As Gen-Z enters the workforce, the candidate pool is objectively becoming more diverse –– only 45% of 30-year-olds will be non-Hispanic whites in 2040, and minorities will become the majority in the U.S. by 2045, according to Census projections –– so preparing to attract underrepresented candidates contributes to future proofing any business. But to be able to effectively attract underrepresented talent, DE&I cannot be an afterthought, or a standalone initiative; the whole organization, and in particular recruiting teams, must treat DE&I strategies as though they’re mission critical –– because they are.

I started my career leading diversity recruiting at companies like DocuSign and Airtable. Now, I work with companies like Adidas and PayPal to help them meet their diversity hiring goals at scale. In each case, I’ve noticed that the companies who succeed in attracting (and retaining) underrepresented candidates have a few things in common. Here are three of those key strategies to ensure DE&I isn’t just a program, but core to everyday operations, and trust me: candidates can spot the difference.

Allocate A Dedicated Budget

Building a workforce that supports underrepresented employees requires more than just good intentions. The amount of time and, especially, money you invest is directly correlated to your success or failure. This may seem obvious, but it’s not always practiced within organizations. At DocuSign, we were struggling to hire Black and Latinx sales people. We invested thousands of dollars on networking events and specifically targeted our outreach to Black and Latinx sales development reps. Over six months we saw the number of Black and Latinx hires increase by 20%. This is a small example of how money and intention can be combined to make a measurable impact.

If your DE&I teams currently rely on budget from various departments across the org to be able to do their work and meet their goals, consider instead treating diversity initiatives more like you do research and development (R&D) projects, which benefit from a dedicated budget to ensure teams are adequately resourced. By investing real money into these initiatives, organizations demonstrate their commitment and recognize the value of diversity in driving innovation, improving company culture, and achieving sustainable growth.

Align Diversity Objectives with Business Goals

To maximize the impact of diversity programs, it is crucial that DE&I objectives are born out of larger, organization-wide goals. I call this business proofing your diversity strategy. Why did we focus on the Sales team at DocuSign? Because the business was growing rapidly, and we needed to increase our supply of great salespeople. Second, our mid-market customers were predominantly underrepresented, so we wanted to make sure our sales force reflected that. We know that speaking to people with shared experiences can lead to better outcomes on sales calls, so improving the representation of women and people of color on the SMB sales team was a diversity goal that tied perfectly to a business outcome and contributed to the organization’s overall success. By closely tying diversity objectives to business goals, companies can foster a culture of inclusivity that also just happens to drive tangible outcomes.

Expand Recruitment Channels

Recruiting teams are accountable to leadership for their efficiency and cost as much as any other team. In other words, recruiting is a supply and demand problem that ebbs and flows with the growth of the business. The good news: prioritizing diversity in recruiting is a proven way to solve that problem. Tried and true sourcing methods often mean companies are really only pulling candidates from two or three sources – referrals, universities, etc. The supply of candidates from these frequently-tapped wells will result in a homogeneous workforce, and limit candidate demand. The more places you source candidates from, the more likely you are to have a solid supply of qualified talent, while also ensuring demand for open roles. The laws of supply and demand hold true here, so diversifying the talent pipeline also reduces the cost per hire for your team.

Continuing with the earlier DocuSign example, the events significantly increased candidate demand. Attendees told their friends that DocuSign was hiring, which created short term demand. The candidates we hired referred their friends, which increased midterm demand. And, long term, we stumbled onto a new channel that turned out to be a low cost way for us to recruit should we decide to do it again. Win-win-win.

Ultimately, to start treating DE&I as more than an initiative in recruiting (with the upside of attracting underrepresented talent) we need to stop calling it an “initiative.” By investing resources, being smart in setting goals, and broadening places from which they attract talent, companies can foster an inclusive work environment that drives innovation, enhances customer relationships, and ultimately leads to sustainable growth. Embracing diversity as a business imperative is not only the right thing to do, but also a strategic advantage in today’s global and interconnected marketplace.

Albrey Brown

Albrey Brown currently serves as VP of Strategy at Joonko, the largest and only platform fully focused on recruiting underrepresented talent, which helps companies like Adidas, American Express, Intuit, PayPal and hundreds of other major employers source and hire underrepresented talent. Prior to this role, he led Diversity and Inclusion at three major tech companies including Pivotal Software, DocuSign and Airtable. At each company, he built important programs from the ground up. Albrey previously founded and sold Telegraph Academy, which focused on teaching underserved groups how to code.