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      Remember Your ABCs: Moving From Theory to Practice When Recruiting for Executive Diversity

      Scanning the headlines today, you will undoubtedly come across stories about the need to build diverse workforces at all organizational levels, particularly the C-suite. The conversation has been driven in large part by the strength of the Black Lives Matter movement, in addition to recent legislation — including California’s Senate Bill (SB) 826 requiring public companies to find female board members — and empirical evidence showing that diversity is good for a company’s bottom line.

      While the importance of diversity and inclusion initiatives in executive recruiting is clear,  actually implementing those initiatives can be rather difficult. It isn’t as simple as posting a job ad on Indeed and waiting for qualified applicants to arrive at your door. Instead, companies must intentionally create practical and achievable plans to diversify their leadership ranks.

      Many well-intentioned diversity recruiting initiatives are stymied by problems of perception. Developing actionable strategies to achieve diversity recruiting goals requires putting those erroneous perceptions aside.

      3 Perceptions That Derail Diversity Recruiting

      When company leaders sit down to plan diversity initiatives for executive recruiting, several objections often immediately bubble to the surface. The first centers on the pool of potential candidates. The consensus is that diversity recruiting is particularly difficult in executive search because there simply isn’t a large enough pool of qualified talent. The thinking goes that even if a company wanted more diversity among the executive ranks, finding a qualified executive who fit the bill would be nearly impossible.

      Another objection is related to company size: Smaller businesses that want to hire diverse executives often struggle to compete against larger entities in the executive talent pool. They argue they may not have the resources, cachet, or prestige to convince enough executives from diverse backgrounds to join their firms.

      Finally, there may be apathy and intransigence when it comes to doing the difficult work of diversity recruiting. Companies recognize that executive diversity should be pursued, but the perceived immensity of the task can cause them to take a more passive approach than is advised. They will fulfill their obligations under relevant laws, but they will only do the bare minimum they must do to avoid legal trouble. Diversity recruiting goals become nothing more than lip service to satisfy shareholders, customers, and regulatory authorities. This is the most troubling perception of the three, and it would be naive to think it does not happen.

      Some of the objections above may have some merit. For instance, some smaller businesses really do struggle to pull in top candidates. Larger companies like Google or Nike can easily identify and attract diverse talent from all over the world, but a small or medium-sized enterprise not located in a major city may find it much more difficult to capture those candidates’ attention.

      That said, board- and executive-level diversity cannot be ignored. Company leaders cannot bury their heads in the sand and try to ride out the trend toward more diversity with minimal effort. Instead, companies have to take practical steps to improve their odds of finding game-changing candidates from diverse backgrounds.

      About American Business Journals

      American City Business Journals (ACBJ) is the largest publisher of metropolitan business newsweeklies in the United States, with 44 business publications across the country reaching more than 3.6 million readers each week. We also offer a specialty publication for classic car enthusiasts.

      About Cowen Partners Executive Search

      Cowen Partners is the nation’s executive search firm, enabling companies to harness the power of human capital to fuel their success. Cowen Partners gives our clients access to the top 1% of human capital to create opportunities that accelerate their growth and market share. With Cowen Partners, clients can grow at scale, create value, and drive results with world class talent. Our clients are both small and large, publicly traded, pre-IPO, private, and non-profit organizations.

      Clients are typically $50 million to multi-billion dollar revenue Fortune 1000 companies or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite and include VP and director level leadership roles.

      With our proven processes and guaranteed results, we have successfully placed hundreds of candidates in industries including technology, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, financial services, and private equity.

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