SmartRecruiters – The Diversity Hiring Toolkit with Rocki Howard

Today, we have Rocki Howard on the show from SmartRecruiters to talk about the Diversity Hiring Toolkit. I have been waiting for this show all week long. I can’t wait to get into this, to learn a bunch of stuff from Rocki.



Rocki has been in the recruiting industry for 30 years and has worked within every part of the industry. She spent the last 13 years in the RPO industry working with global clients across multiple industries. She recently started as the Chief Diversity Officer at SmartRecruiters to work across their client base to help achieve better outcomes in diversity hiring.

Rocki is involved with SmartRecruiters’ product development to boost product evolution from a diversity perspective. Additionally, she works to ensure that their own company culture thrives on equity, inclusion, and belonging so that everyone feels that they can be bold and brazen advocates of diversity.

SmartRecruiters is a tech company within the new generation of end-to-end Talent Acquisition suites and is also an industry leader in their demographic. If you need a new end-to-end TA suite with a great user interface that will help you achieve hiring success as well as better diversity outcomes, you should look at what they have to offer.


Mentioned on the show:


Tune in for a great conversation.

Listening time: 30 minutes


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William Tincup [00:00:01] Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. I’ve been waiting for this show all week long, not just because it’s on Friday, but all week long. I’ve been waiting to actually talk to Rocki about this. So we’re going to be talking to Rocki Howard from SmartRecruiters. We’re going to be talking about the Diversity Hiring Toolkit. So, I can’t wait to get into this to find out and to learn a bunch of stuff from Rocki. And hopefully as an audience, I hope you learn about things as well. Rocki, please introduce yourself and introduce SmartRecruiters.

Rocki Howard [00:00:36] William, first of all, I am so excited to be here. I’ve been a fan of RecruitingDaily for a very long time. And so for other reasons, besides the fact that you are the only thing between me and a glass of wine, I have been waiting for this all week. Right. My name is Rocki Howard. I am the chief diversity officer at SmartRecruiters. I have been in the recruiting industry for 30 years.

Rocki Howard [00:01:00] I’ve worked in every area of recruitment that you could possibly imagine, have just spent the last 13 years in the RPO industry working with global clients across multiple dimensions or across multiple industries, and recently started as the chief diversity officer for Smart Recruiters, where I am able to work across our clients and help our clients achieve better outcomes in terms of diversity hiring. I’m also very involved in partner with product development as we will be looking at our product and doing product evolution from a diversity perspective. And I also have the pleasure of working with our chief people officer to ensure that our culture is one that thrives on equity, inclusion and belonging. And all of the people in our culture feel like they can be bold and brazen advocates of diversity.

Rocki Howard [00:01:58] For people who don’t know, SmartRecruiters is a tech company. We are one of the new generation of talent acquisition suites. We are an industry leader in that demographic. And so if you are looking for a new I hate to use the word ATS because you think about Toleo when you think about ATS. So I’m trying not to go there. But if you’re looking for an end to end talent acquisition suite with a great user interface, that will actually not only help you achieve hiring success, but help you achieve better diversity outcomes, then go check out SmartRecruiters.

William Tincup [00:02:36] And Rocki, we’ve been around long enough to where we knew the names before they were called Toleo.

Rocki Howard [00:02:42] Oh honey, we knew the names, William, before there were ATS’s!

William Tincup [00:02:46] Yes, yeah, exactly. I had an Access database that was used as a prima fascia ATS so we know we won’t go backwards. Let’s not do that.

Rocki Howard [00:02:59] Let’s, let’s not do that. But i dont remember when the first fax machine showed up and said, oh, now let’s not go there.

William Tincup [00:03:06] No –email –what?? We’re not going to talk about email.

William Tincup [00:03:07] What we’re going to talk about, even though I love the I love the phrase diversity hiring toolkit because it seems like a living document, it seems like something that can help both, you know, and again, this is kind of both your position. You can you’re helping SmartRecruiters get better at this. But you’re also helping your customers of SmartRecruiters get better at this. The toolkit itself, you know, let’s start with the basics. How did you–how did you start down this path of creating a toolkit?

Rocki Howard [00:03:41] Yeah. So I want to just add one thing to this, because what SmartRecruiters wants to do is we want to minimize racism and discrimination in the recruiting process across the industry. So here’s the great thing that I want to say to your audience, William, is it’s not just for smart recruiters, clients. We’ve made this tool available for free. I just want to say that again for free for any company who wants to take advantage of our tool kit because we want to use our power as an organization, as individuals to really achieve diversity across the world. Right. And so, yeah, we’re really excited about it. So when you think about doing that, when Jerome hired me and he said, Rocki, I want to go change the world with you, we needed to think of a starting place. And some of you guys may have seen that Jerome had been floating out these ten principles of diversity, hiring success. And we got feedback from that. And we really but partially and William, I’m sure this is going to resonate with you and your audience. People show up, they see articles, they go to webinars, they do all this stuff, and then they come sit back at their desk and they’re not there long. They don’t know what to do. And I wanted to create something that helped people understand one of my. What does good look like, what does a well-functioning diversity hiring program look like? What am I trying to achieve? What are those pillars of success and what are the ways that we get there? And that’s what was behind the birth of the diversity hiring tool kit. And so the tool kit includes a maturity model. It includes four success pillars. It includes 12 principles. And to the point you made earlier, that’s what it includes today. But we believe that these are the industry standards for creating best practice and best-of-breed diversity hiring programs. We have created an assessment where people can go in answer or assessment questions, and what they will receive again for free is here’s where I am in terms of my organization maturity. Here’s where I am against these pillars of success and standards. And here’s some tangible things that I can do to move forward with achieving better diversity in hiring outcomes. And then we’re also going to biannually be putting out the state of diversity hiring report, which is going to be our benchmark for how companies are performing within the diversity hiring space. So it’s really a great opportunity and we wanted to bring that to life.

William Tincup [00:06:23] I love that. And you’re going to at one point say, but wait, there’s more! Where on the website is the toolkit so folks can can download it for themselves?

Rocki Howard [00:06:36] Absolutely. So why don’t can I send it to you? Because I don’t want to do the “Here’s the dot and here’s the dash. And here’s this.” Let’s make sure it’s in the speaker notes. But certainly it’s an easy Google. If you Google SmartRecruiters and diversity hiring, you will be able to find it on our hiring success website with no doubt. And we’ll make sure you have the exact link in the show notes.

William Tincup [00:07:01] Oh, that’s perfect. Good call. So I perceive the diversity, inclusion, belonging, equity equality as not a destination, but more as a journey. And I’d love to get your take on just that concept. But also a lot of people, as they go through this toolkit, are going to you know, it’s going to help them get started, right. If they haven’t gotten started or where they’re–wherever they’re at in their journey. If it is a journey, it’ll it’ll it’ll help them see what’s next.

Rocki Howard [00:07:35] Yeah. So let’s let’s pick that apart. I absolutely agree with you. Right. There’s not an end game. There’s not a destination. And I think it takes the power of all of us who are in positions of privilege to be able to move this this forward, this initiative forward. And to be fair, what our tool kit will do will help people with the intersection of diversity and recruitment.

Rocki Howard [00:08:02] That’s our expertize, and that’s where we go deep. But to your point, if you’re looking at diversity holistically for your organization, we all know that it is a competitive advantage. We all know we’ve seen stat over stat from McKinsey, Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group, that shows the more diversity you have, the more senior level diversity you have, the more profitable your organization is. Right. So when you think about the future of organizations, for them to continue to drive innovative solutions and to be competitive, you need to have a diverse workforce. And right now, I think lots of us are thinking within a few dimensions of diversity. But when you look at diversity as a whole, it’s so much more than race and gender and sexual orientation and veteran status. Right.

Rocki Howard [00:08:57] There’s multiple dimensions of diversity that start to go into social economical. It goes into marital status. It goes to how I see the world, how I show up, what’s my education, what’s my rank in the world. And so to your point, this is going to be a continuous evolution and a continuous journey. Even when you think of the concept of pronouns, when people ask me to how do I identify? It’s very common for people to say she her I identify as she her. And I have started saying I identify as She, Her, Black, Christian, Gen-X, wife, and mom, because those are the lead dimensions of my diversity. And who’s to say that one of those dimensions shows up or impacts my thought process more than another? It’s who I am as a whole. So it’s a journey. And we haven’t even gotten to that level of complexity yet.

William Tincup [00:09:55] Oh, yeah, which is great because again, once we start to. Once we can unpack those things, were still kind of getting people. And again, it’s not like any adoption life cycle you’re going to have, your early adopters are going to have kind of an at pace and you have laggards that we’ve got to we’re going to have to at one point get the laggards over to kind of mainstream and then we can have new conversations.

William Tincup [00:10:19] So I’m I’m actually positive that there’s more dialog now than in my lifetime. So so there’s nothing to run from. There’s no boogeyman. It’s these are all great conversations. But I know one of the things that I’ve, you know, from my friends that actually work like you, they work on the diversity side of things. Talking and having discussions and again, webinars and, you know, conversations in general, they’re great, but at one point, action, sometimes aggression in the phrase of intentionality. Right. There’s got to be action. But that at one point you’ve had conversations like you just you just whiffed about, you know, about how businesses that are more profitable, more diverse, etc. Like we’ve known that for years, at least. Twenty-five years.

Rocki Howard [00:11:15] For years. Right. And still, we aren’t getting there.

William Tincup [00:11:18] So so, I mean, first of all, it’s a great stat. And I’ve seen all the same studies, so, you know, fantastic. However, you know, we need to get past, in my opinion, at least we got to we got to stop talking. And I think this is one of the things the practitioners, I don’t know would say struggle. I think this is one of the things that the toolkit we can help them with is what do you do?

Rocki Howard [00:11:45] So you know what? I’m going to I want to take a step back. I want to come back to what you just said about we keep talking. And if you can’t tell, I love to talk, but I do believe in value based activity and actually having impact in doing something. And so intentionality is not impact. We need to stop being having good intentions and we need to actually have some impact. Right. And so, look, if you look at our success pillars, for example, and I’m going to do this a bit out of order because it’s aligning with the conversation we’re having right now, our fourth pillar is organizational support.

Rocki Howard [00:12:22] And here’s where I’m going with this. Well, you know, this any organization business problem that’s been resolved has been resolved because there is accountability at all levels of the organization. So here’s what I believe. If you make diversity part of your executive and every leaders performance review and bonus payout, watch how quickly we started.

William Tincup [00:12:52] Well, we’ve said this for years from a sourcing perspective. If you compensate saucers on a diverse and inclusive slate of candidates, it turns out they can find that talen. Same thing with recruiters. Same with our hiring managers. Now, it isn’t the it isn’t a magic bullet. I understand that there’s problems with that as well. But like we can fix we can fix this problem.

Rocki Howard [00:13:17] We absolutely can. And so now let me talk about all of those success pillars. Right, because you asked me the other question of what do we do? Right. So I think big picture, you you look at four areas of your business, right? What’s your diversity? Brand equity. And people say, what do you mean by that? Rakhi what does that mean? So think of it in its most simplest form. When you look at your brand and you think about the type of diverse talent you want to attract, can they see themselves represented in your brand? Right. So I’ll give you a good example. I had a client who I know is doing phenomenal work in the diversity space in my previous life, and you would go to their website and they had the one token female. We’ve all seen the graphic. We’ve all seen the clipart.

William Tincup [00:14:07] The hands photo.

Rocki Howard [00:14:09] You see my hands photo and where everybody standing in V formation and the one woman standing there with her arms folded. But I’m looking around and I’m going nothing about any of your brand. Can I see myself? So here’s the problem. You’re doing all of this great stuff internally. I know, actually, because I work on the inside with you that this is a great place to work for all dimensions of diversity. But I as a Black woman, when I show up and I look at your collateral, I would never have a conversation with you because I can’t see myself in it. Right.

Rocki Howard [00:14:44] So I think when you think about diversity, brand equity, what is your commitment to diversity? So we have three kind of standards that sit under diversity, brand equity. What is your commitment to diversity and how do you promote that? Is it more than a standard EEOC statement or is it in every single piece of collateral that you’re promoting? Is it in every job description? Are your job descriptions while we’re there, number two, bias free? Have you done that work and is your hiring process accessible? So have you done an accessibility audit on your website? If I am differently abled, how do I experience your brand? How how do I feel if I come through the process? So when you think about big picture, take a look at your diversity brand equity. This is something that’s near and dear to your heart. You need to source strategically. Look, well, you and I both the posting and praying hasn’t worked since, like 1997, since the fax machine. It hasn’t worked back in those days. Right.

Rocki Howard [00:15:51] And so now if you think, oh my gosh, I’m going to post on a diverse job board and now all of a sudden the post and pray is going to be revitalized. It’s going to work. It ain’t going to work.

William Tincup [00:16:04] It’ll be found out for the fraud that it is just just as just as typical post and pray is like volume that never works both on the candidates nor the recruiter side. But I did I did want to stop for just a second because you said something really that I love it. It seems like one of the things that you’re that you’re advocating for with the tool kit and just personally, is that if this is if this is serious, if we’re truly serious about that, which, you know, we can have that question and discussion, then then this becomes a part of your your corporate DNA.

Rocki Howard [00:16:41] Oh, absolutely right. And let me tell you something that since out of the scope of our tool kit. But let me just say this to you. If you are serious about diversity, it does become part of your DNA. People understand their role in it. They understand how they show up. Your culture represents it because guess what? I can teach you how to recruit diverse talent. Diverse talent cannot live in a vacuum of equity, inclusion and belonging. And if you are not addressing your DNA, what it looks like, if it’s not part of your value system, then even if you get diversity, recruitment and diversity hiring, right. Your retention is not going to work and people are not going to stay.

Rocki Howard [00:17:25] And you’re going to see erosion to your brand because you haven’t addressed the full spectrum of what it means for people to be diverse within your workforce, not to be too futuristic, because I actually hate futurism, but I think there is a bit of this that, you know, you fast-Forward, 10 years, there’s going to be people that get this and do it. And, you know, it’s hard. There’s nothing about what we’re talking about. That’s easy. So, you know, OK, let’s stay. Didn’t cover it. But if they do it, they take it to heart and it becomes a part of their DNA. And then there’s going to be companies that don’t. And I think, you know, 10 years, you got 20 years if you want to, the separation between those two companies is going to be very obvious.

Rocki Howard [00:18:06] We’ll be because I think the stat now is in 2035, the minority will be the majority. And so if you get to 2035 and your business is not set up, where now the majority are welcome. You’re going to have a problem. You think you’ve got a war for talent now.

William Tincup [00:18:27] Yeah. Yeah. That’s a real war. You know, I’ve often made fun of the Silicon Valley VC, you know, team website that’s, you know, a bunch of middle aged, pear shaped white guys. And it’s it’s an easy target, right? There’s a bunch of companies that that you can kind of make fun of in that way. What point do you think that we have discussions where you look at a website and it’s all female or middle aged, pear shaped, you know, you know, flip the gender if you want, but like at what point? Like, right now is cool. Like, I look at a company like that and I’m like, oh, cool strides. Like, OK, we’re making we’re we’re at least it’s not pear shaped, middle aged white guys like, OK, cool. But at one point I think, you know, I don’t know when that is. It could be 20 years from now. But at one point I think there’s going to be scrutiny there as well.

Rocki Howard [00:19:22] Well, and I think it’s starting to come. It’s really interesting, though, about how long it takes. Right. So we’re doing inclusive leadership training right now at SmartRecruiters. And we watched as part of that training. We watched a TED talk by Mellody Hobson. And you guys can can Google it. William, I’m happy to send you the link so you can include it. Mellody Hobson. And if you guys don’t know who Mellody is, you’ve probably been sleeping like under 18 rocks.

Rocki Howard [00:19:52] But Ariel Melody heads up Ariel investment. And as the new board mentioned, the chair of the board for Starbucks and Melody did a talk that’s called Color Blind or Color Brave. That’s a 15 minute TED talk. What’s interesting is this TED talk was done in 2014, but she says something in there that goes to the heart of what you’re talking about. What she said was, you know, today you walk into a room and you see a board room full of white men and you don’t think that’s strange. But if you walked into a boardroom and saw a board room full of black men or black women, you would think that that’s really weird. When are we going to get to the point where that isn’t weird? Right.

Rocki Howard [00:20:46] And what what’s disheartening about it is that it is two thousand and twenty one now. And when we look at the Fortune 500 with the recent announcement of Walgreens chair, what is it, three black women that are chairing Fortune 500 companies? It’s still it’s still not odd to go in and see an executive committee that’s all white. And so the answer to my question is it’s not going to happen quick enough.

William Tincup [00:21:15] No, no, it’s well, and it shouldn’t. I mean, if we’re pushing hard enough, it shouldn’t happen fast enough. Like, you know, that’s the whole idea. We need to all apply pressure. Absolutely. And that’s a that’s everybody. Everybody needs to apply pressure because, like, we need to we already know the data. We already know, like, you know, there’s more was a statistic. There’s more CEOs in the Fortune 500 named Michael than there are female CEOs. Absolutely. Like something like that. I can reference Michael or if it’s another name, but it’s like, OK, like we’ve known for a while, we’ve got to get out of that, known for a while stuff and really push to have action. And I think especially speaking to a lot of the allies that are out there, you know, now’s your time, you know, now’s your time to actually support people. And because none of these conversations are easy to make, you know, to make it sound like they are, it’s it doesn’t do them justice, because if we’re having the right conversations, they’re going to be difficult. They’re going to be tough. We’re going to have to challenge ourselves to be better. I know. I know we’re we’re going to have a couple more minutes. But there’s one question. I know I know that people are going to ask about the toolkit, but also just in general, you get this probably get asked this question a lot. How do they know they’re. They’re on the right track, like if they try to program or take something simple, the Women in Leadership program, they try to program and for whatever reason, it’s failed. Well, the flip side of that, how do they know that they’ve succeeded?

Rocki Howard [00:22:51] Yeah, yeah. So I would encourage you to kind of take a look at our maturity model. And in its simplest form, you know, when you get to what we call a diversity talent ally, you know that you’re succeeding because you’re hiring diverse talent at scale. They’re being retained. You have a pipeline. People are engaging with your brand. Right. So I think that’s the end game that you actually see the landscape changing. But what I would say to you is that this is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. And there are things that you’re going to try that doesn’t work, that doesn’t give you the excuse not to keep trying. And so what I would really encourage companies to do is to start to think about what is it that you want to accomplish, what dimension of diversity that you want to focus on, and then build a program around that and set the standards for you. For what success looks like, what success may look like this year for smart recruiters may be different than what it looks like for Amazon. That doesn’t mean that I’m any less successful if I take a snapshot of where am I today, where do I want to move forward to? Did I accomplish that? Boom. Now I’m you know, I’m a mile forward. I may have twenty five miles to go in the marathon, but I’m not at the at the mile one marker. I’m at the mile to marker.

William Tincup [00:24:14] So what’s your take on ERG’s, employee resource group or special interest groups, et cetera. Do you, what do you what do you think of them historically, even in the current climate? Do you like the idea of like the companies supporting groups of people getting together?

Rocki Howard [00:24:33] I am a big advocate, but I think it has to make sense within your culture. So I don’t think it should be forced. Right. So, you know, you can’t be or you can be if your culture supports it. But if you are a smaller organization and you now want to have 18 ERGs because someone tells you you’re supposed to do. That might feel disingenuous and performative. So I think you just have to recognize and take a snapshot again of what your culture looks like and ask your employees how they want to engage. I’m a fan of your genes, but genes that work within the culture of a particular organization and where people are really empowered to not only gather and learn from each other, but where the organization is taking advantage of those particular groups and saying, let us learn from you, you guys teach us.

William Tincup [00:25:29] The only thing I’d add to that I think you touched on it actually is, is if you’re going to do it and it’s within the cultural bounds is to put money behind it and put leadership behind it.

Rocki Howard [00:25:39] Absolutely. Because what did I say earlier? Nothing happens with organizational support. It’s a key pillar.

William Tincup [00:25:48] You know, again, this isn’t something new. I did Salesforce implementations 100 years ago, and if you didn’t have the buy into the C suite, the implementation failed. Yeah, this isn’t new.

Rocki Howard [00:26:00] It’s not new. It’s a standard business concept.

William Tincup [00:26:03] OK, so two final questions, and these will be deeply personal. So get ready and your wine will be next. Your success and failure, diversity, hiring, success and failure. Let’s start with your failure. Where have you failed and what kind what was the triggers of the failure and where have you succeeded?

Rocki Howard [00:26:28] Yeah, so I think where I failed and if I can tell a bit of a different story than a hiring story, but an aha moment. Right. So last year in my my my last role when it was time for us to go all virtual. Right, we thought it’s great, like we’re going to let our people work from home. They’ve been asking if they could work from home for a very long time and we thought we were being very intentional. We asked people, do you need computers? What you know, et cetera. We issued, we ordered like 800, you know, I’m exaggerating, but we ordered Surface Pros and and we’re giving people and we’re going to pay for things and all this stuff. Right.

Rocki Howard [00:27:09] Except for the fact that it didn’t even occur to me because I sit in a place of privilege that there were people who either didn’t have Wi-fi at home or didn’t have the kind of Wi-Fi that would support them working eight hours a day on Zoom calls. Right. And I think the reason I want to tell that story is because no matter how you identify, you do have privilege. And we have to look at things outside of our own lens and privilege.

William Tincup [00:27:41] I love that. Your biggest success story. Go ahead pat yourself on the back. Come on now.

Rocki Howard [00:27:49] Look, for me. it’s not about my success. I think I see success when I’m able to bring other people along and when I’m able to have impact on this whole diversity conundrum. So for me, it continues to be success. When I think about successful, I think about the opportunities that I’ve created for other people. I think about the people who are looking at me as a black woman who an executive for a tech company and saying because she can and I can. I think about the impact we’re going to have with this diversity tool kit and being able to put a tool in the world that I believe, if used correctly, alongside with all of the other resources that we are giving out for for what? How much does it cost? William?

William Tincup [00:28:36] It’s free! But wait theres more!

Rocki Howard [00:28:42] Right now that feels like a pretty damn good accomplishment.

William Tincup [00:28:45] Yeah, it is. We could talk for days and of course, both of us have stuff to get to. So thank you so much for coming on the show and breaking things down. More importantly, thanks for building such a wonderful resource for people. And again, it’s a living resource, so it’s going to be a gift that kind of continues to give. So thank you very much.

Rocki Howard [00:29:05] Yeah, I appreciate the time and I appreciate the trust with your audience. Thank you so much for having me.

William Tincup [00:29:11] And thanks for everyone listening. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

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.


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