Hiring for Diversity? Look No Further Than the Crowd

Every professional, from front-line employees to the C-suite, knows diversity and inclusion are hot-button issues across industries and around the world. Diversity, in terms of both background (e.g., ethnicity, gender, etc.) and talent, is an unavoidable part of the conversation for any organization operating today.

In spite of how widespread the diversity conversation has grown, the realities of the business world have not changed much as a result. Deloitte's 2017 report on human capital trends, for example, found that organizations often aspire to create inclusive environments but rarely reach that goal.

Diversity is becoming a need-to-have. The world is growing less divided by demographic. By 2050, there will be no ethnic majority in the US. Furthermore, diversifying now makes organizations more attractive to customers, and a more diverse staff has significant positive impact on a company's bottom line. McKinsey Company found that gender-diverse companies do 15 percent better than their less diverse counterparts, and ethnically diverse companies outperform competitors by 35 percent.

Companies find hiring for diversity difficult for a lot of reasons. Unconscious biases — e.g., the myth that women are for HR and men are for manufacturing — can derail diversity hiring initiatives. Companies might struggle to create global images of themselves, making it harder to attract diverse staff. Executive and management policies may simply not encourage diversity. Perhaps the company operates in an area that itself lacks diversity.

Regardless of the particular challenges a company faces in hiring diverse employees, there is a solution: crowdsourced hiring.

The Crowd Is Diverse

A larger crowd is naturally more diverse than a smaller talent pool. When you open up your hiring process to vast pools of candidates, regardless of geography, you will discover diversity you didn't think was available.

Your local talent pool is only so large, especially in more saturated areas like Silicon Valley. Crowdsourcing opens your company up to more talented candidates irrespective of geographical location, culture, skills, and background. While crowdsourcing may not be terribly helpful in hiring for leadership or very specialized roles, it can be a powerful tool in many arenas, especially technology.

Crowdsourcing can also help remove biases from the equation. The crowd brings people together from diverse fields and backgrounds; it puts them on equal footing, turning the hiring process into a play of pure talent.

Mike Morris, CEO of crowdsourcing firm Topcoder, puts it this way: "Crowdsourcing is diversity-agnostic. When you crowdsource, it is never about the demographics, background, or qualifications of the person; rather, it is about the quality of the outcome. For this reason, crowdsourcing levels the playing field ... and gives everyone an equal shot based solely on how well they perform."

Finding Talent in the Crowd

If you've always taken a traditional approach to hiring, the idea of opening the process up to a bigger pool can be intimidating. It doesn't have to be. Here are a few simple steps to help you begin:

1. Get Your Team on Board First

Although most would agree that diversity is important in theory, employees in the weeds of daily work may not see the priority; they may think their teams are doing just fine as is. In order for an HR professional, leader, or manager to really advance an organization's diversity initiatives, they must first get existing employees on board with the idea of crowdsourced hiring.

Explain to your team that becoming more diverse will be economically beneficial and will help build a more robust workforce. You may be well aware of these benefits already, but your peers across the company may not be. It's up to HR, leaders, and managers to communicate the value of diversity.

2. Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Identify the areas and roles for which crowdsourced hiring may be applicable. Perhaps you could start with developers, designers, or data scientists, as many individuals in these specialties are willing to freelance on a project-by-project basis so they can show you what they've got.

If you're unsure about crowdsourcing, start small and experiment. You might even start with "internal crowdsourcing" — that is, giving people within your company the opportunity to work on projects outside their typical departments depending on their skills, interests, and availability. You can also try crowdsourced hiring with one role or one department before rolling it out across the company. This will give you the opportunity to learn what works and what doesn't.

3. Accept Accommodations

Here's the real deal: With diversity comes change. Dealing with the needs of a diverse workforce will require the business to be flexible in some ways.

For example, women are more likely to work part-time jobs than men are. There are many possible reasons as to why this is, but one major factor is that many women have childcare responsibilities that men don't. As a result, the traditional 9-5 office routine doesn't work for them. If you want to increase gender diversity at your company — and you should, as doing so boosts company performance — you'll need to accept that women may need to work different schedules than men.

Speaking more broadly, if you want the benefits a diverse team brings — benefits such as new approaches to problem-solving, fresh viewpoints, and a more robust outlook overall — you have to meet different demographics where they are.

4. Commit for the Long Haul

As with any change-making business effort, crowdsourced hiring can't be a one-time deal. Diversity matters now, and it will continue to matter five, 20, and even 50 years from now. Businesses need sustainable solutions. Don't stop experimenting with crowdsourced hiring after just a few months or a year. It will take a little time before you know exactly how to leverage the strategy for your organization.

Crowdsourced hiring can be the solution to the challenges of building a truly diverse team. It is definitely a smarter, more agile, and more community-focused way of approaching inclusivity. Bottom line: Business and HR leaders must start moving in this direction if they hope to build diverse teams and outperform competitors.

Ranjita Ghosh leads global marketing and positioning strategy for AI, innovation, and crowdsourcing ecosystems at Wipro Limited.