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Diversity Recruiting in a Failure: It's Time to Raise The Bar! [Cont]

Step 8 - Improve program measurement and metrics

You can't improve what you don't measure and most DRP’s are weak on measurement.

One fundamental reason why diversity fails is a lack of measurement (and the distribution of those metrics). In addition, keeping program measures a "secret" allows mediocre results to be maintained over a long period of time. Yes it's easy for managers to give excuses about why diversity recruiting "can't work" but metrics can dramatically show that others are succeeding.  It is also important to involve the finance department early on in metric development to ensure that the program measures are aligned

with standard business measures.  This helps to improve program credibility among the always-cynical finance group and other managers who have to deal with more precise or tangible measures on a regular basis, i.e. the rest of the business world outside HR.

After gathering the metrics it is equally important that they be distributed (in a forced rank format) to all managers and relevant employees. This distribution serves both to educate and to evaluate them in front of their peers. This report recognizes managers with excellent results, and shows other managers what is possible within the organization. Finally, it keeps bad managers from hiding. The powerful impact of distributed metrics on diversity recruiting cannot be emphasized enough! 

Most programs lack periodic performance metrics (numerical measures) for continuous improvement. Effective diversity recruiting programs need to measure at the very least:

  • Which sources produce the best candidates
  • Why offers are rejected
  • Why diverse workers quit
  • The performance or quality of the hires
  • Which managers have an excellent reputation for diversity recruiting results
  • Diversity retention rates
  • Diversity recruiting results by manager and business unit

Step 9 - Work on “poaching” currently employed individuals

Most programs (diversity or not diversity) focus primarily on attracting "active" candidates (An active candidate is someone that is currently unemployed or is actively looking for a job). The initial problem with active candidates is that at any one time less than 20 percent of the workforce is actively looking for a job.  This means if you focus on active candidates you are ignoring 80 percent of the population.

Another reason why diversity recruiting programs often focus on active candidates is because many diversity recruiting managers and many diversity recruiters are not experienced or trained in the difficult task of "poaching" away the best candidates from other companies. Their lack of experience causes them to take the easy way out.  Because finding active candidate is relatively easy (since most of them find you) recruiters get in the habit of using "shallow" and simplistic recruiting tools and strategies.

A third reason to avoid these active candidates is that currently employed professionals are much more likely to be diverse and better performers (than an equivalently sized pool of unemployed candidates would be) because diverse professionals and top performers are in such high demand. The quality of these "unemployed" candidates can be so low that they seldom make it through the final selection process meaning that the search must begin again- which is a considerable waste of organizational time, money and energies.

Because of all these factors, it is important for diversity programs to focus on "poaching away" currently employed talent.  Some of the best approaches for identifying and recruiting passive (employed professionals) candidates include:

  • Know the competition.  In the same sense that high-performing organizations know other companies, know their competition, and know their cluster for tracking key innovations and technology developments, DRP managers need to know what’s going on with the people in their own organization and other organizations.
  • Identify diverse individuals that write articles, give speeches or win awards.  Build a relationship with them over time and identify their "job switching" criteria.  Keep in touch with them so that the minute they become frustrated in their current job you can make them an offer.
  • Identify diverse individuals at professional meetings, trade fairs and at charity and social events. Build a relationship with them and make them a "friend" of your company.  Periodically send them electronic newsletters, offer them product discounts or invite them to training events at your company in order to build a relationship that may someday lead to a hire.
  • Attending the events sponsored by diversity groups can be effective but the competition is high and often attendance includes a large number of people that are active job seekers.  Consider focusing on the organization’s leadership and ask them to be referral sources for currently employed professionals.
  • Consider sponsoring contests or awards for professional organizations and use the information and the application to identify potential candidates.

These steps, in combination with a successful implementation of Step 6 above, will yield powerful long-term and consistent results for identifying and then securing “star” diverse recruits. There is no doubt that the only thing better than knowing you’ve just successfully recruited a “star” diverse recruit is knowing that you’ve just successfully wooed and stolen that “star” diverse recruit from your fiercest competitor!

Step 10 – Devote Equal Attention to Orientation and Retention

Finding diverse employees is important but keeping them is equally as important. Great recruiting can go out the window immediately after a candidate has been hired, as a result of inadequate employee orientation.  Because many people ask their friends during their first week on a new job "what is it like there" an effective orientation program can be an important marketing and recruiting tool to attract future hires.  Remember if your current new hires tell their friends that your firm "stinks", it will be almost impossible to recover from that bad reputation within the often closely-knit diversity community. Unless managers are measured and rewarded for retaining diverse workers you are liable to lose your very best in this competitive market.

The key points to remember here are:

  • Orientation is important - Diverse candidates may need specialized help in understanding the corporate culture in order to get off to a fast start.  Helping diverse individuals get a mentor, hooking them up with affinity groups (internal clubs or organizations made up of people with similar interests) and by continually asking them "how they're doing" can all go a long way toward improving their success rate.
  • Retention is important - It is essential to evaluate and reward managers based on their success in retaining diverse workers. Diverse employee turnover rates need to be measured and reported independently of all other turnover. Finally, because not all managers or employees understand the unique needs of diverse employees, it's important to continually educate managers and employees about diversity issues.  It is equally important to periodically survey individual diverse employees about what frustrates them.


As a result of the war for talent that has flourished over the last half a decade, recruiting and retention have been transformed from an HR effort into a major, mainstream strategic function. It is clear that achieving excellence in diversity recruiting requires the same kind of organizational attention as any other major strategic effort. What is needed is focus, persistence, setting tough goals and adhering to tough evaluation standards.  Strong leadership and management support are necessary so that your diversity recruiting program doesn’t become routinized and stale.  The interests and demands of diversity candidates are constantly changing and diversity recruiting programs need to be responsive to those changes in order to be dynamic. We feel that the time has come to update the tools and strategies and to reinvigorate diversity recruiting. By borrowing the tools and strategies that are proven so effective in high-tech during the last few years and adapting them to diversity recruiting you can dramatically improve the results you get.

About the Authors: Dr. John Sullivan & Dr. Sally Baack

Dr. John Sullivan is a well-known thought leader in HR. He is a frequent speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley firms. Formerly the chief talent officer for Agilent Technologies (the 43,000-employee HP spin-off), he is now professor and head of the HR program at San Francisco State University. He was called the “Michael Jordan of Hiring” by Fast Company magazine. Information about his numerous other articles, books and manuals about recruiting and HR can be found at DJS. Dr. Sullivan is also the editor of VP of HR, an e-newsletter providing “out of the box” solutions for senior HR managers.

Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. Sally Baack is an Assistant Professor of Management at San Francisco State University. She completed her Bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley and the Georg-August Universitaet, in Goettingen, Germany, and received her Ph.D. in Strategic Management from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. Her work with organizations has been focused primarily on leveraging human resources for optimal problem-solving and strategic change efforts. She has a strong background in international and cross-cultural issues, and is particularly interested in solving organizational problems that arise due to differences in individual’s diverse backgrounds. Her practical and academic interests revolve around helping organizations identify and solve cutting-edge strategic problems. She has presented her research at premier academic associations, both in the US and internationally. She has taught undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA students for the past eight years in the areas of Strategic Management; Business Policy and Decision-making; Organizational Behavior and Change; International Business Negotiations; and Managing Conflict and Problem Solving. She can be reached at sbaack@sfsu.edu.

Dr. Sally Baack