5 ways founders and CEOs can diversify their leadership teams Otesanya David March 27, 2022

5 ways founders and CEOs can diversify their leadership teams

5 ways founders and CEOs can diversify their leadership teams


Debbie Goodman is an EO Los Angeles member and Global CEO of Jack Hammer, an executive search resource that helps organizations find great leaders. As a global talent acquisition leadership guru and expert on hiring diverse leadership teams, Debbie shares her insights on how to drive real change within your organization.

The fallout from the pandemic has left companies needing to re-strategize their recruitment policies. Between February 2020 and February 2022 in the US alone, the unemployment rate barely shifted from 5.7 million to 6.3 million, respectively. Meanwhile, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that “the number of voluntary quits were at an all-time high in November 2021.”

Companies are experiencing tremendous tension between the urgent need to fill vacant leadership roles and the challenge of staying the course with a diversity hiring agenda. Even for companies that have made great progress in diversifying their organizations, there is real risk of reverting to a former homogenous status quo, unless hiring strategies evolve.

Companies with a rich tapestry of diversity are more likely to outperform, as well as create thriving, highly engaged cultures.

Here are five essential blueprints every company can adhere to in order to diversify their leadership team.

1. Get everyone on board with your WHY

Studies have spotlighted that one surefire way to give your company a competitive advantage, get the attention of investors, improve profitability, and become a magnet for top-tier talent is team diversification. “If companies don’t put this on the top of their agenda, it will fall right off,” Goodman says.

Regardless of the unequivocal data and research that make extremely strong cases for diversity and transformation in organizations, if you don’t have your own very compelling “why,” it’s unlikely that any kind of meaningful change will take place at all. Make sure that you can articulate for yourself and all of your key stakeholders why this is critical to you and your company.

Furthermore, even when it may seem obvious to you why hiring for diversity is so important, don’t assume that this is understood or accepted as an imperative by others. Ensuring that every single hiring manager is aligned with your vision—and that they also understand the “why”—will vastly improve your company’s rate of success. “It sounds basic, but you’d be surprised by how many companies don’t do this,” Goodman points out.

2. Always be recruiting

Recruiting is hard work, and interviewing people when there isn’t an urgent need to fill a vacancy is unlikely to be on anyone’s list of preferences. But data shows that companies with an “always be recruiting” strategy are seldom caught without a great candidate pipeline when a vacancy arises.

Also known as “A,B,C,” (Always Be Courting), Goodman stresses the importance of constantly being on the lookout for great, diverse talent so when push comes to shove, employers are “not making a knee-jerk reaction when you have a role to fill.”

In other words, when companies place emphasis on ensuring that diverse candidates are always being sought out, consistently being interviewed (even when there isn’t an immediate role to fill), and warmly engaged with as part of a talent “community,” they consistently have access to excellent people who are keen to consider new job opportunities when they arise. “This is recruiting 101 when it comes to filling seats,” Goodman says.

3. Set internal succession plans in place

A key reason many companies are compelled to consider external hiring strategies when they’re trying to diversify their leadership teams is because they don’t have a sufficiently diverse talent pipeline internally, ready for promotion when the opportunity arises.

“It’s not just hand-picking for the leadership team, but laying the foundation for succession planning,” Goodman says. “So you need to be hiring at all levels of the organization for diversity, in order to have this bench-strength and pipeline of talent internally as a funnel for leadership.” This strategy will, in addition, provide a big draw to ambitious talent who will take note of the opportunities for growth within the company.

Without a succession strategy, employers will have to continually look outside the organization for leaders. The effort, resources, and cost of external hiring are substantial. They should always be balanced with as much effort, resources, and financial investment on internal talent retention and growth.

4. Clarify your EVP

Although the traditional definition of EVP is “employee value proposition,” I prefer to frame this as an “employer value promise,” or the commitment that an employer makes to their employees about the value they stand to gain in their lives by working for the company.

When positioned in this manner, the commitment by your company to add value to the lives of your staff can be an exceptionally powerful talent magnet. Infusing your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) promise when proposing the EVP requires careful articulation of the potential gain for all talent, but especially diverse employees you’re hoping to employ. Essentially, you have to be specific about the reasons prospective talent would benefit from working under your tutelage. This helps to accelerate the integration process of their potential new environment.

When you can communicate your promise of value with authenticity and wholeheartedness, you will experience significant shifts in your candidate attraction patterns.

5. Find new ways to access diverse talent pools

When a company’s efforts to identify diverse talent pools aren’t delivering results, it’s time to employ lateral thinking and creative solutions to get out of the rut. If relying on internal talent acquisition teams has been the number one method of sourcing talent, partnering with the right external recruiters is a great way to gain access to new and diverse talent pools. There is nothing revolutionary about this strategy, but it often takes a crisis for companies to decide to change their external hiring policy!

There are a number of specialized recruiters in almost every niche who can help support your diversity hiring efforts. But do your due diligence, and investigate their track record. Ask to meet the recruiters who are going to be positioning your company—and the job opportunity—to candidates and, ideally, work with recruitment firms who are diverse themselves. They will bring authenticity and relatedness to your recruitment drive, and (assuming they’re well-trained recruiters) will connect with and attract the talent you’re looking for.

Goodman suggests that the external process requires employers to find new and innovative ways to outsource talent. “If you’re going to use external recruiters, do the research and find out who they are, and examine their track record.”

This post originally appeared on Business Insider and is reprinted here with permission.


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