Just over 50 percent of food industry professionals are racially diverse, making the food industry the most diverse workforce in the nation.
However, it has an unpleasant truth.
That unpleasant truth is the massive representation gap in senior leadership positions.
As a woman-owned executive search firm specializing in placing talent in the food and beverage industry, we pride ourselves on our track record of over half of Curtis Foods Recruiter’s placements are people of color and females.
This blog aims to share with you five strategies we have learned over 14 years in business to help food and consumer packaged goods leaders hire diverse talent.
Remove Unconscious Bias
Before actively recruiting for executive diverse talent, it’s extremely important to understand unconscious bias.
What is Unconscious Bias?
Research has uncovered that as humans, we use different sections of our brains to process interactions with people who are similar to us compared with people who are different. Upon first glance of someone different, we have an unconscious tendency to judge them based on stereotypes, appearance, skills and ultimately, whether they should be hired or interviewed.
It’s important to note that experiencing unconscious bias doesn’t make you a bad person. Even the best-intended individuals go through unconscious biases on a regular basis – all without ever knowing it.
How to Reduce it
Tackling this invisible barrier is not something that occurs overnight, it takes time, practice, and the right tools. The first step to reducing unconscious bias is to recognize when it happens. We strongly recommend reading any or all of these 11 Must-Read Books on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to help.
In addition, there are several strategies you can deploy now to limit unconscious bias in your recruiting efforts.
Ensure Your Job Descriptions are not Deterring People from Different Groups from Applying
Determine what aspects of the role are required and what aspects others can bring to the role. Is a bachelor’s degree truly required to be successful in this role? Could prior experiences determine this person’s ability to be successful in the job? Be clear in the job posting which requirements are critical and which are a plus – women are often deterred from applying for a role if they don’t meet all requirements in the job posting.
Be Strategic with Your Interviewing
When interviewing, ensure that there are rubrics established for the interviewers to evaluate the candidates against the requirements of the role. Be able to quantify intangibles that come out of the meeting so they can be measured equitably.
Be aware that some traits may be valued more than others, and some may be misinterpreted (such as eye contact, expressiveness, and close communication for example). Be prepared to ask more questions if the hiring manager doesn’t want to move forward with a candidate to determine exactly what their hesitations may be.
Leverage Sourcing Tools
Harness the power of an artificial intelligence sourcing tool to intelligently remove unconscious bias so your team can have a bias-free candidate pool.
Aim for Half of Your Candidates to be Diverse
The golden rule of recruiting is to simply hire the best possible candidate regardless of race, orientation, gender, and ethnicity.
The biggest obstacle to achieving this is often when diversity is not represented in the candidate pool. To prevent this, we found that having a goal of at least 50 percent of candidates being from diverse backgrounds is critical to ensure you’re getting the best possible candidate. In our experience, more than half of the time the final candidate happens to be diverse and the best cultural contribution.
Get Creative with Your Recruiting
Searching for qualified, leadership-level diverse talent may seem extremely difficult at first, but in reality, it just takes a little creativity and strategy. Here are a few tips collected from our team to help you find your next qualified diverse candidate.
Network with Diversity Groups
Join diversity and inclusion LinkedIn groups, attend conferences that attract diverse crowds or cover diverse subjects, and start having meaningful conversations across various networking channels. Here are a few groups we recommend staying in contact with:
- Prospanica (Association of Hispanic MBA’s & Business Professionals)
- National Black MBA Association
- Society of Women Engineers
- Network of Executive Women
- National Society for Black Engineers
- Team Women
If you’re not having any luck, explore unconventional routes like Reddit, volunteer work, and even community events.
Perhaps the best way to find, engage, and ultimately attract high-level diverse talent is to ask them first-hand where they spend their time. Interview diverse employees, families, and friends to see where they go online and how you could better reach them. Odds are good they would be more than happy to help you on your mission to hire more diverse people. In addition, referrals from diverse hires or employees tend to be more diverse.
Campus Recruiting / Career Fairs
Attend career fairs in diverse neighborhoods to better connect with the community. Explore campus recruiting programs as a source of talent to build a leadership pipeline for the future. Even better, offer scholarships and internships to diverse communities as a way to signal your commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Partner with a Search Firm
Some of the industry’s largest and most qualified diverse talent pools are generally located within the database of recruiting agencies and search firms. Many businesses looking to build up their diverse workforce often partner with search firms to find, vet, and hire diverse talent.
Another obstacle that plagues most hiring managers looking to bring on diverse executives is recruiting in areas with homogeneous demographics.
We totally get it, there are definitely many areas throughout the nation with a low percentage of diverse citizens. To help combat this, we often encourage candidates to look outside their comfort zone and consider a new adventure in a new city. Additionally, with COVID-19, many jobs are now able to be remote, which greatly widens the search.
Champion a Culture of Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are one of the top three priorities for nearly every business in 2020 but it’s so much more than just hitting D&I numbers and goals, it’s about building a culture with a foundation of inclusion. When senior leadership is motivated by constructing a culture that is focused on diversity of thought, that is when the door can be open to a more inclusive culture. After all, only 55 percent of global employees feel that their employers were making efforts to build a more inclusive culture.
Leaders need to be a part of the conversation and take active steps to help the entire organization understand and leverage everyone’s differences. Here’s a few examples of tangible ways your business can build a foundation of inclusion that will attract top-tier diverse talent.
- Design a mentorship program that encourages and helps grow women and diverse employees within the organization.
- Establish a diversity and inclusion committee that makes sure everyone feels included in the conversation.
- Survey employees and ask how your company can better build out a diversity and inclusion foundation. Be prepared to enact changes to meet the employee’s needs.
- Clearly define the values of your organization and ensure leaders are accountable to upholding those values.
- Ensure that you are developing and advancing the career of diverse employees already at your organization.
- Review your interview process over the last year or two and determine where candidates in underrepresented groups have fallen out of the process. Determine where improvements to the process could be made.
We genuinely hope you found this blog helpful on your quest to hire more diversity in executive positions. It’s our sincere goal to help employ more diverse and qualified talent in the food industry. If you have any questions or need any help around hiring diverse talent, we’d love to connect!
About Curtis Food Recruiters
As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters is in a unique position that allows us to independently evaluate food manufacturing and grocery retail companies’ hiring processes, from the perspective of both the talent acquisition team and the candidate. Contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to ensure you not only attract—but keep—the best diverse talent on the market.