Increasing diversity is likely a goal many organizations have either considered or committed to in the past few years. Despite good intentions, the reality is that many organizations are struggling to meet these goals. While there is certainly no shortage of diverse talent in the market, talent acquisition and HR teams need to take a hard look at their recruitment processes with an eye toward improvement. This takes a lot a preparation, education and refinement during what is a continuous journey toward increasing the diversity of an organization.

And while we’re still very much on this journey ourselves at Allianz Life, here are the steps we have taken thus far, and some learnings and considerations for organizations who are on the same journey.

Getting a baseline

No matter what size your organization is, understanding where you’re starting from is critical. If you’re able, work with a third party to take a hard look at where you’re starting your overall diversity journey. Having that external lens can help identify gaps, understand priorities and carve out next steps. It also helps provide accountability as you map your path forward. Candidly, this baseline is probably going to be a reality check for many companies. Some of these issues might be hard for your organization to talk about, much less address head on, and it can be overwhelming understanding where to begin. But it’s necessary to have that transparency of information as well as data to determine how to improve.

It can also help you identify metrics that you’ll want to track. Consider percentages of people of color (POC) external hires and current employees, as well as their tenures and departures. In the hiring process, also think about requiring diverse candidate slates and working toward different hiring outcomes.

Once you can better understand the baseline, it’s time to be intentional about making changes. For us, this meant hiring a chief diversity and inclusion officer. It’s a role that’s helped bring all diversity initiatives under one umbrella and prioritize what’s most important to the organization, which includes co-creating a company strategy on diversity recruiting.

Building your strategy

After you know where you’re starting from, you can create your overarching strategy and begin educating employees on the importance of these efforts. The D+I journey includes everyone from the executive leadership team to the talent acquisition team to hiring leaders to individual contributors. This is an important step not only during the hiring process, but for onboarding and beyond, to help build and sustain an inclusive company culture. One step we’ve taken is to offer Cultural Awareness Training to all employees, both new and existing. This is currently virtual and is led by internal employees who have been trained to facilitate conversations about culture, what it means and how it impacts the way we process information, communicate and build trust . We thought it was important that employees were talking about these topics and leading the conversation. While we will utilize online learning and e-learning for other trainings, these initial conversations are a necessary foundation for more complex work, like broadening your network beyond your comfort zone. It is also worth noting that education is not just a one and done project. It needs to be a continuous process as your D+I journey evolves and progresses.

This phase includes getting everyone – starting with talent acquisition, HR business partners, and frequent hiring managers – to speak a common D+I language. One example is the use of the term “people of color.” It creates the idea that you can develop a one-size-fits-all recruiting strategy, when in fact, your strategy for reaching Black candidates may look different (historically Black colleges, INROADS) than if you are recruiting Asian candidates (Asian American Professional Association (AAPA), The National Asian Association of Accountants).

If your data is showing that your employee population is not reflective of the available talent, then you know your company may have a blind spot and it will be necessary to understand what you can do differently to reach a different audience. If you want to increase a specific under-represented population within your organization, it’s important to be open and specific about it. For so long, we’ve been taught to be colorblind or silent about these topics, and it can be uncomfortable to unpack it. But to truly move the needle, we have to be specific.

Implementation and accountability in recruiting

Everyone has a role to play when you begin to think about increasing diversity in recruitment. Often, people look immediately to recruiters to have the answer, but there’s so much more to the process - whether you’re implementing more diverse interviewer panels, requiring diverse candidate slates for selected roles, or tweaking language in job postings or interview questions to be more inclusive.

And while the talent acquisition team can do their part to present diverse candidates, partnering across the organization is vital in order to get to different hiring outcomes. Every employee can help identify top talent – your employees can be your greatest recruiting ambassadors.

Just as important as recruiting partnership is accountability. Ensure senior leaders and hiring managers are ultimately responsible for the hiring outcomes. After all, if we aren’t holding ourselves accountable, we’ll never move the dial and make progress toward our recruiting and hiring diversity goals.

Taking the next step

Building a more inclusive and diverse company culture takes time and effort – anyone who is on this journey will tell you that. Increasing diversity in your recruitment practices is just one step, but a critically important one in creating a more sustainable and diverse organization.