Using DEI to Recruit, Retain and Empower: Four Things to Consider


using dei to recruit

One of the benefits of a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiative is a company’s ability to leverage that distinction when recruiting, retaining and empowering employees. There’s something very Field of Dreams about that idea. “If you build it, they will come…” (and work for you instead of another employer), right?

Not exactly. Just creating a DEI initiative on paper, printing it on posters and publishing it on a website isn’t enough. Instead, it’s imperative to embed DEI within every aspect of a company’s culture and processes, to consistently walk the talk and to continuously look for opportunities to improve.

“DEI is a continual journey. You have to commit to the work,” said Edward Lada, Jr., president and CEO of Goodwill Keystone Area and the Goodwill Keystone Area Foundation. “Our organization is relatively new at DEI initiatives, but we’ve prioritized it since I came on board, training our leadership team to create a sense of belonging at each worksite and for each team. This is key to ‘walking the talk’ of DEI every day.”

Tonya Nye, vice president of customer care at Wolfgang Confectioners, agreed.

“People aren’t just happy to have a job anymore. Companies have to bring more to the table because money won’t keep them there,” she explained. “As a leader, you have to personally connect with your people and demonstrate your company’s values as part of your culture. Our company’s mission is, ‘Make Candy. Bless Lives.’ We are committed to making a difference in the lives of our employees, customers and business partners.”

Lada and Nye shared insights into the practices that have made their organization’s cultures compelling to prospective and current employees. Here are four things other leaders should consider when using DEI as part of their approach to recruit, retain and empower employees.

1. How are DEI initiatives applied to recruitment?

Goodwill Keystone Area’s recruiters routinely share job postings among a list of agencies, academic institutions and other partners that serve diverse populations. Lada noted that the organization continually looks for other, less traditional avenues to share this information.

“For example, religious institution job boards and diverse publications that target LGBTQ+, Black, Hispanic and other cultures,” he said.

Both Lada and Nye emphasized the importance of having bilingual recruiters and interviewers who can engage with candidates in their preferred language. Nye reported that emphasis has helped the company grow from 19 employees in 2016 to its current headcount of almost 300, staffing six automated production lines that run around the clock.

2. How do benefits reflect a commitment to DEI?

Wolfgang’s workforce is about 50% female, noted Nye. Many are attracted to the company’s family-friendly policies and supportive work environment.

“It’s important to us that every employee feeds their mind, body and spirit,” she said. Part of that is an online continuing education resource, Wolfgang University, that offers employees free access to a huge range of courses. Some of the most popular classes include financial planning and leadership development. There are also courses to help employees complete a GED.

The company also offers multiple wellness events and formed a 501(c)(3) organization that employees can voluntarily participate in to help others both inside and outside the company.

“In addition to outreach within our local community, Be Blessed helps our employees with needs like securing safe housing and overcoming transportation issues,” explained Nye. “Our employee’s peers alert the organization when help is needed.”

Lada’s organization instituted a floating holiday system that allows employees to celebrate the traditions they deem most important to them. It also plans to offer paid paternal and maternal leave soon, and has a recently expanded tuition reimbursement program applicable to any type of learning.

“Opening up education with a forever learning mindset gives people the flexibility of growth in the way that is most important to them. That allows us to support a more holistic approach to learning,” he said.

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