As a certified Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion strategist and organizational consultant, Judy coaches leaders and designs and delivers Talent Management and work culture solutions.Follow Follow
On this episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks with Judy Ellis of AMS about how successful DE&I values each individual throughout their employment lifecycle.
Judy is senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion advisory at AMS and an expert at helping organizations build inclusive, diverse cultures where all employees thrive and deliver for the business and each other.
This is a fun, informative conversation. Have a listen and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Show Length: 29 minutes
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This is RecruitingDaily, Recruiting Live Podcast where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams, we talk recruiting, sourcing and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Judy on from AMS, we’re going to talk about successful DE&I values each individual throughout their employment life cycle. So a bunch of things to unpack, can’t wait to get into it and learn from Judy. Judy, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself, but also introduce AMS?
Yes. Thank you for having me. I’m Judy Ellis and I’m the senior vice president of diversity equity and inclusion advisory at AMS and I’ve been a 20 plus year diversity, equity and inclusion practitioner prior to joining AMS. I was an independent consultant who founded two consulting businesses in diversity, equity and inclusion. And the opportunity to join AMS earlier this year, I joined in January, really was attractive because AMS is a leader in recruitment for global organizations and really being able to fine tune and help this global client set that is very committed to working on increasing diversity, equity and inclusion particularly where it comes to the attraction, sourcing, recruitment, assessing and onboarding of candidates provides a real important way to make a difference in the lives of several employers and individuals that are qualified job seekers. And so it just lines up with my passion.
I love it. So, because you’ve done this for a long time, but you also get to see an array of customers and consult and help them through their journey, because I think the DE&I or diversity, inclusion, belonging, equity and quality in general is a journey and everyone is on kind of a different journey. What are some of the common problems that you see? Right? As of today, what are some of the things that you see as just, okay, this is something we’ve got to fix?
One of the things that I’m seeing with the kinds of clients we support with AMS is that they have strong leadership commitment from the very top of the organization. And as you move down through the organization executing well to understand all the ways to measure and monitor progress. And also do kind of customized outreach to be an employer of choice even for underrepresented communities is an area where there’s more work to be done. In addition to that, I would say secondarily is really understanding the candidate experience and amplifying efforts to make joining up or even seeing ads or being attracted to a company as well as onboarding new employees, so that they’re onboarded not just to the work that they’re going to do, but also onboarded to the culture.
And that can be an individual journey for a candidate who may be moving, for example from one community to another, in a recent focus group for example, a black woman who had moved to the East Coast said, no could tell me where to get my hair done for example. And that was really important to me, there are also new challenges related to the pandemic as many, probably most of our clients are onboarding people in a remote capacity. And so trying to really instill a sense of belonging and inclusion and helping people join up to employee resource groups or have a buddy that can really identify with them is another important area where I’ve seen there really is a need for more work.
So what’s the most innovative thing you’ve seen? No client names of course, but what’s the most innovative thing you’ve seen a program or otherwise, you get to see everything. So what’s just, give the audience a little taste of something that you’ve seen that just, wow, wasn’t thinking that, glad we’re thinking that now, that’s cool.
I’ve really been impressed by some of the unique ways our clients have adapted around the globe to make, their process is more inclusive for particular candidate populations. For example, one employer realized we really don’t … We’ve been kind of stuck in our ways in placing people in a particular geography. And we realized that we really can open up the candidate pool if we consider remote work more. So while they may be in an area where there’s not a lot of availability of, let’s say black and Hispanic candidates in the US, for example, they can see now that some of these jobs are remote. And so we might be able to hire people from Atlanta, et cetera, that has a higher population of ethnic and racial diversity even if they’re working on projects that might be in the Northwest for example where there isn’t as much racial and ethnic diversity.
So going across geographical lines and rethinking where talent can be pulled from I think has been a really innovative switch. We’ve also seen people looking at one of our tier one investment banking clients is really doing a look at their kind of success criteria and saying, what is really important to be successful here? Can we look at other adjacent industries for skill sets that might actually be applicable in financial services?
So again, another way to open up what we call that top of the funnel with recruiting and saying, do we really need someone that has seven plus years financial services experience? Or can we take someone who has done this in engineering, for example, they probably still have this mathematical aptitude and understanding, they may need a little onboarding time to understand the industry, but it’s looking at ways to really be more careful about that criteria we’re setting from the very beginning of what really matters to hire a candidate. Do they really need all the competencies that we’re saying they need?
what I love about that
What I love about that is it opens the door, it opens up your mind, it opens up the door which opens up the door for everyone. One of the things that I’ve seen that’s more innovative than not is a mindset shift in so far as rethinking diversity as diversity is everyone’s responsibility. And yeah, you have a leader and yeah, there’s going to be analytics and metrics, transparency and annual reports and all of those things, fair enough, because it can’t just be about words, it’s got to be about actions and people need to know what you’re doing, but instead of it being Janet or Kevin or Terry or whatever, it’s everyone’s responsibility and that’s just a mindset shift, which is I think healthy for all of us to think about diversity and inclusion and equity and equality in those terms and just say, it isn’t mine, it’s all of ours.
And again, we need leadership to help push some of that. Let me ask you a question about your advice for recruiters that interact with hiring managers for whatever reason they don’t move diverse candidates forward.
Yes. I mean, it depends-
You’ve seen this, right? So, I mean.
I’m assuming you mean diverse candidates that are qualified that aren’t [crosstalk 00:09:46]-
Yes. Actually I’ll be doing some training with a financial services client next Friday. And this is one of the things that we’re kind of having people ask, how can you help equip and empower us to have those challenging conversations where we can influence one another or challenge one another where we see bias may have crept in? And one of the things that I’ve recommended is number one, having that mindset shift that you talked about William and knowing I need to be courageous to really be a successful leader in the DEI space. I can’t kind of be a wallflower and see things going on. It’s my responsibility, it’s all of our responsibilities to challenge each other because we all have biases, I have biases, bias is a human condition. If you’re a human being, you have preferences. If I ask you chocolate or vanilla or strawberry, you have one.
But it’s knowing what you have is the key and then being able to look at it and set it aside and say, I want to evaluate this candidate based on their knowledge, skills and abilities, not just my preferred elite school or my preferred number of years of work experience. So how I encourage people to do that is using a model that comes from active listening and some of the skills and having difficult conversations, which is reflecting back to the person that you understand their concern, like I see you have some concerns about Sally, because she has gaps in her employment. And you’ve said you wonder about her and the small children that were running across the screen during her interview. However, we both want the best person for this role and I think you know that it’s most important to evaluate a candidate based on their knowledge, skills and ability.
It’s funny because you recenter it on what’s most important is the best talent and that skills and abilities, competencies, it’s all of these things that aren’t littered with biases. You either have the skills or you don’t, you can easily test those things. So I love that because that’s a great equalizer and it pulls that out, but the idea of empowering your recruiters, your sources, everyone in town acquisition to have challenging fierce, what would be kind of uncomfortable conversations. But if we allow ourselves, we can all learn by those conversations. So, I love that. What are the typical questions that diverse candidates are asking recruiters today? Where do you see it? What do they care about?
They’re asking, is this a place where I really can belong? They’re looking at it. We’re saying every person in the company, you are an ambassador and you own this employment value proposition. And they’re looking at everyone’s LinkedIn profiles on a practical basis, we tell everyone associated hiring managers, talent acquisition as well, update your LinkedIn profile, post regularly issues that would be of concern to diverse candidates. So that they’re able to see when they look at your feed, because they are interviewing you just as you are interviewing them, that you really care about this subject. Make sure that your social media, your website, et cetera, is representative.
One of the things we do in advisory is diagnostics, which includes people from our brand and attraction team to kind of take you through the eyes of a candidate from a different background, looking at all your materials, et cetera, to say, does this look welcoming? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re investigating you just like you’re investigating them.
Actually, I read some research recently that says candidates from underrepresented backgrounds spend more time actively trying to find people that look like them in LinkedIn, on social media, et cetera, on your website to see what is this experience like for employees like me, because representation really speaks to how comfortable someone thinks their experience will be there, right? And it’s like, is this really going to be okay for me as a woman engineer in this energy company for example? Can I see an example of some women who have worked here and been successful?
Yeah. Few people want to be the first.
I mean, there are some folks that just love that and like breaking up all the barriers, but few people like that. First of all I love that candidates are looking for people like them in the process and looking to see where they belong, I also think that that probably goes further into thrive, not just where I belong, but can I thrive in this job? Can I thrive in this team? Can I thrive at this company? Et cetera. So, I think that’s important to convey on a lot of levels for candidates at a lot of different experiences that they have. Are you seeing, with the folks that you advise or even AMS proper, are you seeing any relationship between the desire to work remotely and DEI?
I am, I’m scared as I look everywhere and see the great resignation end.
There’s so much volatility right now in the recruiting space, but many more people are making the decision that they actually enjoyed working remotely. I’ve been fortunate to have a big percentage of my career working remotely much of the time, but many more people are doing that. And what I’m finding just in the last month is that several of the clients we’re advising are doing global sentiment surveys on return to work, and they’re coming up with extremely different results. And I haven’t yet been able to understand the reason why, but I think is the practice of asking your workforce, where do you want to be? Is hybrid working for you? Would you like to come in two or three days a week and work remotely?
And many of our clients are starting to offer those kinds of opportunities and I think that has become, just my daughter for example recently finished MBA school and she’s working remotely for her company. And when she heard they were going to be going into the office in a month, she wasn’t thrilled. And it’s like, but you haven’t met many people and it’s like, yeah, but I’ve kind of gotten into the groove of doing this. So, I think it opens up, as I said and for companies who are looking for more diversity, taking away that geographic barrier just opens up identities and workplaces from around the globe for people to do work for you, there’s so many new opportunities, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone.
Right, of course.
And there’s a lot that can be missed without that face to face interaction, so.
It’s interesting because flexibility opens doors and people just, I think at this point just want flexibility, they might want to go to the office five days a week, great, they might not want to ever go to the office, fantastic. Or something in between, but I love the idea and you touched on it, that geographic, you have to live in Topeka to be there. Well, that limits that talent pool of what you can pull from. And so it still can be done, so I’m not going to hide behind, no, it’s harder. No, it could still be done, you’re just going to have to work harder at it.
Exactly. And I think many big sea changes that happen, there’s often some precipitating event that pushes our mindsets to go, is this really possible? And then we found out so many things about that during the pandemic that clients that were strictly place based, but could no longer be and realized, oh, our productivity actually stayed the same or-
Or went up.
… a few cases went up. So it’s challenging us to really look at work in very, very different ways. And that’s the crux of diversity and inclusion. When we start thinking as you said, of ways to open up possibilities that we may be thinking this may help women in the workforce or this may help us get underrepresented minorities in the workforce. It really makes a workforce this better for everyone? Because the things that we learn will also apply to disabled candidates for example that maybe would much prefer working from home. And because we’ve seen this possibility open up, it’s opened our eyes to be able to allow people from all walks of life and backgrounds access.
I love that. Let me add two questions last, before we roll out. The compensation, total compensation, what do you believe just either anecdotally or what you’ve seen with your clients, what’s motivating diverse candidates today?
They’re motivated very much like others I think, I’ve heard some say there’s a talent war and they’re being offered exorbitant salaries that we can’t compete with.
Heard the same thing. Not sure I believe it by the way.
And I’m with you, William.
I think that’s a top out, but [crosstalk 00:21:19]-
I will never name names, but one of my former clients, I will say, I think kind use that as a comfortable excuse to say, we can’t compete, that’s why people are leaving. And in focus groups, people were telling me the culture stinks here, I’m not really included and that’s why I’m leaving. Because it’s a big change for someone, especially if they have tenure in an organization, but for a new hire, they’re looking at total compensation, but a lot of research says that underrepresented and even gen X and Z candidates are taking pay cuts up to 20%, they’re willing to take an offer if the culture is better. And if they’re reading on Glassdoor and in social media and you have your employees, that’s another innovation I’ve seen using video to use your own employees as exemplars for your culture. And they’re saying, I love working here, it’s the best place I’ve ever been? There are many people like me who are successful, who are being retained. I feel that I have career development opportunities, I’m being nurtured and I can rise to the level of my ability as you said, I’m thriving here. That is the biggest talent magnet in the world.
I hundred percent agree, culture, values, morals, momentum, being able to thrive in that environment. And again, candidates can sus that stuff out pretty quickly. And so, before you could kind of … When the world wasn’t as transparent, you could just, is it words? We can care about diversity and inclusion, now, whether or not they did or didn’t, now we live in a world where it’s pretty easy to find whether or not that’s actually true or not. And so I think you nailed it. Last question is just your take on kind of the common reason that diverse candidates drop out of the recruiting process?
It’s the common reason most candidates I think drop out, which is length of time to offer. When people, and I know some of our clients, they have extremely complex roles especially for higher level positions. So they may have a number of steps in the interview process and an assessment as well, but I would say whatever you can to truncate that process so that you can get a decision to a great candidate as quickly as you can, it significantly amplifies your ability of turning them into a hire.
Yeah, I concur and I think that some of that comes down to communication. So if that candidate is going to go through a behavioral assessment, personality assessment, skills testing and seven interviews, then the onus is on us to explain all of those steps and why they’re important. And if someone, and I think most candidates again, I think you’re right. Most candidates get frustrated at speed and not knowing and not feeling like the process is tailored to them. I think some of that is just communications, can be solved with just basically making sure that they understand every step. If you do that with a candidate, generally speaking, they’re willing to kind of go with you on that journey. It’s when they don’t know, that’s when they get really, really frustrated.
And I think that you touched upon it earlier, it’s also making sure that it’s highly personalized. If a candidate and I think this is true of diverse candidates as well. If a candidate feels like they’re one of 300 people that you’re kind of putting through this cattle call and it’s not personalized to them, it’s not personalized to their background or their expertise, et cetera. Then they just get disinterested and they can, again, I think that they can sus that stuff out pretty quickly and it’s too long, it’s not been well communicated and it’s not to them specifically.
Exactly. And you know, some of the best practice organizations we’re working with are really amplifying what they’re doing in terms of preparing candidates. That’s a whole new opportunity that we’ve been helping with. And some people, it’s so different from the traditional recruiting from 20 years ago where it’s like, you’re lucky to get this opportunity and jump through these 18 hoops and you might win the prize
Shoe is on the other foot.
It’s totally on the other foot now, especially with this economy, people have options. And so that employer who is really personalizing the experience, as you said, communication is key, personalized communication from a recruiter, letting them know here’s what’s happening, we’re so interested, here’s what’s going to happen next in the process. And as I said, some clients are preparing very comprehensive packs to help people understand here’s the kinds of things we’re going to be looking for. Even giving them a couple of their success criteria, here’s what method of interviewing we use, here’s how often you’re going to be asked to look at results, for example, and that’s going to be guiding part of our process, so helping people prepare is so important.
I love that you use the word prepare, because I’ve used in the past, I’ve used the word advocacy, but I think preparation actually gets to the heart of it. Advocacy is important of course, but prepping them and communicating at each step in the journey, making sure that they understand there’s no blind siding, there’s no surprises. You’re going to be interviewing with seven people. If you’re going to be on a Zoom call, seven other people and they’re going to be asking you these types of questions and getting them prepped, using your words, getting them prepped for success. And I think that’s actually just smart for all recruiters to kind of think about that. But it’s not a muscle that we’ve used or a lot of us have used in the past. So there is some change that we all have to go through.
Judy, I absolutely appreciate you being on the show today, you’ve been amazing as I thought you would be, but thank you so much for carving out time for us.
Thank you for having me, William, it’s really been a pleasure.,I’m excited as I look forward to a lot of the upcoming events like the conference you’re hosting today. So I really am pleased to hear about the work that you’re doing, hope to stay connected.
Absolutely and thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast, until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.