So just this past week, the Wells Fargo CEO, Charles Scharf, apologized to employees after he blamed the bank's lack of diversity on a, "very limited pool of black talent to recruit from." He made the original comment during a zoom meeting with employees in the summer. And then again, in a memo where the company announced a set of initiatives to increase diversity following protests across the country.
If you're an HR professional, and you've heard that statement, your first reaction should be horror. However, if I'm being perfectly honest, my reaction was that this sounds familiar. I've heard these types of comments before.
We have to think more broadly in the context of our organization as it relates to diversity hiring. As opposed to looking at the talent pool as a limited number of applicants to fill an opening, your approach should simply be to look at the talent pool that you're drawing from, and ensure that it is large enough, as opposed to focusing on how limited it is.
If you have any leaders in your organization who have made comments similar to this, the first thing you should do is challenge those comments. But the underlying issue is, these individuals may not be incorrect if they are not being presented with enough diverse, talented individuals, whether that's diversity of race, diversity of thought, diversity of gender diversity of sexual orientation, they are not going to diversify their staff.
It's HR's job to be the gatekeeper, to ensure that we are diversifying our talent pool, that our recruiting processes, and our retention processes support diversity. We need to broaden the approach as opposed to blaming leaders who are not getting those applicants in their inbox.
I look at these statements as a HR issue. The CEO should not have made the statements. He issued a what I would consider half hearted apology. But he should have had a plethora of diverse candidates to choose from, if HR did their job. His apology was: "I apologize for making an insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias. There are many talented individuals working at Wells Fargo and throughout the financial services industry and I never meant to imply otherwise."
My approach, though, if you're in human resources is let's fix it. So how do I expand my talent pool? The first thing you have to look at is where's my funnel? Where's my funnel of applicants coming from? Is it coming from the same two or three schools that I've always recruited from? Because it's easy to do that? Most likely the answer there is yes. Take an active approach and ensure that you are recruiting from areas that are diverse. It's as simple as that.
I learned a very important lesson a few years back. I was talking to somebody in my community, and I was having a similar conversation about not being able to find good talent. And she looked at me and she said, there's really only two reasons that you're not getting good talent. The first one is, people don't know about you. So you're not advertising in the right spot. The number two reason is you have a bad reputation.
So the other area we need to focus on is community reputation. If you are struggling to find diverse talent within your pipeline, maybe you have a reputation issue. Take a look at the turnover trends within your staff. Take a look at how you onboard and retain and support new employees. Take a look at your training. Do you support your leaders approach towards inclusivity within the workplace? If the answer to any of those things are no, you probably don't have a great reputation and you're not going to get high qualified diversified talent.
So two simple steps:
1. Expand your approach to where you are drawing your applicants from for your positions.
2. Take a look at your reputation. Take a look at your internal processes ensure that your employee experience is reflective of what you would want if you wanted to work at an inclusive workplace.
There is a significant amount of "diverse talent" in the world. You just have to be able to reach out and find it by changing processes.
Let's not give leaders this excuse any longer.
I'm the Vice President - Human Resources for CPM Holdings, Inc. In this role, I oversees the aspects of Human Resources for 27 domestic and international locations in 11 countries. I've previously held progressive HR roles for Fortune 500 organizations.