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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

Effective Planning for Diversity Talent Acquisition

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

This is a guest blog post by Karen Alphonse from You can find the original posting here.

Effective Diversity Planning

Many organizations now realize how critical diversity is to high performance. The data compel us to adopt more inclusive hiring strategies. However, the realization that it is beneficial does not mean that it will become a reality overnight. Time is a critical factor. The systems and thinking that have created non-diverse hiring, retention, and promotion practices will need to shift before we see diversity operating in full swing. As the country becomes more diverse, all hiring will, in essence, become diverse hiring. Until we get to that point, we can do many things to fill our executive, middle management, and entry-level positions with exceptional people of all races, religious persuasions, lifestyles, and physical abilities. Some measures are commonsense. Others require investments of time and resources.

Advertise Widely for Each Opportunity

Use social media, blogs, LinkedIn, listservs, job boards, key professional organizations, and word-of-mouth to publicize opportunities that arise at every level of your organization. Go beyond the obvious places and place your positions wherever professionals and their families are likely to see and read them. Talk up your opportunities. Speak about them wherever you go. You never know how people connect and share information. So, share your information broadly and widely. Subscribe for memberships in important national and regional organizations and associations. Attend conferences that deal with topics that come up in your organization. Be visible. Circulate. Spread the word.

Consider Advertising in Different Languages

Certain mission-driven organizations work with constituencies that belong to very specific language groups. In addition to English, consider positioning critical opportunities in languages that reflect the client populations you serve. When you take the time to do this, you send a powerful message about your commitment to diversity.

Provide Strong Internal Training Programs

Often, good leaders get promoted into their roles. By having healthy diversity at every level of the organization, you increase the chance of leaders reflecting diversity –whether it is economic diversity or religious affiliation. If every employee receives world-class training – including leadership development – you will increase the retention and promotion of all employees. This will mean that you also retain and promote employees who will reflect the diversity of your organization and the populations that it serves. Although not explicitly diversity-focused, any program or practice that enhances employee productivity and leadership potential ultimately serves as a diversity driver. The more qualified professionals who reach certain levels of career achievement, the more diverse the resulting leadership pool. Training supports diversity in every way.

Build Realistic Expectations

Because certain groups have not traditionally participated in specific kinds of leadership activities, organizations may have to wait a while to fulfill all of their diversity hiring needs. Until very recently, the army has been a significant training ground for groups who often experienced exclusion in other quarters. Thus, you may find your logistics, finance, and even medical experts in military ranks, if you seek a diverse leader. Having an open mind and being willing to see talent in a variety of formats will help to identify leaders in unexpected places. In the meantime, acknowledge that the process may take longer than one hiring cycle. Avoid putting the pressure on one search or series of searches to bring diversity full tilt to your organization.

This is an unrealistic expectation and could backfire. Instead of helping diversity, the pressure and frequent compromises might actually taint your search process, bringing fracture–points into the open. Although diversity may be critical, it is not always urgent. And, putting too much stress on immediacy may fragment organizations already stressed with post-COVID recovery issues.

Be Flexible

As you build the framework for broader, deeper outreach and the kind of training that will give your organization internal resilience, look for unexpected opportunities to expand your organization’s networks and reach. Be flexible and review options that might not seem on point at first. Sometimes, to build robust relationships within a new community, you may have to participate in activities that are not directly on point with your mission and vision. You may be a health services organization. In the interim, you may need to build alliances with education and social service organizations to reach diverse groups more consistently. These apparent detours and side tours will put you in the position to meet and interface with many more “gatekeepers.” In the end, these relationships will help you to reach and to recruit a broader, deeper pool of truly diverse talent.

Track Emerging Talent

As you conduct outreach and meet a range of potential leaders, managers, and contributors, pay attention to those who are not quite ready yet but have potential. By establishing strong relationships with emerging talent, you will be creating the pipeline of the future. This might be just as important as filling the search on the table at the moment. Candidates, like many organizations, develop loyalties to specific people over time. If you are high on a candidate’s list, you may stand a great chance of persuading him or her to join your organization at an appropriate time. It is never too early to start building these kinds of relationships. That is why many forward-thinking organizations recruit heavily from the ranks of recent college graduates. Those who may not be quite ready to lead, will one day. If you have had the good fortune and the foresight to have conversations with emerging talent, you will be in a position to share ideas and important leadership opportunities with them in the future.


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