ATD Blog

Time for Inclusive Talent Strategy: The Importance of DEI in Recruitment

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

After a whirlwind couple of years that disrupted workplace norms and elevated diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to a top priority, the Great Resignation made leaders realize that upwards of 40 percent of their workforce could quit in the next year. The combination of new return-to-office mandates, previous departure plans delayed by the pandemic, and revelations about the need for better work-life balance started a record-breaking departure from jobs in a shockingly small window of time.

The Great Resignation has major implications for companies’ DEI efforts. Many talent teams already facing shortages are now struggling to fill talent gaps. In a climate where underrepresented job seekers are in high demand and leaving their jobs, organizations face a major risk of seeing their diversity numbers decline.

To avoid sliding backward at this critical juncture, organizations must reassess their cultures of inclusion and belonging to compete for talent. As Gen Z enters the workforce and millennials and Gen Xers take on increasingly senior roles, expectations around DEI are front and center. Here are concrete ways organizations can set up and achieve meaningful goals that will empower them to build inclusive workplaces.

Make data-driven decisions when it comes to DEI.

To achieve meaningful change in hiring and recruiting practices, shift to metrics regarding DEI. A company must address workplace vulnerabilities first to understand what areas need work. Measure current data and track future people analytics to monitor success and improvement.

Data from employee engagement surveys, exit interviews, and stay interviews help expose your inclusion gaps. But this data doesn’t always paint the full picture, and the organization should consider engaging in a culture assessment to identify opportunities for inclusion. If you desire real and meaningful change, go in with a long-game mindset—not a check-the-box approach.

Organizations don’t always realize how they may (or may not) attract underrepresented groups to their cultures. For instance, how does your organization’s employee value proposition speak to an underrepresented group? Is it speaking to multiple audiences individually or with a broad stroke? Then turn the lens outward and ask if what the organization thinks about itself is accurately reflected on its website and how it appears on social media.

Next, an organization must take a deep dive into the recruitment data and processes by setting up a good applicant tracking system that can provide the different levels of data you need within the funnel—from application to interview and hire. Then, arm your recruiters with this information.


There may be a reluctance to engage with the data out of concern that decisions are being made based on gender and ethnicity. Still, it is important to specify that these are not hiring practices—they’re intentional recruiting decisions. For example, how many applicants are women, how many are men, and how many are coming from other groups? Breaking the data down by division and department allows for a more intentional process, encouraging some areas to promote in-house and others to recruit elsewhere.

When recruiters have access to and an understanding of workforce demographic data as well as external labor market information, they are positioned as true talent advisors. They can work in a more effective and accountable way with their hiring managers and others.

Be intentional about your DEI recruitment strategy.

There is a common belief that diversity and inclusion in recruiting happen organically, but an organization must be intentional about its strategy. Often, companies desiring change pull too many levers and get discouraged when they don’t see progress. It’s a better strategy to identify two or three areas of opportunity to focus on and monitor progress by benchmarking the starting point and then tracking improvement. These metrics should be included on existing recruitment or human capital dashboards. Remember, what gets measured gets done.

Research supports diverse slates, and the data shows that wider candidate pools inclusive of more than one applicant identifying from an underrepresented group are more likely to result in the organization hiring a candidate identifying as underrepresented. Harvard Business Review found that when the final candidate pool has only one underrepresented candidate, that individual statistically has no chance of being hired. If two candidates identify as female in the final candidate pool, the odds of hiring a female-identifying candidate are 79 times greater. If there are at least two underrepresented candidates in the final candidate pool, the odds of hiring an underrepresented candidate are 194 times greater.


This methodology is referred to as the two in the pool effect. The challenge is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for this. Definitions of diversity vary, but most often, diverse interview slates refer to a pool of candidates containing a certain number of women or individuals from historically underrepresented groups—which is why understanding your data is so important. This practice is not exclusive to external recruitment; many organizations also extend the diverse slate requirement to internal promotions.

Don’t forget about retaining and developing existing talent.

One aspect often lost in the conversation about DEI is the importance of retaining and developing existing talent, which is critical to job mobility. According to a recent McKinsey study 40 percent of workers quit their jobs due to a lack of career development and advancement. Sometimes, great organizational culture can be undermined by a problematic department or team. With fewer conversations dedicated to workplace culture and talent retention, organizations must be open to all people bringing their authentic selves to work.

Having talent leave can be a significant financial burden for any organization, so attention should be paid to both sides of the balance sheet.

DEI Should Be Part of the Entire Talent Lifecycle

Especially within the last 18 months to two years, more organizations realize that DEI is not a sideline conversation anymore. It deserves a prominent place at the table. Organizations now see DEI as part of the comprehensive employee lifecycle—not just in recruitment but in talent management, communications, training, benefits, and more. Every part of the workplace must have the lens of DEI applied to it. When done properly, the integration of DEI can have a lasting impact on the company’s culture, its employees, and the products and services it provides.

How will you be intentional about DEI in the new normal? If you’re motivated after reading this piece but unsure where to begin, learn how Seramount solutions can get you started.

About the Author

Megan Pierouchakos is a senior drector of diversity best practices at Seramount. Most recently, she served as the vice president of human resources at the American Bankers Association (ABA), where she set the strategic direction for learning and development, talent management, and succession planning. Prior to her time at ABA, Megan was the workforce diversity manager at Freddie Mac. There, she led the Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee, managed the Neurodiversity Internship Program, and built deep relationships across the organization to advance corporate diversity initiatives.

Megan is an adjunct faculty member and is on the advisory board with Georgetown University’s Human Resource Management (HRM) program. She received her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College and has a graduate degree in HRM from Georgetown University. She also holds a SPHR certification from HRCI and a Prosci ADKAR Change Management Certification.

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