategy, forever, because it just makes good people and business sense.

Join this important conversation using #ConversationsforChange.

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