Early in my career, I sat through a terrible diversity training session mandated by my employer at the time. It focused on stereotypes and unsubstantiated reasons why affirmative action was the right thing to do. Since then, I have worked for two more employers that were federal contractors and have heard the gamut of ways to work around the system. The most prevalent work around in my experience has been the quota proposition.
When federal contractors create an affirmative action plan it is comprised of two primary pieces of data. The first piece of data is the availability of females and minorities in the region of the business. This data tells you what percentage of each group you should be able to recruit given the availability of each. The second piece of data is more specific to the current workforce makeup at your company. That is, it tells you where you have an underutilization in either of the groups or both and it is also expressed in a percentage. It is never ideal to have an underutilization in either of your groups, but there may be significant reasons why there is (e.g. lack of minorities and females in that industry or profession). The goal of the federal contractor is to bring underutilization numbers to zero-where possible. However, significant decreases to the numbers are just as well.
The way that a recruiter aids the company in getting these numbers down is by making regular, concerted efforts to recruit a diverse candidate pool. This means researching diverse associations, job boards, reaching out to diverse contacts and networks to make sure your jobs are getting out to the masses. There is usually some representation of females and/or minorities in an applicant pool, but you want to increase the numbers. If you know anything about probability, you know that increased numbers of qualified minority candidates in your applicant pool make it more likely that you could hire a minority or female.
Let’s revisit my initial story about the quota proposition. My travels in the federal contractor space have taught me that this process of hiring diverse candidates is not a quota system. There is a sentiment that once you hire one female and one minority that your job is done. If you look at what the affirmative action plan is trying to accomplish you would never come to this conclusion. Unfortunately, there are businesses that submit to this sentiment. As I explained, the goal is to get all job classifications down to zero. That said when you are finally at zero your job as a recruiter or company does not stop there. The key is to continue your good faith efforts. Continue your outreach and involvement in diverse organizations. Don’t see this as a quota system. If your availability numbers suggest that there are more females and minorities than what you are currently hiring that means you need to do more to attract a diverse talent pool.
The word quota suggests a scenario like this: you must hire four minorities and five females for the year. Quotas work such that you would be free and clear of having to hire anymore females or minorities, once you meet that number. That is a sales move. Quotas are for retail numbers and sales; they are not to be mistaken for a concerted effort towards having a more diverse workforce. Diversity is about making good faith efforts and taking calculated actions to hire, attract, select and ultimately retain diverse candidates. Be clear, the diverse candidate does not get by on gender, race or ethnicity alone; they must be qualified for the positions they are applying for.
Diversity recruitment and hiring compliance does not have to be a difficult process. Make sure you know what is possible, where you can find qualified diverse candidates and then make sure you have a presence wherever they are. Diverse workforces are brilliant workforces that are infused with different perspectives that are representative of more than one group of people. The question companies have to ask themselves is, “would you rather capitalize on the business of one group, or the business of many groups?”