Diversity hiring is (and should be) important to companies in the CPG space. Many companies talk about it and many even put plans into action to get the process started. The problem becomes, these programs often fail to produce the long-term results that were intended. Like so many New Year’s resolutions, diversity hiring starts with the best of intentions but often runs out of steam as time progresses without creating the desired result of a more diverse and inclusive organization.

The New Year’s resolution comparison is an apt one here. The reason that so many of these resolutions fail is that they are just that; resolutions. A firm decision to do (or not do) something. The decision itself is great but until that decision becomes action that is ingrained in your everyday life, chances are that it will ultimately fail.

This makes the important question for organizations to ask themselves in 2021, not “how can we hire more diversely?” but instead, “how can we sustain diversity hiring all the way through 2021 and beyond?”. This is a difficult question to answer which is why so many companies struggle to sustain their diversity hiring programs. There are some things you can do though to give your initiative a better chance of lasting and organization-changing success.

Focus on inclusion
Simply adding new faces to an employee roster will not make a diversity hiring program successful. For a diversity hiring program to create a diverse organization, there needs to be an organization-wide culture shift where the focus is on inclusion, as well as diversity. Inclusion is creating a company culture where everyone is given a voice and treated equally. Some experts argue focusing on inclusion may be more important than diversity hiring, especially at first.

This is admittedly difficult. Inclusion is notoriously hard to train for and identifying issues like implicit bias in people or processes is a challenging thing to do. That is why the culture of inclusion needs to start at the top. As a leader, the culture of inclusion starts with you. You can still train and mandate and weed out barriers to inclusion. However, modeling inclusive behavior as a leader is the best way to begin an organizational culture shift that will allow a diversity program to flourish.

Hire where it matters
Just like inclusion comes from the top, so do sustained diverse hiring practices. That is why it is important to focus diversity hiring programs on senior-level positions as much as possible, especially in the beginning. The more women and people of color your organization has conducting the hiring, the better the results will be. When you are able to take the next step and allow more women and people of color to hire the hiring managers, that is when your program will be sustainable and eventually become practice.

Promoting from within is always a great way to get a diverse range of senior managers but if that doesn’t make sense for your organization right now, you will need to make a concerted effort to fill your recruiting pipeline with a diverse range of candidates. These days, even during the pandemic, there are tools and events you can take advantage of to help diversify your recruiting pipeline. In December 2020 for example, several diversity and inclusion leaders in the Wine and Spirits industry came together to put on a virtual Be the Change job fair which highlighted opportunities to connected a diverse range of candidates with top companies in the industry.

Be patient but continuously improve
When should you have a diverse organization? Most leaders say yesterday or last month or last year. That is a noble position but basing decision-making on noble positions will lead to frustration which can lead to failure. We all want our organizations to be as diverse as possible as quickly as possible but making systematic changes may take time.

If your diversity hiring program is going slowly or not producing the desired long-term results, the best course of action is to use data to figure out why. Are all the leaders in your organization committed to the goal? Are your new hires being trained, mentored, and promoted properly? Is your recruiting pipeline properly filled with diverse candidates?

When you ask and answer questions like these, you can then use hard data to find the areas where your organization is slowing or failing and take steps to fix those issues. Even if you believe your diversity initiatives are going well, periodic evaluation in the name of continuous improvement is still a smart decision.