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Beyond checking the box: talent acquisition strategies for building a diverse and inclusive workplace

By Hannah Brenwall, Campus Recruiting Manager

There is an incredible amount of opportunity (and pressure) for talent acquisition leaders today to hire and retain more diverse workforces, especially when it comes to early-career talent. And for good reason. A study released this year found that within Fortune 500 companies, Black profit and loss senior leaders are some of the highest performing executives in corporate America (Korn Ferry). Companies with more than 30% women executives outperform companies with less than 30%, and companies in the top 25% of racial and ethnic diversity metrics outperformed the bottom 25% by 36% in profitability (McKinsey & Company). When employees feel included in their organizations, they are 3 times more likely than others to feel excited by and committed to organization missions (McKinsey & Company).

When I moved from talent management to talent acquisition in 2020, our company was making major investments in building up diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) taskforces that focused on recruiting enablement, training and education resources, and fostering inclusive communities. This was part of the much larger racial and social justice reckoning following George Floyd’s murder, which led many organizations – and individuals – to reassess their efforts in combating and addressing injustices and nurturing inclusive workplaces.

Although Crew, Turnberry’s junior talent program, had always been committed to hiring untapped talent from a variety of academic majors and professional backgrounds – as well as ensuring women made up at least half of our program – as of 2020, people of color made up just 18% of Crew. We knew that moving forward, there was an opportunity for us to do more.

Since 2020, Crew has made significant progress not only in how we define diversity, but also in how we support all individuals in our organization. Each quarter, a DE&I training is offered to all employees, and is required for people leaders (including the C-suite). We scored 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2023 Corporate Equality Index, exemplifying our commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace. We have six employee resource groups that each focus on a common experience, identity, or interest, and instill a safe space for employees to share stories, educate, and build community. And by the beginning of 2023, the people of color population within Crew was up to 35%. This progress was not simple, quick, or without trial and error. And there is always more to do.

For my part, I was tasked with hiring 40 fresh college graduates who had four-year degrees, campus involvement, stellar soft skills, internship experience, and geographic proximity to one of our four locations at the time. With Turnberry’s expanded understanding of diversity, and our clients asking for help diversifying their workforce as well, we recognized the need to capitalize on the campus engine’s unique ability to bring in high volumes of talent to make progress.

Our requirements would need to be adjusted, though. Students from underserved communities may lack access to resources such as private ACT/SAT tutors or individuals in their networks who can guide them toward paid corporate internships. As a result, they may find themselves falling behind. Their resumes might not reflect as much campus involvement because they had to work a part-time job to keep up with rent and tuition that couldn’t come from their families. For many underserved students, the barriers to graduating from college while meeting these standards are systemic – and they can’t be eradicated easily. This can be an overwhelming hurdle, but by focusing on the things talent acquisition professionals can control and getting 1% better at them, we can move the needle.

Things that helped Crew build a diversity-focused recruiting strategy:

  1. Diversifying our talent pool. While recruiting and investing time at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) is a valuable component of a campus recruiting strategy, there is a significant opportunity to expand the reach to other types of institutions that also host diverse student populations. When nearly every early talent program is sending exclusive messages to students at HBCUs, those students are inundated and as a result, messaging drops in effectiveness. We added schools to our campus recruiting list that have diverse student populations that aligned with our hiring goals and got to work. We also expanded and strengthened our partnerships with local organizations representing marginalized communities to host quarterly events like resume reviews or mock interview practice to help elevate students’ job search processes. 
  2. Broadening our reach. Our biggest market for hiring Crew is Minnesota, but through our partnership with Handshake, we found out that 40% of the total student population in the U.S. that wanted to live in Minnesota after graduation attended school outside of the state (2022). Cue posting jobs to schools outside of our established geographies and opening the talent pool that much more!
  3. Crafting targeted campaigns. Messaging campaigns have been a huge lift and allow us to reach students across the country who meet our requirements (including for degree, experience, and location). We take it a step further and send strategic hiring campaigns to students who have self-identified as part of an underserved group prior to any other hiring events in the recruiting season. This allows our candidate pool to fill up with these students first and prioritizes getting them into our process.
  4. Adherence to a scoring rubric for interviews. Equitable hiring practices mean consistent interview questions and scoring metrics for all candidates to reduce unconscious bias. We also added training for recruiters and hiring managers on facilitating a consistent and positive experience for all individuals.
  5. Being transparent. We made a concerted effort not only to ramp up our inclusive benefits, but also make them easy to find on our website and in interview confirmations. With this information readily available, candidates who need, for example, support for gender transition healthcare do not need to out themselves to get critical information about our benefit offerings.
  6. Being ready to receive these individuals. If you put in all the work to recruit underserved communities, make sure you have a place for them to land in your organization. Employee resource groups, expansive benefits, and inclusive cultures can be as crucial to retention of these individuals as career trajectories.

My advice for anyone looking to hire diverse junior talent candidates – be intentional, be authentic, and be patient. Gen Z is smart, and they value employers who aren’t trying to “check a box” with their diversity initiatives. They are seeking genuine connections and environments where they feel psychologically safe, motivated, and able to grow. We know that our work hiring, supporting, and retaining a diverse workforce is never done and we will continue to commit to this important work – we, and our industry, are better for it.

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