Diversity Recruiting Fails … When You Lump All Diverse Groups Together

November 9, 2015 | ERE

How shifting to “segmented diversity recruiting” will improve your results

Recently there has been a high level of scrutiny directed on diversity recruiting. Why? Because executives are increasingly realizing the tremendous revenue impact that comes from having at least the product development, sales, and customer service components of your workforce mirror the diversity of your customer base. Despite this scrutiny, almost all corporate diversity recruiting programs still fail to meet their extremely modest diversity recruiting goals. And one of the primary reasons why they fail is because they stereotype and lump all diversity groups together in their diversity recruiting effort.

Stereotyping defined: to believe unfairly that all people that with a particular characteristic are the same.

We learn in childhood that stereotyping groups of people is wrong, but that’s exactly what we do in diversity recruiting (this lumping together would never happen in diversity product marketing). Most corporations from Google on down use a one-size-fits-all approach with diversity recruiting. This means that they recruit each of the EEOC’s protected groups with the same recruiting approach, as if they were one homogenous group. But unfortunately if you use a “recruit them all the same way” approach you almost guarantee failure because the factors that attract members in the many different protected groups and their subgroups are not the same. The term diversity itself indicates that these groups are different, but nothing in the word diversity infers that these groups are all different in the same uniform way!

Recruiting All Diversity Groups With the Same Approach Is a Disaster

Think about it a minute. Diversity recruiting functions target a wide variety of diverse groups, but they do it with almost exactly the same employer branding, communications, and recruiting approach. A broad-brush diversity recruiting approach cannot work simply because the only single factor that is consistent between women, Hispanics, and African-Americans, homosexuals, etc. is a history of being underrepresented in the workplace.

It is simply illogical to assume that all prospects from a single racial group like Hispanics can be attracted the same way, because, within the Hispanic community, there are so many unique subgroups. But it’s simply ridiculous to assume that a recruiting approach that won’t even successfully attract all Hispanics will also automatically be effective at attracting other racial groups including Asians and African-Americans. Although most diversity recruiting leaders are not aware of it, fortunately on the business side of the corporation there is a well-established and effective approach that treats each diversity segment uniquely. This approach is known as “Diversity Marketing.” Diversity marketing uses data in order to customize a firm’s product marketing approach so that it fits the unique needs of each of the small segments of a larger diverse customer group. If you examine diversity Mmarketing in the product area closely, fortunately, you will find that most of its approaches can be applied directly to diversity recruiting.

First, Successful Diversity Recruiting Requires You to “Unbundle” Diversity Groups and Then Identify the Different Diversity Segments

The recruiting version of diversity marketing allows you to effectively identify and then send unique recruiting messages to many diverse subgroups or segments. Rather than lumping everyone from all EEOC protected groups together, this approach uses data to unbundle large diversity groups and to identify their smaller segments or subgroups.

Let’s use Hispanics as an example. Hispanics recruiting targets can have origins from 21 different countries. Marketing-Schools.org describes the many different segments within the Hispanic community: “They do not represent a single consumer group. Spanish-speaking first-generation immigrants, for example, respond differently to advertising messages than their bilingual and English-speaking children. Additionally, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and various other subgroups (including White Hispanics) differ from one another; so any diversity marketing towards Hispanics must actually be further subdivided into smaller component markets.”

For instance, product marketing would never try to sell a Mexican beer like Tecate to Hispanics from Peru or Spain using the same approach that they would use to sell it to Hispanics of Mexican origin. That is because, even though each of these three target audiences shares a common Spanish language, the factors that make a beverage attractive to each subgroup or segment are completely different. In the same light, we need to break into segments for each of the large groups that we are targeting in our diversity recruiting effort.

Segmented Diversity Recruiting Adapts the Approaches From Diversity Marketing

Rather than excessively lumping together the different diversity groups, “segmented diversity recruiting” requires that you identify the different subgroups and then that you use data to tailor your recruiting pitch to the unique expectations of each major diversity segment that you are targeting. Often recruiters can identify these distinct subgroups by benchmarking with internal or external product marketing groups. The alternative approach is to use surveys, interviews, or focus groups of potential recruiting targets in order to determine which distinct subgroups share a common job-search approach and similar job and company “attraction factors.” These subgroups can often be further refined by age, country of origin, education level, their income and their professional status. An example of a diversity subgroup or segment might include Hispanic females with a cultural heritage from Cuba, who live in the Miami area and have at least five years of experience in sales.

Next, a Segmented Recruiting Approach Is Required to Effectively Attract Diverse Prospects

After identifying the different diversity subgroups, segmented diversity recruiting uses data acquired through prospect/candidate research to discover the essential information that is necessary in order to tailor a recruiting approach to a particular diversity segment. That essential information includes:

  • The unique approach that each subgroup or segment uses to search for a new job.
  • The unique factors that cause members of a subgroup to become initially interested in a firm.
  • The unique factors that will “trigger them” to apply for a job.
  • The unique factors that will cause them to accept a job offer.

The best way to identify the expectations of a diversity segment is by conducting applicant/candidate research, which usually includes surveys and interviews with current employees, applicants, and new hires from this subgroup. You can use prospect/candidate research to identify the ideal place where members would see information about the company or a job posting. This research should also reveal what must be in a recruiting message in order to excite segment members enough to apply, and finally what unique factors that they will use to accept or reject a job offer. Once you learn this information about subgroup members, you must tailor or customize your recruiting approach and your offers to precisely fit the expectations of the segments that you are targeting.

Final Thoughts

Even though most of the leaders of diversity recruiting come from one of the EEOC protected groups, they make the mistake of assuming that because they “know their own diverse group” that they can apply the same recruiting principles and approaches to all other diverse groups. Unfortunately, that is a weak assumption because in recruiting, “one size does not fit all.” Instead what is needed is a data-driven approach which identifies what works and what doesn’t work for recruiting each of the many diversity subgroups. A data-driven approach is essential because the needs and expectations of the different diversity subgroups are constantly changing, so data can help you to continuously modify your approach in order to improve your results.

The key lesson to be learned is that even though customized segmented diversity recruiting may appear on the surface to be more time-consuming and expensive (it is). The extra costs are minimal compared to the tremendous loss in revenue that occurs when your product design, sales, and customer service staff doesn’t reflect the diversity makeup of your current and future customers. Because the current “lump them all together” recruiting approach is so ineffective, I estimate that you can improve your diversity recruiting results by as much as 40 percent by using segmented diversity recruiting.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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