Winning The War For Talent With Diversity & Equal Opportunity

By: Pallavi Arora, Vice President, Cisco Customer Experience (CX) Centers

Amongst other challenges, the global pandemic aggravated the war for talent combined with the great resignation, creating an increasingly competitive landscape to recruit and retain the best-in-class talent. The phenomenon spans Engineering, Manufacturing, IT/Technology, Healthcare, and other sectors with an increasing talent shortage.

Before deep diving to solve the challenge, taking a pause to assess the situation and understand the trigger points will bring clarity. We usually have our power list of the same universities or favorite cities as our recruiting ground as employers or recruiters. Imagine the same group of potential candidates being approached with many offers. For a fresh college graduate, the key attraction could be the compensation over a challenging role, flexibility, or the world's best boss. For a lateral hire, the goals might differ. With experience, the focus could be more about achieving work-life balance, flexibility to work from anywhere, empowerment, challenging role, and a solid growth trajectory. Recruiting talent is a complex and lengthy process. Often, the company culture too is either an influencer or an enabler.

So, How Do We Innovate To Attract, And What Does The Future Look Like?

To thrive in the new environment, we must re-think our talent strategy, question our biases for ivy-league universities, and change the legacy narrative that an individual's certification from a premier institution or geography reflects their capability. This restricts our talent pool from where we hire. It is also well-known that these universities or specific geographies may not have the diversity in talent, which limits us further in showing-up as an inclusive, equal opportunity employer.

How do we hire differently from universities to have more options and look for an opportunity to engage a more diverse talent? What if we expand our search pool beyond the metropolitans and the premier universities in the country? To our delight, we discovered a few women-only universities with an extraordinary talent mix, which was not even on our radar since they were not premier institutes ­ an opportunity we were utterly ignoring. Moreover, India is diverse, with so many cultures and languages spread across 28 states that we needed to innovate.

By partnering with academies that have a connect with the universities across the state and using online hiring tools and virtual hiring practices, we reached-out to universities all over the country. We also targeted hiring from women-only universities, and the result was astonishing. We achieved 50 percent diversity hiring last year from 22 states in India.

When hiring experienced employees, Covid restricted all IT employees to work from home. This demonstrated that employees can be equally or more productive even when working from home. For IT companies, transitioning from physical offices to a virtual environment did not take much effort. Many employees started liking the choice of working from home, and many went back to their hometowns, living with their families and being still able to work remotely. This made employees question the need to return to physical offices full-time. As a result, there was a demand for either remote working or a hybrid model, yet another opportunity for employers to seriously look at expanding the pool of geographies for hiring and not restrict to the usual cities and the opportunity to work remotely or hybrid as a true differentiator to attract talent.

How do we solve for hiring diverse, experienced candidates? First, training the hiring leaders on a good interview process is crucial. Besides a diverse lineup of candidates, a diverse interviewing panel is essential to derive the results. It takes conscious and purpose-driven bold steps to decide a position cannot be closed until one woman or diverse candidate has been interviewed.

“In the hybrid inclusive workplace, it is critical to acknowledge that everyone is experiencing a very personal and different situation and that everyone's challenge is slightly different from the other”

What Can We Do Differently To Retain Employees?

Diversity will not thrive in a company where the culture is not inclusive. In the hybrid inclusive workplace, it is critical to acknowledge that everyone is experiencing a very personal and different situation and that everyone's challenge is slightly different from the other. As leaders, we may have different experiences, but focusing on how we can play an individual to their absolute best, offer a sense of belonging, and show their impact is essential. Offer flexibility at the workplace and manage teams with compassion and empathy.

Employees are looking for challenging opportunities and a sense of purpose in their work. In addition, they expect a nurturing atmosphere, flexible working hours, and an excellent work-life balance. To attract, companies can consider avoiding strict hierarchies and micromanagement.

Continued focus and investment in upskilling and reskilling is the new norm. It includes skills-based training for recent college graduates who are not fully ready for the workplace and equip existing workers with new capabilities, particularly with the evolution of digital transformation and technology reliance. Handhold the employees while making them stronger to carve their career path.

As unfavorable as it sounds, the war for talent is real and happening. However, with diversity and inclusion, we can gradually control the intensity. It entails everyone to lean-in for an inclusive future where everyone has a purpose and experiences growth to their full potential. We can all be a bridge and make a difference.