How to Build a Diversity Program

This post is part of an ongoing series, How to Hire Interns. Watch this space for frequent updates and follow us on Twitter!

Why Prioritize Diversity?

How to Build a Diversity ProgramLast week, Facebook made headlines with its search for a global head of diversity, a bid to boost creativity in the workplace during its planned growth spurt in 2013. Etsy also made a splash with the company’s achievement of growing the number of female engineers by nearly 500% in one year. With stories like these, we remember how crucial building a diversity program is—not only for one company’s success, but also on a global economic scale.

Instating a formal diversity program that aims for age, ethnic and racial, gender, and ability diversity attracts a larger applicant pool that, in turn, gives rise to more qualified candidates that harness the nation’s talent. The company that promotes inclusion benefits from a workforce that is more representative of its clients, as well. Diverse workplaces promote collaboration, higher-order problem solving, and a welcoming culture that lowers turnover rates. Nationally, we’ve seen their economic viability as well: Since 1970, the percentage of jobs held by women has grown from 37% to 48%, an increase that accounts for a quarter of our national GDP.

The Process and Culture of Diversity

Building and integrating a diversity program requires you evaluate your current workplace and its weaknesses, then making recruitment goals in response. From there, changing the company culture and encouraging dialogue helps retention of new hires.

  • Train supervisors and managers to implement best practices for promoting diversity and inclusion, and formalize the goal in your company’s mission statement. These measures help move you through the four stages of diversity management, from celebrating diversity to innovative cultural competency.
  • When recruiting at universities, attend diversity career fairs and reach out to organizations that focus on minority employment. Make sure that recruiters on campus are well versed in the company’s efforts and initiatives.
  • Create new programs that welcome more diverse workers to your company, such as flexible scheduling, vacation and holiday policies, dress codes, and daycare options. (Etsy, as we mentioned above, conceived of Etsy Hacker Grants, needs-based scholarships which enabled women to enroll in Hacker School.)
  • Appoint mentors that work with new employees to help them transition into the community, get accustomed to the job, reach career advancement goals, and form new friendships in the workplace.
  • Institute a formal way for managers and employees to address diversity issues, confidentially or in special forums.

 Where Do You Fit?

To launch a conversation about diversity internships and hiring practices, join us for our first ever Diversity Hangout with speakers from Facebook, Viacom/MTV, Geico, and Saks Fifth Avenue on Wednesday, February 20. The free event will also feature student representatives from diversity organizations SMASH, the College Success Foundation, and Rainier Scholars. After the event, InternMatch and the BrazenCareerist are hosting a virtual networking event (RSVP; space is limited) for all participants!

What moves has your company made to support diversity in the workplace, and how has it impacted productivity? Tell us in the comments!

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Nathan Parcells

Nathan Parcells is VP of Marketing and co-founder of Looksharp. He has spent the past decade helping students launch their career, researching best practices for hiring millennials (including running Looksharp's annual "State of College Hiring") and sharing these insights with employers. Nathan's work has been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, Business Insider and more. Outside of work, Nathan is an avid rock climber, back packer and Bob Dylan fan.