Thinking Beyond the Pipeline

October 29, 2015

Some company diversity programs often have a singular focus: to boost the number of diverse applicants in their pipeline. If we consider a company’s employee candidate channel, then have we challenged their process for building it? How much is the online process dependent on algorithms? Have those who manage and build the pipeline received diversity and unconscious bias training? Indeed, there is a lot to think about.

Lately, many technology corporations have stated that their diversity efforts are to increase and diversify their pipeline of candidates. There is a reason to pause regarding this, given that there isn’t any mention of changes to their recruiting and hiring strategies, or those who are responsible for this task.

This could ultimately be a vicious cycle or a revolving-door tactic without any results. Taking it a step further, how is the pipeline managed and screened?

Instituting diversity of thought

I attended a conference where an HR manager shared that the company’s hiring system was based on algorithms. The system searched for key words and if there were a certain number of hits, then the person moved to the next level for interview consideration.

The HR manager also said that if she received a recommendation email from a manager confirming that the candidate did well in the interview process and their references checked out, then she signed off electronically without reviewing the applicant’s materials (i.e., résumé, photo, etc). We can only hope that this pipeline recruiting/hiring process is exclusive to this one company and isn’t a trend.

We are living in one of the most innovative times in history. It is no longer about thinking outside the box, but about thinking in a manner where there aren’t walls, glass ceilings or boxes.

In the PR profession, diversity must go beyond creating a PR strategy and focus more on how diversity and inclusion efforts can become a part of the fabric and culture of organizations — those that we serve and those who are our employers/clients. Going beyond the pipeline means instituting diversity of thought, which will create remarkable results.

Challenging the process

Here are four ways companies can think beyond the pipeline:

  • Walking the talk: Bring diversity to your leadership team (board of directors, senior teams) to ensure that there is a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives represented at the top.
  • Developing people: Provide and require all employees to go through diversity and unconscious bias training.
  • Connecting internal communities: Bring employees together through employee resource groups — grassroots networks of employees who connect with one another to explore shared cultural interests, perspectives, values and career development needs.
  • Building an inclusive workplace: Find success as a business through creativity, innovation and positive disruption as a way to transform the lives of your employees, customers and stakeholders.

Moving the dial

At the end of the next day, pipeline numbers can still have a benefit, in that they help companies set goals, track progress and aim for something greater. But let’s not stop there; rather, let’s move the dial intentionally and with some sense of urgency.

Diversity is more than just race, gender and ethnicity. It’s about creating a workforce that embraces every language, age, sexual orientation, disability, background, culture and experience.

Inclusion is giving a voice to those differences. Companies who can embrace a diversity of perspectives throughout their organizations will stand apart. You will see it in their people, and also in their innovative, forward-thinking products, decision-making and services.

Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance at the party. Let’s dance!

Y'Anad Burrell
Y’Anad Burrell is the CEO of Glass House Communications and president-elect of PRSA’s San Francisco Chapter. She is a San Francisco native with more than 10 years of experience in public relations and strategic communications.


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