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Blueprint: Recruiting and Hiring Ethnically Diverse Talent

October 29, 2015

[john lund/blend images/corbis]
[john lund/blend images/corbis]

This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on the ComPRehension blog during PRSA’s Diversity Month.

How many PR agencies can say that they have a recruiting strategy to proactively recruit, secure, train and retain ethnically diverse candidates? Many agencies need to widen their search and take a nontraditional approach to get the results that they are looking to achieve. It is a business imperative for diversity that I fear we are not tying to this issue.

It’s not about having diversity for diversity’s sake. It is about having a more competitive and better representation of society and our customer/client bases that is the ultimate goal. This can only be achieved with executive leadership teams that look like, and think like, these stakeholder groups.

While I truly believe that the CEOs of the largest PR firms want to diversify their organizations, they may not be sure what steps to take.

Below are five action items that I believe can change the landscape of your agency:

1. Create a welcoming and diverse work environment.

A positive corporate culture starts within your company’s walls. By actively utilizing employee resource groups (ERGs), you can create a diverse and inclusive work environment. These ERGs are your ambassadors when a candidate considers your company as an employer.

All too often, what ethnically diverse talent hear about agency life is not positive. A major agency’s company culture is usually described as a sweatshop, providing limited training and development, and a reporting structure that includes mid-level managers who only hire and promote those who look like them.

2. Sustain CEO commitment.

In order for a company’s diversity and inclusion efforts to be successful, there must be commitment at the top. To ensure that this happens, CEOs must take the lead and, when necessary, delegate to the HR team and chief diversity and inclusion officer to carry out the vision.

Wells Fargo’s Chairman, President and CEO John Stumpf is a great example of embedding diversity and inclusion efforts within the company and getting a total buy-in on all levels. As the chair of Wells Fargo’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, he holds his direct reports accountable with a “diversity scorecard” to track their progress and also offers comprehensive diversity and inclusion education for team members. The education includes professional and leadership development, mentoring and community involvement opportunities.

3. Consider nontraditional candidates.

Stop “stealing” from the competition. Look at avenues of recruiting other than the usual suspects — your competition around the corner. I often hear from my colleagues that “It’s an easy learning curve if I recruit from my competitors,” or “When I recruit from the client side of the business, there is a high level of failure.”

You need to ask yourself why that is. It’s most likely due to ineffective training and development or that there isn’t a process in place at all, like onboarding. Frankly, this is truly an Achilles heel among most, if not all, PR agencies. By creating an effective training and development process, it may help reduce high turnover among all candidates — black, white or brown, or any color, gender or lifestyle.

Start by first looking into nontraditional majors, like entrepreneurship, theater or art. You should also consider consulting firms such as E&Y, BDO and PwC, or sales, marketing, business and advertising firms. They get their talent from us, so why not look at their talent?

4. Provide incentives for diverse hires.

Human resource teams are not equipped to source and recruit ethnically diverse talent. They don’t know where people who look like me are or how to make the case for them to consider the agency world. For diverse hires, I believe that you will see a change in behavior by tying compensation to both human resource representatives and senior-level hiring managers.

5. Celebrate your talent.

Stop being scared of nominating your top talent for awards for the fear of losing to your competitors. Your candidates will stay if you have a workforce that is nurturing, supportive, high-performing, thoughtful, considerate, challenging and fun.

Kim L. Hunter
Kim L. Hunter is the founder and president/chief executive officer of LAGRANT COMMUNICATIONS, an integrated marketing communications corporation. He was appointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles to both the Cultural Affairs and Animal Services Commissions for the City of Los Angeles, serving a total of seven years. Follow him on Twitter @KimLHunter.

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