Hiring and engaging a diverse workforce is on everyone’s mind these days, including those of us in the communication profession. Some might say our profession and its employers are arriving late to the diversity and inclusion party – to address that, the Council of PR Firms and PRWeek created the Diversity Distinction in PR Awards, for which I’ve gladly served as judge for its first two years. It’s an eye-opener, for sure, and a launching pad for sharing of programs and practices among agencies and clients. (I will share my top ten observations and insights from this awards process in my next two blogs – watch for it!)
For now, I want to share one key observation, that has to do with the definition of “diversity.” On the surface, it has come to mean, for most of us in the professional setting, to proactively recruit and hire employees from racial, gender, and other populations who are traditionally underrepresented in the typical workplace.
Toward that goal, we create our programs and practices. Yet, to have a truly diverse workforce, we have to look beyond those physical and behavioral attributes, and go deeper. In my view, we need employees who match our clients’ needs, who come from diverse professional and educational backgrounds that are different from their bosses and their peers. I hear so many stories of senior level communication pros who aren’t being looked at for agency positions because they don’t have decades worth of agency experience… or stories of people who want to work in a CPG company and have solid skills and pedigreed education, but they’ve made the mistake of working in other industries rather than CPG. We’re missing opportunities to put great people in leadership roles because too often, maybe most of the time, we hire people who are similar to us, rather than different. We want to be comfortable, rather than challenged.
Instead of looking for specific agency, corporate or industry experience, , I encourage you to look for candidates who, because of their difference from you and your clients, can bring fresh perspective, new thinking, best practices from outside your specific business environment, and potentially, a whole new network of business and communication/media contacts. Look for leadership skills of team building, inclusion, visionary thinking, a strategic mindset, polish and poise, excellent business and relationship building skills, flawless writing and speaking attributes, a real passion for the profession.
Trust me – senior level employees with these qualities, who have demonstrated success in a variety of business venues and industries, will learn the specifics of any new industry quickly.