Our guest today is Pearlie Oni, Sr. Manager of Employee Experience at RedPeg (one of Fast Company's World's Most Innovative Companies).
Variety is the spice of life, at least that’s Pearlie’s motto. After starting her career in recruiting, she quickly branched out to follow a generalist track. With experience in all facets of HR and a professional certification from the Society of Human Resources Management, Pearlie fell into a career as an HR consultant in 2016.
Working across a variety of industries suited Pearlie, she began working as a consultant for a non-profit, a pharmaceutical company and a tech firm, until she eventually landed at RedPeg Marketing. Her enthusiasm, creativity and hunger for variety paired well with RedPeg’s fast-paced and constantly evolving culture and she joined the Agency full time in January of 2018.
Pearlie, you worked for a variety of companies across multiple industries. What does diversity hiring mean to you?
Diversity recruitment is not about checklists, ratios and quotas. It’s not about ‘’ I need to hire 3 black women, 2 Asian American men and 1 LGBTQ person’’, even though the best candidate for the role may be a white male. Diversity in hiring is about open-mindedness and giving equal chances to all candidates. Having said so, reaching out to a pool of diverse candidates is the first step to ensure that there is a variety of candidates having different backgrounds and career paths. Otherwise, you will end up with the same candidate profiles and not necessarily hire the candidate who is most qualified for the job.
Many mid-sized companies encourage referrals and hire from referrals. The good side is that the candidate has been referred by an employee who knows well the candidate and probably has worked with them before. The downside is that this approach quite often leads to a lack of diversity. Our employees are likely to refer people like them who have graduated from the same schools, worked at the same companies, come from the same social classes or having similar life experiences. That’s why it is very important to advertise your job roles on web sites that cater to diversity and use language that encourages diverse candidates to apply for the job. Language is very important as it can encourage or discourage certain groups of candidates who otherwise will think that this job is not for them and won’t apply even if they are the candidates who are best qualified for the job. We make sure to reach to a variety of niche job boards focused on specific groups of candidates and HBCUs when we hire interns along with mainstream job boards.
Tapping into a diverse talent pool and providing equal opportunities to everyone is not easy. Transformify’s logo was designed by a girl who suffered physical and psychological abuse. She was a very talented designer, but she was afraid to stand out for herself. Having people like her on the same ground with candidates who are very confident and can sell themselves is unfair. In your opinion, what could be done to ensure that such candidates are given equal chances during a job interview process?
Absolutely. Just like I’ve said before, extending that welcoming message in your job description that encourages all candidates to apply is incremental. Placing your job ads on sites that are focused on specific groups of candidates send precisely this message – ‘’We have our job advertised here because we know that you will see it. It is for you and you are welcome to our company. We want to see what talents you’ve got, we want to see if you are the right candidate for this job.’’ When we meet people, we tell them that we are looking for all types of candidates and encourage them to show their best during the job interview process.
Telling the story is as important. Quite often, you post the job, you use the right language but it is not enough for the candidates to understand that this is a company that will not only take them on board but will also make them feel appreciated and valued as a part of the team. What could be done to encourage inclusion?
Ideally, it is an incremental part of brand identity. Spreading the message that the company not only welcomes people from all walks of life, backgrounds and origins but is also committed on creating a corporate culture that makes all team members feel valued and included, encourages diverse candidates to apply, be positive about their future career path and stay with the company in the long run. That’s something we have done at Red Peg. We’ve created internal resources groups to support women in marketing, LGBTQ community and more. This way we put forward the message that we are open to investing in our diverse candidates and make them feel at home.
Fantastic! The marketing industry is well ahead of when it comes to employee-led resource groups. A few days ago, I had a conversation with Cision who are also committed to creating employee-led resource groups. Is there any good practice you are really proud of?
We have a very openminded company culture. Take a look at our website – there are lots of colors and smiling people hanging out together. Could you see yourself grabbing a beer with those people?
Had we looked only for people who were an immediate fit to our culture, we would have put a limit on diversity of thought. We hired a candidate who was not having that bubbly personality but was most qualified for the job, as our team understands that top performers may have diverse personalities and backgrounds and that actually adds value to the business.
When we are interviewing, a lot of times, we include all our staff in the process. Sometimes, the candidates are quiet and withdrawn, they have the skills to do the job, but their personality is not an immediate fit for our culture. We trained our team to look beyond the concept of cultural fit and bring in those candidates who are most qualified for the job.
About the author
Lilia Stoyanov is CEO and angel investor at Transformify. A fintech and digital transformation expert, she is also a professor at Zigurat Business School and expert evaluator Horizon 2020 at the European Commission.
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