Diversity Nudges

The transformational power of small changes in attracting, recruiting, and onboarding new employees can deliver a diversity dividend.

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Despite their commitments to diversifying their workforces, many companies continue to struggle with attracting, hiring, and retaining employees from underrepresented groups.

Achieving workplace diversity is not easy, but leaders can target, address, and nudge specific data points and thoughtfully incentivize behaviors that support it. These interventions are often small, easy to implement, and inexpensive, but when they are applied to choices, processes, and organizational levers in the attraction, recruitment, onboarding of people and along the employee path cycle, they can help make a workplace more diverse and inclusive.

Nudges That Attract Diverse Talent

The conversion rates (CRs) at one e-commerce giant were below target within certain segments of shoppers, including lower-income people of color and middle-income LGBTQIA+ people. Meanwhile, the company’s primary competitor had successfully hired more women, Black and Latine people, Pacific Islanders, and LGBTQIA+ persons in marketing, behavioral analysis, and other roles, and their diverse perspectives were translating into higher CRs.

The company launched a major campaign to attract diverse talent. It engaged a search firm that cast a national net and ran print and digital ads that highlighted the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Then leadership sat back and waited for those diverse candidates to appear. Views of the online job posting peaked around three and a half weeks after the advertising blitz but flatlined by the seventh week. Fewer than 11% of site visitors applied for a position. Only three applicants were interviewed; two received offers, one of which was declined. In other words, if you build it — with impressive resources and at great expense — they still might not come.

As this company discovered, it is not enough to simply gain the attention of the potential candidates you seek to attract. Converting appropriate talent to applicants and candidates requires additional outreach and cultivation. Individuals from underrepresented demographics — including people of color, those who identify as LGBTQIA+, and people with disabilities — often have fewer contacts at competitive employers and know fewer people who can help them navigate the application process.



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2. P. Cecchi-Dimeglio, “How Gender Bias Corrupts Performance Reviews, and What to Do About It,” Harvard Business Review, April 12, 2017, https://hbr.org.

3. T.N. Bauer, B. Erdogan, R.C. Liden, et al., “A Longitudinal Study of the Moderating Role of Extraversion: Leader-Member Exchange, Performance, and Turnover During New Executive Development,” Journal of Applied Psychology 91, no. 2 (March 2006): 298-310; and T.-Y. Kim, D.M. Cable, and S.-P. Kim, “Socialization Tactics, Employee Proactivity, and Person-Organization Fit,” Journal of Applied Psychology 90, no. 2 (March 2005): 232-241.

4. H.J. Klein, B. Polin, and K.L. Sutton, “Specific Onboarding Practices for the Socialization of New Employees,” International Journal of Selection and Assessment 23, no. 3 (September 2015): 263-283.

5. E.W. Morrison, “Newcomers’ Relationships: The Role of Social Network Ties During Socialization,” Academy of Management Journal 45, no. 6 (December 2002): 1149–1160.

6. P. Cecchi-Dimeglio, “Solving Conflict Efficiently: A Multi-Dimensional Model, Integrating Organizational Culture in Dispute System Design,” in “Interdisciplinary Handbook of Dispute Resolution,” eds. P. Cecchi-Dimeglio and B. Brenneur (Brussels: Larcier-Intersentia, 2015).

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