Do’s and don’ts of DEI hiring: ‘Looking at how you’re restricting your candidate pool is a really important step’

Many companies now understand that they will be more impactful if they bring diverse talent into their organization, from entry-level all the way up to the C-Suite.

That acknowledgement, however, is not enough.

Shena Patel, the creative director at Shena Patel Creative, challenged companies to look at their hiring practices when it comes to attracting people from underserved communities.

“You have to look at your recruiting practices,” she said. “Often those practices can limit candidates to those who have had the privilege of affording a top-tier education or being able to take the summer off for an internship.”

Patel, a panelist on the recent webinar by Violet PR, “Communicating in the Age of #BLM,” said all aspects of the recruitment process need a second look.

Patel said companies should look at mandatory skills and prerequisites, and evaluate how essential they are — and if they can be taught.

“Looking at how you’re restricting your candidate pool is a really important step,” she said.

Patel said all of this goes to a bigger point: It’s one thing for companies to say they support the ideas of Black Lives Matter. Doing things that actually have impact is something else.

“You can’t just say that you stand with the Black community,” she said. “You need to come up with a plan. What do you propose you do to stand with them?”

Patel discussed some of the do’s and don’ts of building diverse and inclusive creative teams.

Here are some of her thoughts:

DO: Be action-oriented

Patel cited Target as a great example.

“Following the Target CEO’s statements, which came very quickly after (George) Floyd’s murder, they announced that they were committing $10 million to ongoing resources,” Patel said.

“That included monetary donations to organizations and pro-bono consulting for minority- and Black-owned businesses in the area. Beyond product donations to community members in need, they’re actually taking their customer loyalty program and allowing customers to redirect their funds or points to donate to social justice organizations.

“So, they came out very quickly and made a statement and then followed up with actionable items that they committed to.”

DON’T: Leave diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to your BIPOC employees

Patel said diversity efforts should never be the burden of your Black, Indigenous, People of Color employees. Regardless of size, companies can find the appropriate help, she said.

Patel said organizations may want to consider adding a full-time person or a consultant.

“I do recommend that if there’s someone you can hire on the local level, who knows your community, the makeup of the marketplace, and all those really specific things, you’re going to get a better result,” she said.

Patel said it’s important for BIPOC employees to feel they can give feedback on diversity efforts, without being the ones expected to be in charge of them.

DO: Be transparent

Being upfront about work your company needs to do is key, Patel said.

“It’s about being honest,” she said. “One example you may have heard is the founder of Reddit stepped down from the board and encouraged the remaining members to fill his seat with a Black member. With that, he’s admitting that there’s work that needs to be done and taking a very actionable step in making sure that something is done.”