Guest Post: Diversity Sourcing: A New Paradigm for Sourcers and Recruiters

Guest post by Jude-Martin Etuka, speaker at the Sourcing Summit
To those, who, as a matter of standard operating business practice, leverage diversity as fundamental to achieving key strategic objectives in the talent acquisition life-cycle – this topic might rightfully appear a contradiction in terms. ‘Diversity Sourcing’? “What is that?” one might ask. It was the same question I asked myself when requested to be part of a panel addressing the topic at the recently concluded 2012 Australasian Sourcing Summit.

When looked at closely, the term “Diversity Sourcing” may suggest a tautology . Is it actually possible to effectively source talent (‘talent’ being diverse in its essential nature) without utilising the tools of diversity? That which we are ‘sourcing’, and indeed the various sourcing systems, methodologies and technologies deployed, are all geared toward one distinct purpose: identifying talent. And as talent itself comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, ‘sourcing’ and ‘diversity’ are actually to be understood as inextricable and inseparable partners.

Indeed separating ‘sourcing’ and ‘diversity’ into two distinct entities, arguably, has not only contributed to McKinsey’s famous ‘war for talent’, and the on-going talent shortages experienced in Australia, and globally, but importantly, has been the key driver behind mainstream people management research by the Harvard Review (1998), Catalyst (2007) and Mercer (2010), where the authors have documented the fundamental connection between effective diversity management principles and the sourcing, identification, development and retention of talent in the organisational function.

Like peas from the same pod, ‘sourcing’ and ‘diversity’ have the same end in mind: talent. Organisations like Microsoft, Sodexho and a good number of professional services firms in the UK and the US, now strategically use diversity as a specialism to leverage core talent outputs. Indeed, diversity and talent manager posts have become popular in many organisations, and are positioned at senior level to demonstrate their connectivity and importance. ‘Diversity Sourcing’ is not a ‘new paradigm’ in this sense, but rather has been an unexamined paradigm that needs to be discovered, uncovered and strategically engaged – for effective 21st century sourcing activity. Diversity sourcing is about strategically incorporating fair, inclusive and transparent practices into sourcing processes, leading to effective talent acquisition across all spheres of an organisations life. It is not about sourcing people with disabilities, women or ‘ethnic minorities’, as tends to be the general misperception. The argument rather is that if sourcing is performed as it ought, these ‘groups’ would form a natural part of the mainstream sourcing process – and what a massive talent pool there would be to source from as a result…

But the complexity of 21st century talent is challenging and quite unprecedented: the reality of a globally ageing workforce, the characteristics and workplace demands of Gen ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ , globalisation, the socio-cultural integration of peoples, new technologies, etc – all suggest that at the heart of any sourcing strategy should be the ability to positively recognise the differences in skills, abilities, experiences and backgrounds each sourced talent brings to the organisational table.

However, it is not simply enough to recognise the strategic impact of difference in the sourcing process. Positively recognising difference ought to serve as the point of departure for developing, implementing and operating sourcing systems, without which they will fail in both the short and long term, leading to a consequent loss in time, effort and money.

So what steps ought we to take to effectively talent source? Here are a few pointers:

Impact assess your sourcing strategy
Conducting strategy impact assessments of the procedures, processes and methods used for talent sourcing, is crucial prior to implementation. Subject it to radical rational scrutiny so as to avoid hidden flaws in strategy, such as overconfidence (Charles Roxburgh, 2003) that arises from the brains natural inadequacies . Take time to understand where your sourcing strategy may have a negative impact, and pay due regard to cultural indicators (organisational and individual) that do not facilitate talent retention and development. Seek avenues for mitigating these in the sourcing strategy itself. Impact assessing your strategy should not be a one-off event. It should be thoroughly built into the entire sourcing activity as standard.

Hold in-depth stakeholder consultation
From experience, this is something sourcers either do not do, or do not do enough of. There can never be ‘too much’ consultation. Stakeholder consultation means effective person-centred engagement, employee and otherwise. In a survey of over 160 global companies, ‘engagement’ was rated extremely important by over 78% of HR professionals, yet 45% of respondents thought it was not practised or measured. The lack of open and honest conversations is a key reason why sourcing tends to remain constrained, despite improved systems and technologies. How do you know what your clients really want? Indeed, do they know what they want? Consulting is about engaging stakeholders so that they understand their strategy from different perspectives, leading to a return on investment.

A lack of in-depth stakeholder consultation leads to rigidity in job and person specifications, ensuring sourcers are constrained to ‘boxed-up’ sourcing requirements and questionable ‘fit criteria’ that at least, inadvertently, ensure ‘typical’ candidate profiles and the maintenance of the organisational ‘status quo’.

Think laterally
For Microsoft to ensure consistent access to new and upcoming talent, it is known for ensuring its presence through a range of untapped on-line talent channels, using them to tap into thinking portals, such as blogs, twitter pages, on-line think tanks, etc. How do we refine and redefine our sourcing approaches? Because a sourcing approach ‘worked’ in the past doesn’t necessarily mean it will necessarily work again. Try something different. Embrace change.

Measure the effectiveness
Consider mainstreaming FIT (fairness, inclusivity and transparency) indicators linked to sourcing criteria and candidate performance, post offer. ‘Fit’ criteria refer to the 3 core diversity business process principles through which the performance of the ‘sourced’ talent, and the organisation itself, are successfully leveraged. It’s a unique relationship. Measuring effectiveness therefore, should cut across the entire organisational process to ensure capturing the viability of these 3 key indicators, including such areas as performance management systems, career promotion and development, recruitment and retention, team working, positive cultural contribution, meeting set targets, creative input, etc.

However, evidence from research involving 506 organisations worldwide, suggests that only 33% of ‘Best-in-Class’ organisations integrate data from the sourcing and hiring process with performance management. When asked if talent acquisition activities can be linked to businesses results, 57% indicate they could, but just 32% of those indicate that there is data to back up the correlation. This is an area where there are limited metrics for measuring effectiveness. Indeed, it is imperative that when measuring effectiveness, measures should not just cover the ‘usual suspects’, but be linked to core diversity outputs as a matter of normalcy.

Mind re-mapping

This is an important point. One that embodies the topic we are addressing.
Be sure to re-map your thinking. Sourcing cannot be done – effectively -without diversity. Doing one without the other is a contradiction in terms. In the short and long term, it leads to disastrous consequences, such as the visible reality of talent shortages globally, which, from a personal perspective, have been self-inflicted by ineffective sourcing mainstreamed in the talent acquisition process over the last 2 decades. Re-mapping and re-wiring our minds to operate both areas as equal sides of the same coin, will ensure an initial strategic approach is adopted to effective sourcing.

In summary then, the subtle refutation of the topic of our discussion has been to reposition diversity as an indispensable tool for sourcers, recruiters and those with talent acquisition responsibilities. Diversity is not a ‘new’ paradigm. Diversity is the ‘background’ within which talent sourcing takes places. The systems, methodologies and techniques used to source, merely constitute the ‘foreground’. Where both are deployed as they ought, the resultant sourcing activity will deliver enduring long term results for talent, regardless of their particular shape or form.

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