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Many companies are putting policies and processes in place to help with their diversity and inclusion efforts. For the most part, this is a good thing. Without deliberate effort, companies run the risk of remaining completely stagnant with no new ideas moving them forward and a workforce that looks and acts like a homogenous blog. What are the problems with that? Well, for starters, without people who can bring new and different ideas to the table organizations can’t grow and thrive. The world is changing, why isn’t your company? And don’t get me started on retention. You can hire all the diverse candidates that you want but if your company isn’t welcoming and if there isn’t diversity in your leadership team, you run the risk of having those diverse new hires turn over in droves. For me personally, it is hard to give my all to a company that makes me feel like a token hire or that doesn’t have anyone who looks like me in their C-Suite.

Some companies put different things in place to combat this. A very good friend of mine works for an organization who put a campaign in place to make sure that for every senior leadership role that opened, a diverse slate of candidates needed to be interviewed. Before the position can be filled they have to prove that they interviewed people of different genders, ethnicities, etc. When I heard about it, I thought wow, what a great idea, this initiative will definitely lead to having a more diverse leadership team. After all, they can track the numbers and see how much growth they’ve had in that area over time. Seems like the right thing to do. What could go wrong?

Turns out plenty. When a company rolls out an initiative like this and doesn’t necessarily have the buy-in from the people doing the hiring teams, the leaders and everyone in HR, it may not go well. When the company tracks the numbers, not the experience, all sorts of things can go wrong. My friend is a testament to that. They were invited to interview for a leadership role and based on the feedback that they got during the interview which was that they didn’t have enough experience for the role, they were left feeling like they were just interviewed to check the box of having a diverse slate.  They aren’t the only person to have this problem. Someone else who “checks 2 boxes” as a black female, has had multiple interviews but hasn’t been promoted and she isn’t quite sure why. Another woman received feedback that the white male that was hired had more experience than her even though, based on his resume, he absolutely didn’t.

Tracking the numbers may tell you a story that isn’t true. I think that it’s time to start tracking experiences. The best-laid plans may have holes in them that you didn’t see coming. You may get the desired results, more diverse candidate slates, but at what cost? Making people feel like representatives of their gender or race instead of valued employees? My two cents, when something like this is rolled out, follow up and get real feedback on the candidate experience. As an employee going through this process, I can imagine that it would mean a lot to me to have someone reach out to me and ask about how I felt going through the interview process. Gathering this information can also help you determine the level of engagement your leaders have with the process. Doing some digging and getting feedback on the candidate experience can show you what work you may need to do to help advocate for your campaign and teach leaders in your organization the business case for diversity and inclusion.

I’m not saying that tracking numbers is a bad thing, it is important to know if you are moving the needle towards meeting your diversity goals. But you can’t just roll out a program and walk away. You have to check in, you have to have hard conversations, you have to track experiences.  Your numbers may say that your initiative is a raging success but the people who are being impacted by it may have a completely different idea about how well things are going. I’m not saying that it will be easy, these may be very difficult conversations to have. You must ensure that the right people are involved or it will turn into yet another check the box activity. You need to have genuine care and concern to show genuine care and concern.  A disingenuous focus group is not the way to do this. Detailed one on one conversations with candidates and hiring managers led by someone who is trained to facilitate such discussions is key. View the feedback that you receive as the gift that it is and make any necessary changes. No one wants to feel like they were the token candidate. Well, no one wants to be a token hire either, but we’ll save that for its own blog post.

Take a look at your current diversity programs, campaigns, and initiatives and ask yourself, do I know what it feels like to A-Be in the trenches and comply with these policies and programs and B-Be a diverse person on the receiving end of the policy or program? If you don’t you have some work to do. Time to start tracking experiences.

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