August 30, 2022

DEI in State Hiring: New Initiatives

The Great Resignation, a wave of retirees, and new emphasis on state infrastructure and services are combining to create a unique opportunity for states to rework their hiring practices. Several states are taking advantage of the moment to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in their hiring practices.

Recent Developments in Connecticut, Indiana, and New York

Nearly 5,000 Connecticut state employees retired on June 30, 2022. The mass exodus — and the need to build a skilled replacement workforce — prompted the state to embrace new tools to create a more equitable workforce.

“We have this opportunity, as we’re going on these massive recruitment efforts, to take a look at our workforce and see where we [are] deficient in terms of gender, in terms of racial and ethnic diversity and strategically plan how to address that,” says Natalie Braswell, the state comptroller.

According to a report by the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls, white employees are disproportionately overrepresented in the state’s workforce, and Hispanic and Asian Americans are disproportionately underrepresented. While women remain underrepresented in some areas, men aren’t proportionately represented in others: About 13 percent of the state’s workforce are Black workers, but fewer than 5 percent of the workforce consists of Black men. One of Connecticut’s goals is to build a workforce of state employees that reflects the state’s overall population.

Other states are taking a DEI-centric approach to hiring as well. Indiana recently adopted AI-enabled technology to focus on the skills each candidate offers, as well as to recommend jobs that offer a good fit for each candidate’s skill sets. The platform helps both hiring agencies and job-seekers find a good fit, says Chad Carter, the project leader for the Hoosier Talent Network.

Similarly, New York has placed diversity, equity, and inclusion concerns at the center of its state hiring processes. As a highly diverse state, New York is taking active steps to build a workforce that reflects the diversity of its population. By doing so, the state can address some of the deep inequalities exposed during the pandemic, says New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon.

Yellow cabs in New York City; DEI in state hiring concept

Improving DEI in State Hiring Processes

Diversity is a fact of human existence. While each of us shares similarities with certain other humans, such as age, race, ethnicity, disability, or past life experiences, none of us offers the exact same mix of these characteristics — or any others. Hiring processes that fail to acknowledge the reality of human diversity create organizations that cannot serve the populations they purport to assist.

While diversity is a fact, equity and inclusion are choices. Equity seeks to build a workforce that reflects the diversity of the broader population; inclusion seeks to ensure that each member of that workforce is taken seriously when they share their perspective and that they are valued for the skills they contribute.

As Connecticut, Indiana, and New York are aware, artificial intelligence offers a way to support developing or existing DEI initiatives in hiring (more on that in this webinar). The right AI platform can boost DEI initiatives by:

  • Anonymizing information about age, racial or ethnic background, and other factors from the view of hiring teams, so that they must focus on skills.
  • Suggesting matches between an applicant’s skill set and job opportunities that require those skills, or roles in which others with similar skills have succeeded. This encourages people from under-represented groups to pursue roles they might otherwise opt out of themselves.
  • Offering career-mapping suggestions, so that candidates can build long-term careers with an employer rather than hopping from employer to employer.
  • Providing real-time data on whether the organization is meeting its DEI goals.

As Reardon notes, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep inequalities in society, from how we receive life-saving healthcare to how we are treated on ordinary public streets. A workforce that reflects both the demographics and the lived experiences of the people it serves can help to address these inequalities.

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