By Allison Madison, President, Madison Approach Staffing Inc.

Employers have been hearing a lot of about DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) hiring practices but many may nod like they understand, but in actuality have no clear plan on how to execute the ideology on a day-to-day basis. It sounds good and our intentions are positive, but HOW do we make it happen? I sit on the Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development Board and this is the kind of conversation we have regularly — how do we take good intentions and turn them into action steps that eventually transform the work culture? It’s why the Board launched a year-long Pathways Pledge campaign to build awareness of the action steps — both small and large — employers can take to build change. Here’s how to get started.

  1. Start with an honest and thorough inventory of your job titles, demographics and salary levels of the current staff and new hires to establish a baseline.

  2. Next, create a list of diversity categories to broaden the scope beyond the most obvious categories of gender and race. Add education, class/income, language, military experience, people with disabilities, religious beliefs, age, parental status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language and geographic location to name a few. Align your current staff with the categories you’ve listed. Understanding the full scope of what diversity encompasses is the first step in creating a recruiting strategy.

  3. Create an action plan to build a diverse pipeline of potential candidates. Solicit the input of your entire organization, not just management, as they may have ideas and/or concerns. Since they are going to be working with any new team members it’s important to include them in the process.

  4. Review your job posting and job descriptions and check the language to ensure it’s inclusive and neutral to avoid unintentionally turning off candidates. If possible, pivot the focus of the job description from education credentials to desired skillsets and the tasks of the role. Review the list of requirements to update to contemporary workplace standards and edit terminology to make sure everything is current and up to date. Also be sure to include transferable soft skills, like ability to work on a team, adherence to deadlines, as well as clearly articulated expectations and benchmarks. It’s important for people to feel they will be evaluated fairly and equally based on their experience and performance, not social connections.

  5. Promote benefits and perks to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds as different groups might prefer varying employee benefits. Put yourself in the candidates’ shoes to brainstorm on what perks would attract you to the job. Things to consider would be family paid leave for staff who have young children or older parents to care for, a free training plan for those just starting out, wellness reward health care plans, transportation stipends for those who have long commutes, alternative paid days off for people who observe different religious holidays, to name just a few ideas. Make sure to list and promote these benefits in all job descriptions and on your website.

  6. Think beyond the typical recruiting channels to attract candidates from underrepresented groups. Consider smaller, more niche online channels that target specific groups of people; hold job fairs in a variety of neighborhoods; advertise in local community papers and make it known that your organization is diversifying. Word of mouth is still a very powerful tool.

  7. Consider blinding the names and addresses of incoming resumes to reduce bias and old habits of simply hiring based on comfort level. Create structured interview questions to ensure apple-to-apple comparisons based on skills and experience.

  8. Support Internal mobility — If you already have a diverse team, make sure to invest in training, education and promotions from within. Be deliberate in establishing mentoring programs that give access to managers and decision-makers, helping new and current employees become more valuable to the company and for themselves.


Most of all it’s important to get started, because a diverse team is a strong team with a variety of perspectives and creativity. It will also boost your reputation as today’s workforce and consumers have a more global view with higher expectations. Lead on!