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Why Talent Diversity Matters: A Q&A with Dr. Christy Petrosso and William T. Rolack, Sr.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The events of the past few months have sparked newfound attention on diversity and inclusion (D&I) issues. Workforce and hiring leaders in particular have a significant opportunity and responsibility to drive change. To make a tangible difference that creates real inclusivity within the workforce, employers must fully embrace, integrate, and invest in D&I across their organizations – and these initiatives should encompass the entire workforce of contingent and full-time employees.

Dr. Christy Petrosso, Workforce Logiq’s Chief Data Scientist and Talent Economist, and William T. Rolack, Sr., the company’s new VP of Diversity and Inclusion, share where employers can have the biggest impact right now, and how technology can help foster inclusive hiring practices.

Q: Why is diversity such an important topic for businesses?

William: Creating a diverse workplace is both the right thing to do, and good for business. Exposure to new cultures, ideas, and perspectives enables employees to learn from each other and grow, which enhances an organization’s ability to innovate, adapt, and perform.

And when the human qualities and differences within the workforce are embraced, employees feel more comfortable and valued, and experience a genuine sense of belonging. This empowers them do their best work, which increases organizational productivity and results. In fact, a McKinsey study found companies with ethnic and cultural diversity have a 33% likelihood of outperformance on EBITA margin over companies that aren’t inclusive.

Q: What needs to change about organizations’ current approach to D&I initiatives?

William: Diversity and inclusion isn’t a “program.” Too many organizations today treat it as an ad hoc initiative. Employers that have fostered real cultures of belonging understand D&I needs to permeate the organization at the core, and be a lens through which senior leaders invest, act, and make decisions.

D&I should be tied to everything that happens within an organization — acquiring new talent, building equity with that talent, competing in the market, and more. Real progress can only occur when employers understand this interconnectivity and link D&I initiatives with the larger business objectives.

Q: What can employers specifically do to boost workforce diversity?

Christy: The starting point is to make sure more candidates from underrepresented groups are included at the front end of the recruiting funnel. Traditional pipelining strategies – employee referrals, institutional relationship building, staff training – are all important tools, but they only go so far in boosting representation of diverse worker populations. Not to mention, these approaches are incredibly time consuming.

Recent advances to AI and predictive intelligence are helping employers bring diverse workers in the door faster. By predicting which candidates are most likely to have diverse backgrounds – gender, national origin, ethnicity, veterans, and more — technology is enabling organizations to identify and include prospective hires with the right skillsets and from underrepresented communities in their talent pools. Employers can proactively grow their competitive diverse pipeline of candidates and more easily meet the market’s expectations for an inclusive workplace.

Q: How do we grow and affect real change as business leaders?

Christy: We need to replace assumptions with data-driven decision making. Without a clear understanding of what D&I success looks like and how far away we are from achieving our goals, it’s impossible to tangibly improve. Amazingly, a lot of companies are missing this insight today.

Getting this picture requires timely, broad, and consistent access to D&I benchmark data. Employers are increasingly using predictive insights and AI to understand how they measure up to their competitors and overall industry on diversity hiring, and where they need to boost representation – increasing outreach to women, men, or specific ethnic groups – in specific roles and job levels, to reach their desired state of inclusiveness.

Q: What’s your advice to executives ready to drive real change?

William: Go 100% and don’t take shortcuts. Communicate your vision, benchmark performance, identify goals, show exactly what, where, and why you are making changes, and develop a clear plan for achieving success.

Christy: Develop a partner ecosystem to guide you along the way, and invest big in data and enabling technologies. The path isn’t always easy, but the end results are more than worth it.

Upping our game

Under pressure to meet demands for a more inclusive workplace, every employer needs a clear plan for recruiting and retaining diverse talent across their contingent and full-time workforces – and a mechanism for tracking and demonstrating their performance.

It’s not enough to react and guess. To drive real D&I progress, employers need context and data on their side to make smarter, confident, and more proactive decisions on where and how to invest in talent diversity and boost employee representation.

For more on the state of U.S. talent diversity, check out our latest report: Workforce Management AI-Powered Diversity Benchmark Report.

Learn how Workforce Logiq is helping employers build diverse talent pipelines.

Christy Petrosso (Whitehead), Chief Data Scientist and Talent Economist

Christy Petrosso (Whitehead) is our Chief Data Scientist and Talent Economist, leading the strategy and design of our predictive AI algorithms and machine learning models.  Christy joined our leadership team in October 2019 with the acquisition of ENGAGE Talent. Christy holds a PhD in Economics from Clemson University and has focused her career on employment and labor economics. Her previous experiences include key data science roles with PeopleMatter (acquired by Snag A Job) and Equifax. Christy is a frequent speaker in HR Analytics and machine learning conferences. She is also an active member of the Federal Reserve Roundtable.

Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion

William has extensive experience helping companies achieve their business goals by leveraging diversity and inclusion initiatives.  At Workforce Logiq he leads our diversity and inclusion strategy and advises our clients on how to improve diverse workforce and human capital management strategies.

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