If your top 2018 goals include improving your organization’s diversity and inclusion (D & I) initiatives, you may have overlooked an important tool– social media. In today’s world, social media platforms help businesses with human resources in two important ways: internally to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and externally to attract more diverse candidates for open roles.
Why does social media have such a big impact? It has grown exponentially in recent years and has become increasingly prevalent in our culture. According to recent figures, over 3 billion people use social media each month, and 90% of those people access their social media accounts through their mobile device. The good news? You can use social media to help your organization meet its diversity and inclusion goals this year.
Increasingly, large organizations recognize the business benefits of attracting a diverse workforce, such as increased loyalty, innovation, and financial improvements. In the latest McKinsey report using 2017 data from over 1000 companies across 12 countries, organizations in the top 25% for gender diversity were 21% more likely to experience better-than-average profitability that the companies in the bottom 25%.
“Companies who authentically create and launch efforts to engage and activate employees of diverse backgrounds reap great rewards,” says Tyler Butler, founder and principal of 11Eleven Consulting, a strategy and corporate responsibility firm. Butler has extensive experience working on creating charity initiatives and diversity and inclusion programs for large companies such as Microsoft and GoDaddy. She says these D & I efforts can include activities like creating what’s known as “Employee resource groups” (or ERGs) to provide an opportunity for employees who are in the minority at their companies with a chance to connect, learn, share, and support one another.
“These groups provide a lot of value by rallying people together, and are voluntarily led by employees for employees,” she says. “Their agenda is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace that aligns with the mission, values, goals, and objectives of the organization.”
Social media offers enterprise businesses a great platform to show the world the varied faces of their organizations. “They can use social media to highlight their diverse workforce,” says Dr. Sy Islam, an assistant professor of Psychology at Farmingdale State College. He also works as a human capital management consultant with Talent Metrics. “We see examples of this on the Google careers site and through Comcast Careers’ job preview videos, which highlight a diverse workforce,” he says. In fact, reviewing larger organizations’ D & I strategies, such as Google Diversity or one of the businesses on the 2017 Diversity Inc.’s Top 50 Companies can help you revamp yours.
To give your followers a glimpse of your current employees, choose images that best reflect the visible minorities, women, or differently-abled individuals that make up your workforce.
Butler suggests posting on Instagram or Facebook while members of your ERGs are out volunteering for a cause that supports the core values of their group.“Perhaps members of the group live tweet from a conference where speakers are sharing on topics surrounding diversity and inclusion,” she suggests. In addition, Butler says you may find a wider audience by inviting employees from various demographics and backgrounds to share their stories on social media. Specifically, encourage stories about how the education and interaction afforded through the ERGs have positively impacted their careers and personal growth.
Because of its incredibly wide international reach, using social media as a job search tool can also help you meet your diversity and inclusion goals in recruiting. In fact, Facebook has introduced a recruiting tool, the “Jobs” feature, to help companies find qualified candidates.
One useful feature of Facebook Jobs is that applications are pre-populated with information from the candidates’ profiles, including important demographic information like age, past job titles, employer information, educational background, and interests. This can help employers target their job ads to reach qualified candidates.
However, Islam warns that the practice of using these selection tools within social media platforms– known as microtargeting– can be misused. “This can also go wrong as seen in the recent Facebook age discrimination case, in which an employer excluded applicants over the age of 40 from seeing a job ad.” As the New York Times reported in December 2017, companies such as Verizon and Amazon recently placed recruitment ads targeted to age-specific Facebook users, a practice that raises concerns about fairness.
This is why it’s important to be aware of unconscious behavior or bias that could actually have an adverse effect while recruiting for D & I. Depending on the criteria used to determine the segments, you could be inadvertently excluding qualified candidates.
Not only is social media a great tool for external D & I marketing and recruiting, it’s also useful to encourage the inclusion of current employees. This is especially true in large enterprise organizations that may have hundreds or thousands of employees.
“If your organization has an internal social media tool or an HRIS (human resource information center) with a newsletter, you can use it to help employees organize around shared topics. This could unite, for example, parents of a child with autism, expatriate employees, or those of a minority heritage,” says Islam. “It can also help your organization display its diversity.”
When planning how to use social media within your organization, consider the features of each platform and how they align with your D & I strategy.
“Social media allows employees to access different aspects of the organization through channels like Twitter, Yammer [an internal collaborative messaging platform], etc.,” explains Islam. “Each of these tools can be used to promote the diversity and inclusion initiatives which your organization develops.”
But take note: social media can also be a double-edged sword, used to share stories of former employers who failed or made no attempt at inclusivity. “Social media can also be used to collect experiences of D & I and provide former employees a voice that many organizations may not expect,” says Islam. “Sites like Glassdoor and Twitter allow stories of failed D&I attempts to become fodder for news cycles.”
Today, businesses of all sizes are pursuing diversity and inclusion initiatives to strengthen their organizations and better reflect their global business environment. In this world, social media is becoming increasingly effective at attracting a wider range of employees and even customers. To stay competitive and ethical, look for ways to align your diversity and inclusion strategies across internal and external communications, using social media as your 21st-century communication vehicle.