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DEI Defined — and Why It Should Be at the Heart of Your Recruitment Strategy

Sep 06, 2023

In today’s world, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become crucial components of any organization’s success. DEI refers to an organization’s commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals, regardless of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other characteristic. Making DEI part of your recruitment strategy is an essential step towards building a diverse and inclusive workforce. 

According to McKinsey, the most diverse companies outperform their less diverse peers by 36% in profitability. Investing in diversity creates new approaches to problem-solving and greater levels of engagement, while also bringing a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences to the table.

With a new generational cohort having entered the job market in the last few years, the role of DEI has increased in visibility and importance. Gen Z wants organizations to look beyond the “diversity” piece of DEI and push the boundaries of equity and inclusion, making it critical for companies to evaluate their own recruitment strategies. Here are some key steps you can take to define DEI and better incorporate it into your recruitment strategy.

  1. Understand What DEI Means

Before you can make DEI part of your recruitment strategy, you need to understand what it means. DEI is an umbrella term that encompasses several areas, including:

Diversity: Refers to the differences and unique characteristics of individuals in your workforce. These differences can be based on race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other characteristic.

Equity: Refers to the fair treatment of all individuals in your workforce. This means providing equal access to opportunities and resources, regardless of their background or challenges.

Inclusion: Refers to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all individuals in your workforce. This means valuing and respecting the unique perspectives and contributions of each individual.

  1. Develop a DEI Recruitment Strategy

Once you understand what DEI means, you can develop a recruitment strategy that aligns with your organization’s values and goals. Here are some key steps to consider:

Define Your Goals: What are your organization’s DEI goals? What are you hoping to achieve through your recruitment efforts? These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Once you’ve established these goals, put them into practice, and pivot based on your results.

Review Your Hiring Process: Review your current hiring process to identify any areas where DEI could be improved. For example, you may need to revise your job descriptions to remove bias or re-evaluate your screening criteria to ensure they are fair and inclusive. 

Unconscious biases such as racism, ageism, and sexism exist within recruiting practices in a variety of ways and are often difficult to detect given their systemic nature. The Harvard Business Review provides practical ways in which you can act, here are some examples:

Create a DEI Committee: Establish a committee dedicated to DEI initiatives within your organization. These groups can help to create norms that propagate a culture of diversity for both external recruiting efforts and internal engagement. This will ensure that DEI is reflected as a top priority not only during the recruitment process but also through onboarding and beyond. Rutgers’ Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement provides helping to frame and action steps:

  1. Be clear about the purpose of the committee to avoid wasted resources.
  2. Consider the qualities and qualifications of potential committee members to ensure that the process is handled with care and expertise.
  3. Establish a shared language for streamlined and clear communication.
  4. Anticipate competing ideas and healthy conflict, which are necessary for growth.

Develop Training Programs: Provide training programs for your hiring managers and recruiters to help them better understand and implement DEI practices. This can include training on unconscious bias, diversity sourcing, and inclusive interviewing. Having managers and recruiters who understand DEI practices will help attract potential hires and ensure they remain engaged as employees.

Expand your reach: In addition to making changes to your recruitment strategies and processes, find new channels of hiring to further commit. To reach a wider diversity and range of candidates, consider the following:

Create Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs: Providing structures of support within an organization is a necessary component of any DEI strategy. 

Mentorship focuses on the specific relationship between the mentor and mentee and is a direct intervention and is oriented towards providing support, guidance, advice, feedback on skills, and coaching.

Sponsorship takes that mentor-mentee relationship to be more externally facing, serving to promote the protégé’s achievements and helping advance their careers.

Foster a Diverse and Inclusive Culture: Your recruitment efforts should be part of a broader effort to create a diverse and inclusive culture within your organization. This means promoting diversity and inclusion in all areas of your organization, from your hiring process to your employee retention programs. One common practice is establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

ERGs are groups led by employees and voluntary in nature. They aim to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplace that aligns with the values of their respective organizations. Typically, these groups are formed by employees who share common characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, lifestyle, or interest. 

ERGs provide a safe and supportive environment where employees can bring their authentic selves to the table and receive assistance in their personal and career development. Allies are also welcome to join these groups and support their colleagues.

Reference Indeed for steps on how to build effective resource groups and encourage their growth. 

  1. Measure Your Progress

Finally, it’s important to measure your progress and adjust your recruitment strategy as needed. This can include tracking the diversity of your applicant pool, analyzing your hiring metrics to identify areas for improvement, and soliciting feedback from your employees to ensure that they feel valued and supported. 

Here are some metrics you can use to measure your progress:

  1. Dollars allocated to DEI efforts
  2. Number of diverse employees across the organization
  3. Percentage of diverse employees in leadership positions
  4. Employee tenure and retention
  5. Number of programs dedicated to DEI and their achievements
  6. Participation in and impact of DEI training and programs
  7. Employee surveys and feedback
  8. Leadership buy-in and accountability
  9. Number of incident reports


In conclusion, making DEI part of your recruitment strategy is essential for building a diverse and inclusive workforce. By understanding what DEI means, developing a DEI recruitment strategy, and measuring your progress, you can create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all individuals in your organization.

In case you’re uncertain about integrating DE&I programs into your organization, Russell Tobin has a solution. Our team of skilled staffing and recruiting professionals can assist you in revamping your recruitment and retention strategies to adapt to a constantly evolving world. Contact us today to discover how we can provide support.