At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a record number of employees were sent to work from home, and many others were laid off or furloughed. Women and underrepresented minorities were hit especially hard, resulting in a drop in employment among those groups.

Though the pandemic has led to an increase in the number of women and minorities leaving the workforce, it doesn’t mean you have to abandon your diversity hiring. By taking key steps to boost inclusive hiring—including understanding how the pandemic has impacted women and minorities to begin with—you can build a diverse workforce and culture.

Women and Minorities Have Been Exiting the Workforce

According to a Liberty Street Economics research report, between February and April 2020, employment for women fell by 18 percent, compared to only 13 percent for men. Employment also fell by 16 percent and 20 percent for blacks and Hispanics, respectively, compared to 15 percent for whites.

More recently, the impact of the pandemic on women and minorities has been more lasting. For example, in January 2021, 275,000 women left the workforce, compared to only 71,000 men. As the pandemic has persisted, women have faced increasing pressures related to childcare, expanding household duties, and other demands on their time. As a result, according to a 2020 McKinsey/LeanIn study, one in four women said they were considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to the pandemic.

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How to Practice Inclusive Hiring

Though many women and minorities have left the workplace both voluntarily and involuntarily, there remain opportunities to attract diverse talent to your organization. Take the following steps to practice inclusive hiring and get closer to reaching your goals for a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Apply Equitable Hiring Practices

A key component of inclusive hiring is staying in compliance with applicable pay equity laws. For example, you need to abide by salary history bans, which can vary greatly from state to state. Salary history legislation prohibits employers from asking candidates about their current or past compensation, thereby helping to prevent the continuation of lower salaries paid to women and minorities.

In addition to avoiding questions about candidates’ current or past salary during the interview process, you should also make sure your background screening provider avoids those questions when conducting employment verifications. 

Demonstrate Your Commitment to Workplace Flexibility

One of the implications of the pandemic has been an increase in demands on employee time, especially women who often manage more household and childcare responsibilities than men, according to studies. Given the many pressures women face both in and out of the workplace, you can attract and retain them by offering flexible work options to support their work-life balance.

According to a recent Mercer survey, 83 percent of executives said their companies were considering implementing flexible work options on a greater scale than they did before the pandemic. By offering additional flexibility and highlighting them in your employer branding, you can make your organization an attractive option for women and other candidates. 

For example, you can highlight workplace flexibility on your careers site, in job postings, and on company social media pages. Some of the options you can offer include:

  • Continued remote work opportunities
  • Hybrid onsite/remote arrangements
  • Part-time and other flexible schedules

Look for Ways to Reduce Bias in the Hiring Process

One of the common obstacles to diversity hiring is unconscious bias. Without realizing it, resume screeners and interviewers may be ruling out certain candidates based on preconceived notions about their name, address, or even their extracurricular activities. However, as one University of Colorado study found, you can potentially achieve more diverse hires by tackling bias at the start of the hiring process.

To combat unconscious bias, consider actions such as blind recruitment, which removes candidate demographic information and encourages greater focus on employee skills and experiences rather than gender, race, and other identifiers. Some applicant tracking systems (ATS) have built-in features to support blind recruitment, and so do some recruiting sites. For example, LinkedIn Recruiter provides an option to toggle profile photos on or off when reviewing job applicants.

Create Inclusive Interview Teams

According to a recent survey conducted by The Manifest, 70 percent of job seekers want to work for a company that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion. A great way to highlight your company’s commitment is by creating diverse interview teams. By bringing together interviewers who represent a diverse cross-section of your workforce, you not only demonstrate the diversity of your existing workforce, but you also create opportunities for candidates to hear varied perspectives of your organization and culture.

Follow an Equitable and Streamlined Background Screening Process

As an integral component of the hiring process, your background screening practices should also support your goals for attracting a diverse workforce. For example, you should work with a screening provider who possesses the processes and technology to help you stay in compliance with salary history bans, “ban the box” laws, and other hiring equity laws. Your screening partner can also support your inclusion hiring goals with the help of customizable background screening technology that integrates with your ATS and your overall hiring program.

Train Hiring Managers and Interviewers

Anyone involved in the hiring process can benefit from training to help them avoid discrimination when assessing candidates. In addition to educating hiring managers about laws such as “ban the box'' and salary history bans, you can also provide interview training and other tools to help interviewers identify and eliminate unconscious bias in the interview process. Some organizations create standardized interview questions to make sure all interviewers follow the same framework when assessing and comparing candidates.

Conduct Regular Reviews of Your Hiring Process

A holistic review of your hiring practices can help you identify opportunities for improvement. By reviewing all of the action steps in your hiring process, you can uncover previously unknown obstacles to attracting female and minority talent, such as a narrow selection of job posting sites or a cumbersome application process. Moreover, an audit allows you to examine your hiring processes for efficiency, compliance, and alignment with your diversity metrics.

Improve Your Inclusion Hiring Practices

Many factors, such as fluctuating employment levels, industry changes, and internal developments, can impact your hiring process. Moreover, the candidate sourcing and selection methods you used last year may still be applicable today, but due to the pandemic, they’ve probably changed. As a result, you can benefit from conducting a full overview of your hiring process, from your employer branding strategy and sourcing methods to the way you interview and screen candidates before hire.

Whether you need to replace some of your current hiring practices or improve upon what you already have in place, auditing your hiring process can identify best practices for improving the quality and quantity of candidates in your talent pipeline. An audit can also help you take a hard look at which activities either support or detract from the achievement of your diversity hiring goals. 

To learn more, read our Guide to Auditing and Improving Your Background Screening Program.

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