Building equitable & sustainable hiring: Talent strategy & outcomes

Mawulom Nenonene
Head of Talent
May 12 2021

This is the first theme of our Building Equitable & Sustainable Hiring series, in which we will explore the real world application of equitable and sustainable hiring practices. Find the blog post on the second theme here.

As a recruiter, sourcer, or talent lead, you’re responsible for identifying and qualifying talent and ushering them through their careers.  It puts you in the unique position to influence the lives of many. Talent professionals: 

  • Are coaches, mentors, culture catalysts, leaders — and most importantly, gatekeepers for life-changing opportunities that can affect wealth generation. And for some underrepresented communities, this impact can be exponential. 

  • Build trust quickly by connecting with candidates and prospects — i.e. people — in a real way. 

  • Present candidates with opportunities to live out their professional dreams — opportunities that can nurture their individual genius and enable them to provide for themselves and loved ones. 

  • Search, identify, qualify, and shepherd people through career transitions discerningly. 

Connecting people with opportunities to live out their professional dreams is one of my core passions. As the Head of Talent at LTSE, I am responsible for building hiring systems for equitable, sustainable, and scalable hiring. Putting a system like this in place is an all-company effort. At LTSE, I’m fortunate to partner with a smart, compassionate, and dynamic group of people to bring this to life. 

In this two-theme series, we’ll provide insights into the hiring practices we’ve designed to support our team’s needs. I dive into LTSE’s current hiring process, which is a culmination of work by our team, and years of experimentation and iteration — a.k.a., a few lessons we learned the hard way. We’ll also share actionable steps we’ve taken to embed DEI into our hiring process. It’s important to note that our DEI work in talent is a small part of a larger whole. At LTSE, DEI is embedded into our organizational culture. It’s not an isolated program, but rather a core value, a source of innovation and a means to growth and success.

My first career was as a mechanical product assurance engineer for the Department of Defense. That was where I learned the value of process. The role entailed traveling to small towns across the US to qualify manufacturing lines. In each place, I met with contractors who were tasked with manufacturing widgets for the government. These contractors used a specific process to manufacture hundreds of thousands of parts, often without fail. They built a system by binding these processes together; the most effective facilities standardized to reduce variability and decrease risk. Failure in this environment could have resulted in severe injury or or even loss of lives in the manufacturing facility or for the eventual customer.

It may not seem like such work would apply to talent strategy. But I draw upon what I learned from those experiences to design hiring systems by combining a series of steps into a process, and standardizing for consistency.

Building the road for equitable hiring 

After confirming available headcount and allocated budget for a new position tied to specific organizational goals aligned to OKRs at LTSE, we begin by working through our Role template. This is a document with 7 sections:

  • Requirements

  • Kickoff

  • Sourcing

  • Coordination

  • Interview

  • Pre-Founder

  • Role Closing

To track completion of the process, the template includes columns for Tasks, Status, and directly responsible individuals (DRI). Being a DRI means you own, and are accountable for, a specific section. We use this document to translate the needs of the hiring managers into actionable steps and also maintain the structure required for consistent hiring. This document becomes the central source of truth for each new position.  

We begin by detailing:

  • Goals - The intended impact of this position

  • Deliverables - What the new hire has to deliver to meet those goals 

  • Skill sets - The expertise the person needs to have to deliver effective work

These are the key elements we find make for the most successful hires. You might wonder where education fits in. We do value education, of course; what we seek is not only an educational milestone, but to understand what the person has retained from that educational experience. We’re less focused on “how” or “where” they learned, and more on what they have absorbed as part of their overall abilities: How a class or a project helped inform their ability to think critically, or their sense of ethics, or how the challenges of one project led them to become adept at a certain function. 

Skills-based hiring adds a fresh dimension to recruiting. It requires us to get a sense of a candidate's ability to perform the duties of the role and focus less on their educational achievement. If a candidate can get into and complete their formal education at a top-tier school, that’s great, since that’s no easy feat, and some fields have stringent education requirements. But we also value those who are self-taught or have taken alternative routes to learning their skills. I’ve found that life challenges can be fertile ground for development of intangibles — grit, resourcefulness, tenacity, bias towards action, self-awareness. Over the long term, these qualities can be equally as valuable as formal education. 

The importance of representation

As part of completing the Role template, the hiring manager and talent team also align around other dimensions of the role — specifically, we ask which viewpoints, experiences, and backgrounds are missing from the team. 

Since our ultimate goal is not simply to fill headcount but to build high-performing teams, we take the time to discuss the sorts of viewpoints, background, and experiences that a new hire could bring to elevate the team. This is where we define representation. We talk through the current team's chemistry, expertise, and opportunities for growth. With our addressable market in mind, we align on the outward manifestations of representation that are missing. 

Actionable steps 
  • Evaluate the questions that are asked prior to every role launch.
  • Develop questions to support building high-performing and represented teams —  e.g. which viewpoints, experiences, and backgrounds are missing from your team?

Whether your company is already steeped in DEI efforts or has just begun the work, asking these questions in your role launch process adds real value. You want to engage hiring managers to evaluate their team as a whole, identify the voices that are missing, and make representation top of mind.

Why is it important to do this?

  • Gartner research indicates that 75% of organizations with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture will exceed their financial targets through 2022. In their research, gender-diverse and inclusive teams outperformed gender-homogeneous less inclusive teams by 50% on average. 

  • A McKinsey study notes that “In the case of ethnic and cultural diversity, our business-case findings are equally compelling: in 2019, top-quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth one by 36% in profitability, slightly up from 33% in 2017 and 35% in 2014. As we have previously found, the likelihood of outperformance continues to be higher for diversity in ethnicity than for gender.”

  • In a Deloitte survey, 83% of millennials reported higher levels of engagement when they believe their company fosters an inclusive culture.

The actual job description 

Translating the requirements into a job description that will effectively share our opening is next. To enable this we created a standard format for our job descriptions, which we revise and update for each role opening. The key elements are:

  • Prioritize skills-based hiring 

  • Clearly distinguish between required skills vs nice-to-have 

  • Avoid jargon and exclusionary language 

Actionable steps
  • Review your job descriptions for inclusion. 
  • Do they prioritize skills-based hiring?
  • Do they distinguish between must-have vs nice-to-have skills?

Here are a few resources that support writing an inclusive job description:

Compensation

Fairness, transparency, and equity are three key aspects of compensation, and in our data- driven world, many companies have access to data that makes it easier to do this well. Launching a new position at LTSE requires us to align internally on compensation before posting the role. Using the scope of work derived from the goals, skills, and deliverables, we identify the Level(s) of the position and obtain data through opencomp.com to create compensation ranges correlated to the Level(s).

In a spirit of transparency, we share the compensation range for each role during initial interviews, and discuss throughout our interview process. Every offer is reviewed by our internal hiring compensation team and externally for fairness and consistency. 

Actionable steps
  • Align on compensation ranges prior to launching a role. 
  • Share compensation ranges with candidates on the first call. 

Creating a process for people to follow consistently can be daunting. Remember that a process is simply a series of steps taken to obtain a specific result. Each step is an opportunity to embed meaning through your organizational values. Use process to make it easy for your team to achieve its hiring goals and keep representation top of mind. Ultimately, you want to cultivate a space for conversations that shift the paradigm from simply filling headcount to building high-performing, balanced teams.

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