Hired Partner Q&A: Driving DEI with CodeYourFuture & QTBIPOC Design

At Hired, we partner with a variety of organizations to engage with and recruit historically underrepresented candidates and drive DEI in the tech industry. Additionally, we constantly provide employers with the latest best practices to help them make DEI a core part of their culture and successfully recruit, hire, and retain diverse talent. 

We got to talk to two of our partners – Sophie Ewen of CodeYourFuture (CYF) and Steven Wakabayashi of QTBIPOC Design – who shared advice and insights for companies based on their own work with underrepresented communities. What should organizations change to make hiring processes and their internal culture more inclusive to appeal to diverse talent? How can business leaders demonstrate their genuine commitment to DEI? Read on to learn about the steps you can take towards building a diverse and equitable workplace that ultimately takes your business to the next level.

What is one piece of advice you can share with companies and recruiters looking to attract and hire underrepresented talent? 

Steven: You don't have to go through it alone. There are a ton of organizations, recruiters, and community leaders working directly with their local communities to help them break into industries and secure jobs. Identify the communities you want to engage with and seek out leaders and organizers working with those communities to partner and co-create hiring initiatives with.

Sophie: In addition to working with organizations to access diverse talent, companies should start by involving a diverse group of employees in the hiring process, especially in interviews. It’s also important to re-word job descriptions to be more inclusive and ensure any content promoting open roles and the company comes from – and appeals to – a diverse group of employees. 

Can you share any out-of-the-box tactics you’ve seen organizations use to engage with underrepresented talent and demonstrate their commitment to DEI? 

Sophie: It can be hard to know how to best engage with people from other backgrounds, particularly when you add unconscious bias into the mix – recognizing this is the first step. 

To gain that experience, I recommend companies work directly with organizations that champion diverse talent and can provide that needed guidance and advice. At CYF, we offer companies the opportunity to sponsor, partner, and volunteer with us. This enables them to connect with professionals on a more personal and deeper level – they stop being a label (such as refugee, asylum seeker, underrepresented) and become just people: they become friends, mentors, and colleagues.

What are some steps companies must take to truly make DEI a core part of their culture? 

Sophie: Setting a long term business goal to improve DEI is key – it is not enough to run one event or make one speech. Filter the goal down to each employee and share best practices and results-driven initiatives across the company on an ongoing basis. The companies we partner with devote a considerable amount of time to their DEI goals, working with us for around 8- 12 months. During this time they volunteer with us, provide us teaching and meeting space, and actively get to know and recruit our graduates. 

Steven: Allocate time and money to engagements with underrepresented communities outside of the company. Connect with local organizations and see if they have any programming that could use support. It’s important to do this on a consistent and regular basis as opposed to focusing support only or mainly during heritage months (Black History Month, Pride Month, etc.) – local organizations really need the support all year long.

Internally, companies should uplift underrepresented employees through resource groups, scholarships, coaching, and other means to help empower individuals in their craft and foster their growth within the company.

What’s the key to retaining diverse talent and establishing an inclusive workplace?

Steven: It all begins at home: creating an internal culture that celebrates diverse perspectives, working styles, and visions. If your internal culture cannot celebrate diverse ways of thinking, no matter how much money or resources are allocated to your DEI initiatives, your diverse hires will quickly leave the organization. And what's great about this tactic is that 1) everyone can work on this tomorrow, 2) any improvements – even small ones – immediately impact your existing teams, and 3) it costs absolutely nothing.

Sophie: I couldn’t agree more. It is essential to foster a culture of openness and curiosity by inviting conversations around the difficulties of being a minority in a new space. Start a mentoring or exchange program for employees to discuss the challenges and identify ways to make improvements – step by step. 

Based on your experience working with underrepresented talent, how do they typically experience the hiring process? What are they looking for in an employer and where do they often get disappointed by companies when it comes to equity and inclusion? 

Sophie: People want companies to understand what diversity really means – it is broader than race, gender, and disability. Bias in the hiring process can occur when candidates speak a foreign language, come from a different culture, or have different views and values, which can all negatively impact a candidate's experience. Companies need to show candidates that they are taking proactive, concrete steps to make necessary changes and reduce biases in the hiring process. 

Steven: Companies often fall short upon their very first communication with prospective candidates: pronouns are mistaken, names are misspelled in an email, or names are mispronounced on a call. When in doubt, ask the candidate how they would like to be referred as, including their pronouns and spelling and pronunciation of their name.

Candidates are looking for employers who are actually doing the work of DEI versus having the intent to make an impact – those who are "walking the walk.” Having diverse teams, providing funds and resources to support employees' growth, and creating safe spaces and resource groups to meet and discuss issues impacting different communities are just a few things candidates are looking for within equitable organizations.

What are some red flags that underrepresented candidates often notice when looking for a new job and researching a company? 

Steven: Quite simply, a company lacking diversity across teams and leadership is often a deterrent for many underrepresented candidates. Additionally, companies that are silent in advocacy or in supporting political agendas that directly hurt underrepresented communities are not seen as favorable companies to apply to.

Sophie: The most common red flags our trainees identify are the lack of diversity in the people they talk to including recruiters, managers, colleagues, and other interviewers. It’s also a red flag if there’s a lack of transparency around the recruitment process – companies should have a clear process, set expectations and next steps with candidates upfront, and make sure all hiring managers and employees involved have a clear understanding of it as well.

Any other advice or best practices you want to share with employers looking to make DEI a business priority and diversify their workforce?

Sophie: Learn and understand the value of people that have a different perception of the world based on their background, language, and culture and how they can positively impact your team dynamic. In the last few years, there have been a number of studies that have demonstrated that diversity leads to clear business benefits, including higher employee satisfaction, creativity and innovation, and increased revenue.

Stop talking about it and get started, no matter the size of your company!

Steven: The work of DEI is not a resourcing issue. We have some of the wealthiest companies worth trillions of dollars that still struggle with their own DEI efforts. The work of DEI is also not on a single individual, group, or organization to solve, but rather all of us to work together in helping to uplift the myriad of various underrepresented voices. Putting in a bit of effort each day to improve it for another person or potential candidate can have rippling effects that can compound into larger institutional change.

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