Hiring with Intention

Hiring with Intention

< Back to Articles | Topics: Positive business environment


Judith Kays

The harsh and tragic realities of the past few years have promptly forced companies and organizations to try to create a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within their workforce. As a public, most of us value brands that take DEI seriously and authentically. However, more times than not, outdated hiring practices and unconscious biases, among other things, can make it difficult for diverse applicants to be successfully hired.

Idy Fashoranti is hoping to change that norm. Her social enterprise, Diversity Employment Network (DEN), opened just over a year ago, and seeks to not only match qualified candidates who are persons of colour with businesses who need great talent and want to diversity their workforce, but her team also offers training and strategic planning for companies wanting to develop a fulsome and inclusive hiring policy.

“Adding diverse voices and a wide range of experiences to the culture of a workforce increases engagement and builds a safe and inclusive space for meaningful connections to be made,” Fashoranti says. “Employers want to strengthen their organization’s diversity, and job seekers of colour are looking for the right opportunity to contribute their skills and expertise.”

As a Black Business Consulting initiative, DEN offers services like board governance training, diversity coaching, mentorship, and helps candidates find roles in organizations that value unique and diverse perspectives. DEN acts as a hub for skilled African Nova Scotians, businesses, government associations, and community organizations to come together in mutually beneficial business partnerships.

Credit: Diversity Employment Network

“We want to improve the career trajectories of people in the African Nova Scotian community, who have long been under-represented in the workforce, says Fashoranti. “By charging employers a fee for our service, we’re able to provide support to job seekers, like employability readiness training and job search assistance, which will help shift this imbalance.”

Many businesses are putting significant effort into their diversity, equity and inclusion policies, including developing staffing plans that reflect and mirror the world around them. Business leaders and hiring managers would also admit the process isn’t an overnight transition. There are many factors to take into account that can affect normal hiring practices and a company’s efforts to diversify their workforce.

The Co-operators organization, for example, has a strategy to prioritize inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. “We see the value in reflecting and supporting the strengths of the communities we serve,” says Shane Kennedy, financial advisor with Co-operators in Dartmouth. “We know there is a direct link between our success in doing business and the healthy, inclusive, and equitable work culture we have achieved together.”

Kennedy says that while they are always on the lookout for top talent, he recently spent months trying to find qualified candidates for a senior growth position with the company. He says the employment posting had the same language as always, inviting applicants from diverse backgrounds. However, he just wasn’t getting the right people to apply, no matter what their background was.

Things changed for Kennedy when he was introduced to Fashoranti and her team at DEN. “After discussing the type of candidate we were looking for, and given our organizational culture and the opportunity for growth, Idy helped us source individuals who might fit the bill,” Kennedy says. “The quality of talent was impressive and ultimately we hired Evelyn Olaiya as an associate insurance advisor, who has quickly become a strong addition to the team.”

Olaiya seems to be fitting in very well and says that working with the Black Business Initiative and DEN helped to eliminate challenges she could have faced when looking for a professional position. “I was assigned to an employment specialist who helped to create a special plan of action in getting a job that I was qualified for and interested in,” she says. “From resume building to employment counselling, they helped with all of it and were swift and proactive in the process, helping me look for the right fit based on my needs and career growth.”

DEI experts claim that posting positions the same way as before isn’t necessarily going to encourage applicants from diverse and traditionally under-represented backgrounds to apply. Companies may need to adjust their hiring practices to work towards creating a more inclusive workplace. Many businesses have historically lacked a focus on trying to create diversity within their organizations and companies. There’s no blame to be found – it’s just that people tend to look for the best candidate and put out a generic job posting with a note at the bottom stating their openness to hiring people from diverse backgrounds. However, companies need to go further. They need to look at things like their brand image, who is pictured on their ads or their websites and who is pictured as the client? If a person of colour sees only white people associated with a particular company, they may not even apply, even though they could be perfectly qualified and interested in the position.

Fashoranti says that the biggest challenge is getting organizations and companies to reach out to her ahead of their job postings. “We can help employers develop a DEI strategy that aligns with their business goals,” she says. “We work with business leaders to address their challenges and help develop opportunities for people of colour who are not only ready, willing and able to work, but who are likely some of the best candidates.”

Only two months on the job, Evelyn Olaiya has already proven her worth and Shane Kennedy is grateful for the recruiting help he received from DEN.
Only two months on the job, Evelyn Olaiya has already proven her worth and Shane Kennedy is grateful for the recruiting help he received from DEN. (Credit: Diversity Employment Network)

Hiring managers, human resource professionals and recruiters can benefit from engaging DEN in their staffing strategies. “There are a great number of exceptionally skilled people of colour in Nova Scotia and organizations need to find ways to tap into the talent pool that is right here,” Fashoranti says. “The pandemic has further displaced many people in the Black community who have been and continue to be unemployed and underemployed, and more than ever before, we need to get our people back to work.”

One thing that Fashoranti doesn’t want to see is the concept of “token hiring” – a quick-fix to diversity – which is why DEN offers employers and job seekers more than just a match. DEN ensures that the fit is right by facilitating the matches personally, based on qualifications, experience and opportunities. DEN also helps organizations realize the ways in which they can welcome and retain these employees through inclusion and engagement.

Grateful for the opportunity as a newly-hired female, person of colour in a traditionally white male-dominated industry, Olaiya is fitting in very well to a position that she’s earned. “Finding meaningful work that you are qualified for is key,” she says. “Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone, and seek help when you need it.”

Kennedy has this advice for companies who want to make a conscious effort to explore their current staffing policies and make impactful changes. “Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s a key success strategy for business growth,” he says. “By removing barriers in the hiring process, you are ultimately opening yourself up to a deeper pool of top talent, and a wider array of perspectives that can help you grow as a business and better meet the needs of your community.”

Cover Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

< Back to Articles | Topics: Positive business environment

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