DE&I: Ethical hiring practices that benefit everyone!

DE&I. Diversity, equity, and inclusion. You’ve undoubtedly heard a lot about it, and it’s more than likely your organization publicly embraces these values. But have you ever stopped to think about what each of these words mean in the context of your workplace environment? Let’s jump right into today’s topic by first defining each component.

Diversity means workplace representation of all people across different races, physical abilities, ages, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and other divergent backgrounds.

Equity means that everyone is given access to the same resources and opportunities (including advancement) to reach their professional goals, allowing each person an equal chance at success. (Think: “level playing field.”)

Inclusion means that everyone is “visible and heard,” and has an equal opportunity to contribute to and influence the performance of their work group or community.

Said very simply, a workplace that embraces DE&I principles welcomes people from all backgrounds, makes them feel embraced and supported, gives them the resources they need to succeed, and listens to them when they speak.

Beautiful goals, yes? And here’s the best part about DE&I: these policies benefit both employees and employers. When organizations implement inclusive hiring policies, people of diverse backgrounds are allowed (and even encouraged) to form a cohesive, creative, productive community. Furthermore, organizations that prioritize DE&I policies are more likely to attract a wider pool of candidates, resulting in a workforce that reflects the diverse communities they serve. And finally, employees who work for organizations that implement DE&I policies report being happier, more participatory, more productive, and are more likely to remain with the company longer. What’s not to love about embracing DE&I!

So how does your organization get there? It all starts with the first step: implementing ethical hiring practices. Let’s look at some things that will benefit both prospective and current employees.

1. Be inclusive with your hiring policies

Start by taking a critical look at every single job description and its requirements. Can you identify any unnecessary barriers to entry? Could it be that some “required” degrees or certifications aren't really necessary for success? (How many times have you seen “college degree required” for a job that has nothing to do with whether a candidate has a college education?) Instead, can the job be opened to candidates who possess unique skills and experiences, even if they don't fit the traditional mold? Further ways you can be inclusive with your hiring practices include:

● Providing an equal opportunity for all applicants, regardless of race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or ability status
● Asking questions related only to the prospective candidate's experience and qualifications, and never to their age, race, gender, etc.
● Having a clear, unbiased set of criteria for evaluating resumes/applications and conducting interviews with the candidates (more on this later—this is easier said than done)

2. Ensure that all job postings are accurate and accessible

Make sure that all job postings are not only accurate, in order to avoid misleading any candidates, but also accessible to all. This means several things…

Job postings should use clear, simple, straightforward language that’s understandable to all people reading the posting. (I’m not referring to job postings that must use specialized terms specific to a highly technical industry.)

Furthermore, job postings should be created in ways that make it easy for candidates with varying physical abilities to apply. This could mean providing alternative formats like audio-recorded posts, or signed video posts. By making sure you’re attracting the most diverse and talented pool of candidates possible, you’ll help to create a more inclusive and ethical work environment, as well as a healthier, more successful organization overall.

3. Address unconscious bias

This one’s tough. Unconscious bias is something that affects us all. It refers to the attitudes and stereotypes we hold toward certain groups of people, often without us even being aware of them. These biases are influenced and created by societal norms, personal experiences, and the media we consume. Unfortunately, the impact of unconscious bias is real, verifiable, and significant, often leading to discrimination and unfair treatment of certain individuals.

Unchecked and uncontrolled, unconscious bias can be a barrier to creating a fair and ethical workplace environment, not only as it relates to the hiring process, but to the company culture in toto. To truly embrace the ethical practices put forth in DE&I doctrine, workplaces must first address unconscious bias head-on. How? Research points to one thing in particular: training, training, training. This means educating everyone - employees, hiring managers, and CEOs alike - about the impact of unconscious bias on everyday work life, from hiring practices, to managerial decision-making, to casual interactions in the break room. I encourage everyone reading this article to sign up for a class on unconscious bias (often included as part of a diversity training series). It’s an eye-opening opportunity for personal and professional growth.

4. Create a clear timeline

Here’s where some organizations will disagree with me—or at least balk at the suggestion and say they don’t have time for such nonsense. However, I believe, just like with DE&I practices in general, that it’s simply the right thing to do.

It’s important to let applicants know when they should expect to hear back from you after they’ve submitted their resume and application, in order to manage their expectations and keep them informed about the hiring process. A lot of effort goes into researching various organizations, creating a resume and cover letter, and then applying for a job. It’s all stressful enough, and not hearing back from the company can add even more anxiety to the equation.

Something simple will suffice: "Thank you for submitting your application. We will be in touch within two weeks.” This practice can go a long way toward providing peace of mind for job seekers, and it also helps to establish an open, affirming dialogue with potential employees. After all, you might hire them, so why not begin building a positive relationship from the start.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial in any organization that values its employees and aims to create a positive and productive work environment. When candidates believe they have been treated with respect and fairness throughout the hiring process, they’re more likely to feel valued and supported in their future roles. By prioritizing ethical hiring practices, companies can build trust with their employees from the start and foster a more inclusive and collaborative workplace in the process. Ultimately, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the job application process is not just good for business - it's the right thing to do.

Author's Bio: 

Denise M. Dudley is a professional trainer and keynote speaker, author, business consultant, and founder and former CEO of SkillPath Seminars, the largest public training company in the world, which provides 18,000 seminars per year, and has trained over 12 million people in the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Denise holds a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, a hospital administrator's license, a preceptor for administrators-in-training license, and is licensed to provide training to medical professionals in the United States and Canada. She's also a certified AIDS educator, a licensed field therapist for individuals with agoraphobia, a regularly featured speaker on the campuses of many universities across the US, and the author of Simon and Schuster’s best-selling audio series, “Making Relationships Last.” Denise speaks all over the world on a variety of topics, including management and supervision skills, leadership, assertiveness, communication, personal relationships, interviewing skills, and career readiness. Denise’s latest book, “Work it! Get in, Get noticed, Get promoted,” currently in its third printing, is available on