Jackie Ferguson: Welcome to a special live podcast, hosted by Fishbowl, a platform for professionals to connect and interact with other professionals in their field. Thank you everyone for being here and for giving space for this important conversation. So as our society becomes more diverse, it's more important than ever to understand strategies, to recruit and retain top talent.
Leveraging the benefits of a diverse workforce include boosts and innovation, productivity, market shares and profitability, but bias and recruiting can start even before your interview process begins. So today we're talking about inclusive recruiting strategies for any business. I'm your moderator, Jackie Ferguson certified diversity executive co-founder of the Diversity Movement and host of the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast.
I'm joined by two incredible recruiting experts. Bree Sarlati CEO of peak performers and Lauren McDonald's CEO and founder of intuition co-op. Bree and Lauren,, thank you so much for being with me today.
Lauren: Thank you for having me.
Jackie Ferguson: Of course.
Yes. Yes. I'm so excited. And I'd like to give each of you just a few minutes to share a bit about yourself.
So you each have such interesting backgrounds and journeys. Bree, let's start with you.
Bree: Sure. All right. Well, Peak Performers, is kind of it spans the entirety of my life story, I guess you could say. So first, what is Peak? We are a nonprofit staffing company based in Austin, Texas, been in business since 1994.
And we have kind of a niche within a niche. We specialize in staffing professional positions for public sector organizations. So state agencies are our main customers at this time. And what makes us a nonprofit is that we give hiring priority to individuals with disabilities and chronic health conditions.
So my story with Peak is that I began consulting on special projects with Peak in about 2011. And it was after college. I majored in anthropology, which is not so useful out there in the workforce, as it turns out. You can have really interesting conversations with people, but finding a job kind of challenging at least as an undergrad degree.
So I was seeking something to do that really mattered. And I was looking for something that would have a bigger impact. and that would, you know, it was kind of a crisis actually for myself at the time trying to figure out what I could do, what I wanted to do. So I started working for a couple of jobs and, you know, dabbling here and there, like people out of college do.
And then I started working with Peak part-time doing special projects and marketing and media related work. And then I was offered to join peak full-time in 2015. And I started in the proverbial mail room, which was at the time our doing recruiting support for It staffing departments.
And I found that I really enjoyed I really enjoyed the work as it turned out again, it had nothing to do with my academic background or what I thought I'd spend my life doing, but I really liked I'm like a puzzle person and a perfectionist. And I loved the matchmaking element of like, okay, I'm looking for this candidate who has these types of skills and finding the right perfect fit for that job and that client so that everyone's happy and successful.
So the reason that Peak has been all throughout my life is that the business was actually started by my father, Charlie Graham. And we started on a succession path together after I'd been there for a couple of years. And he retired earlier this year from CEO position. And so I'm now the sole CEO and.
I'm so proud of what we're doing and we're, we have an amazing team of really, really dedicated staffing professionals who also really care about our mission and what we're doing and who we're employing. So last year we employed over a thousand individuals and these are in primarily professional positions.
So we do office and administrative kind of jobs, but also we do a lot of finance and accounting, it and technical roles, and basically anyone who would be working in an office. So for us, kind of the stage, the sky's the limit, and we're really excited about where we're going.
Jackie Ferguson: Bree, thank you so much for sharing that
Lauren: I was just listening to Bree. I have so many questions for her, so I was like writing them down. So when we connect, they want to hear more about your story. That was amazing. I hope I can live up to your great description. I'm Lauren McDonalds. I've been a recruiter in October. It will be 30 years.
I've been a recruiter since 1991 started off at a talk show called the Maury Povich show, in the basement, in the worst department, which was the audience coordinator. And it was a really incredible time because talk shows were talk shows were all the rage, right? Pre-internet typewriters. And that were plugged into the wall fax machines.
And we had to have an, a live audience five days a week. And so I, learned to my, the first, the beginning stages of being a recruiter and we were competing with like so many other. So many other talk shows and it was all the rage and there's no option, but you have to, you, you have to fill the audience, you know, so I have a really different background than most recruiters.
I'm very upfront. And my background, I won't, I won't tell you all about my background, cause we'll be here for awhile. But I did sue for sexual discrimination and hostile work environment when I was 22. So by the time my friends were coming out of college I don't have a degree. I decided to work instead of going to college, I had a learning disability.
Still do it doesn't leave you and I, and I excelled at work. So I started. My junior year of college working full time. And so by the time I was 23, I had four years of, you know, recruiting experience and, worked for two companies. The ladder I wound up suing because the man hated it, hated women, the men, the man that I worked for and did some great work and just committed myself to recruiting because I was foolish in believing that a recruiter would be honest with you.
I always thought I landed this job in the newspaper. And if I had been a recruiter, then maybe I would have prevented it from happening. That's how naive I was, but I never placed anyone pushed anyone into a role. If a com, if a company wasn't the right fit for someone, I would tell someone, stay where you are.
And so for the majority, and I fought discrimination and on since, since I'm, you know, 2020. Almost 23 years old. So when we talk about diversity and recruiting, I've been that that person engaged in that conversation. And many times the heated argument with companies that I disagreed with the way that they operated their recruiting strategies was the head of recruiting for three companies in my twenties, which I really didn't think was a big deal then, but all the three roles were all created for me.
And then I've been on the agency side for those of you who don't know there are two sides of recruiting agency side and client side. So I prefer the agency side. I have my own agency now for 12 years. I've been through three recessions, which is really challenging. After the first one you learned your lesson and I was committed through the early two thousands to never giving up.
And I am known as being transparent, not transactional. And that's how I live my life. And I love what I do. I'm really good at it at almost 50. My little boy thinks I'm turning 29, right. He really, truly does. He thinks my husband and I have a huge age difference, but it's always six months, but we keep that away from him.
He'll figure it out. He he'll figure it out soon, but, all these years I've been the same person, you know, and I really truly believe in people, not corporations. And I have a general disdain for those in HR. If you follow me on LinkedIn, I'm very transparent about that. So, but I love what I do.
I'm honored to be here with you. I love what Fishbowl's doing. I love what you both are doing in your respective careers. And you know, anything I can do to help kind of share my experiences in building teams of anywhere from zero to 140 to 200. And what really goes on behind the scenes in recruiting. That's what I share about every day and I work with job seekers.
Jackie Ferguson: Lauren, thank you for that. Thank you so much. Well, let's get into it. Let's talk about why inclusive recruiting is so important to business and I'll let either of you start with that question.
Lauren: Bree, do you want to start
Bree: sure. Sure. I'm happy to. So you know, we at Peak performers, we deal with a very specific, type of inclusive recruiting, agenda, which is that we recruit primarily people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. So that's what I spend a lot of time thinking about.
And that's what we do a lot of education for our clients around. So one of the analogies that, that I've come up with over time is you know, this thing, oh, we're all using it right now. It's a smartphone or an iPad. So you think of the features that you use on your phone and like everyone has one of these, these were designed so that everyone would have one, you know, and have it in your hand, in your pocket, always accessible.
So a lot of the features that we use throughout the day and using our phones, are actually the kinds of things that were originally intended for people who had, limitations of some kind and how they could use technology. So like, okay if we've ever zoomed in, on a photo by using that little like pinch motion that's one, a common one.
If you using Siri, when you're driving, maybe it's that, Hey, I don't need to use Siri all the time, but it's handy when I shouldn't be taking my eyes off the road. So the point is that even though, the majority of us users, with our smart phones, don't have, let's say a visual impairment where we need to be able to really zoom in on the screen regularly or where we need to have everything dictated to us and dictate and return but fundamentally everyone benefits from it. So it's this concept in technology that's called universal design, which is that if we're designing things for everyone to be able to use it, then everyone benefits regardless of how they're interacting with the technology in this case. So I see, inclusivity in the workplace, as kind of similar it's that even if you're not deliberately trying to target one demographic or another through either your hiring, which can be the full recruiting process from how you post the job to the whole cycle of interviewing people and selecting all the way through what it's like to actually work there. And what the management structure is.
So regardless of who you're employing, if you design it to be deliberately inclusive of everyone, fundamentally everyone benefits, everyone feels more included, more welcomed, more supported.
Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely Bree
Lauren: Lauren. That's amazing. That's a great description. I come from my mom is going blind right now and my grandmother went blind and I had a friend of mine that I worked with who was blind.
And, you know, I just think that I was, I came into recruiting from a different perspective. I just think everyone deserves a fair shot. I think that everyone who wants something and who has a skillset, should be able to demonstrate their skill set, make sure that you're in the right fit. And I don't, I've just never been I'm sorry, but I've just never been a sorority fraternity person.
I just have a general disdain for that kind of vibe. I think that's why I have a tough time in the suburbs with all the Lulu lemon moms. Like when everyone looks the same, it's a bit exhausting. And I just don't understand how corporations don't I struggled with not understanding why corporations don't want different perspectives and different point of views in their organizations because the clients that they serve for whatever world, you know, if they sell cars or they are a consulting service or if they're an Ernst and Young don't, they want to offer a different perspective for their clients. I just think that, I think that everyone should have a fair shot. And I think as I get older, I get angrier about the fact that there are people who don't want a diverse, inclusive organization.
Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. And, you know, I think that more companies at this point are realizing not all, are realizing the business benefits of having a diverse workforce. And when I say diverse, I also mean those voices have a seat at the table. They're able to contribute to what's happening with regard to decisions in the company. They have a voice in marketing. That's how innovation happens. You know, companies that are more diverse and are able to leverage their diversity well are generating 19% more revenue innovation.
And that's not even talking about the productivity, opening up different markets to be able to, you know, create messaging that resonates with lots of different groups. You know, again, our society is becoming more diverse. So we're not marketing any more to one demographic. We've got to understand how to market to multiple demographics.
So thank you both so much for sharing that. Before we get into bias and recruiting, let's talk just quickly about the definition of bias. So for my personal perspective, simply put biases are the assumptions that we make about other people or things based on a number of factors and biases can be in favor of or against something.
And usually they're inaccurate. So any thoughts on bias or any expansion to that definition, and then we'll jump into bias and recruits.
Lauren: Bree. Did you want to go first?
Bree: Sure. You're just yielding the floor to
Lauren: me, even Steven. And you're so eloquent. You should go first.
Bree: Thanks. So I was thinking about this the meaning of bias, and I know that the word, the phrase unconscious bias is one that is thrown around a lot at least for those who are paying attention to these kinds of topics.
And so, you know, I was doing a little reflection and thinking about one that I've actually encountered within our own organization. And we consider ourselves, you know, fairly, fairly woke these kinds of issues. But for years, we had a requirement for certain positions, internally staff positions that you had to have a college degree.
And, you know, I think that's maybe a bit of an outdated, requirement, but, you know, it was almost like we were mirroring our own clients who, often have these really unwavering requirements on their jobs, which is like, oh, you have to check the box. If you don't check the box, you do not pass go.
Which as recruiters, we know that's really challenging because you have like, I have the great, I have the perfect candidate, but they don't meet this requirement. If you just be flexible, you know, and talk to them or something. So at one point we, we turned that in on ourselves and said, hey, well, we've got a great candidate.
Let's really revisit this requirement. And, once we did, and we realized actually that we had been excluding unintentionally, a certain category of highly qualified individuals, but people who had taken non-traditional paths early in adulthood in the times when most of us will be going to college.
So a lot of people that I've encountered who fall into this category, are like the children of military veterans who had maybe moved around a lot and their, their lives can take very different trajectories than people who've stayed in one place, their whole lives. And also women who had children at a very young age.
So again, during those years when they'd usually be in college instead, they're raising little kids. So by revisiting that requirement, I went, holy cow, we're, we're actually unintentionally writing off entire groups of people based on this requirement. So then we, what is that requirement really getting to, and, you know, looked at it really from the skills perspective rather than a piece of paper perspective.
And I'm proud to say that by relaxing that requirement, we have actually made some of our absolute best hires in recent years. So that's the kind of thing that I think about with biases. That it's the things that you're, you're not even considering because you're just going along the track that you've been told or been taught through various sources to follow
Jackie Ferguson: That's so true. So true. You know, just a, quick note and then I'll pass the mic to Lauren. You know, the CEO of my company, the Diversity Movement left college and throughout his career, he has led several organizations, two successful exits. He has, you know, invested in multiple companies and it's really interesting, you know, how many nos he got early on career, because he didn't have that degree.
Right. So totally get that. You know, you have to think, you know, to quote, my podcast, you know, beyond the checkbox. Right? So you have to think about, you know, the scrappiness and the work ethic that comes with people that it's not tied to, that diploma. Right. So I totally agree with that.
Lauren, I'll pass it to you.
Lauren: So I'm that person you're talking about? So I'll do a, I'll do over a million, eight next year. And I don't have a degree. I was very fortunate to have work experience from when I was 19, but you want to talk about people who insult you? I mean, it's despicable. So I interviewed with someone wants in the, he said a dog could get a college degree.
Oh, my goodness. I've been on the other side of this, so I think it's pathetic. I don't have anything but respect for people with degrees. I also don't look down on electricians and plumbers. That's a special sort of someone. But I think that the bias that people have is because they won't challenge themselves to get out of their own way.
Or, you know, you look at, I mean, I've had, I've had arguments that you would not believe with hiring managers and HR. I honestly can't believe that these people have jobs. The insults that are thrown, the words that are used and it's acceptable. So I think you know, I pull, gently disagree.
I think we haven't even, we're nowhere with diversity, with recruiting, with organizations. I applaud the companies that are diverse in their population and the, and their employees and their, and their vendors and all that. But I just don't see it. I think they go to give good lip service, but, and they advertise they mark, they know how to market it, but I see the other side of it.
And I think it's disgusting and it's, they can get away with murder just by saying we don't like their font. I mean , they don't give you a reason why they're not hiring someone. So I think. You know, having I've always been comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.
And I think people need to get out of their comfort zone. And I mean I could go on and on, but I think, you know, yeah. So are we making some strides? Sure, absolutely. We have a long way to go a long way to go.
Jackie Ferguson: Lauren, that I agree with, we do have a long way to go. But I do think that there are organizations that are understanding what it means to prioritize the culture of your work force.
And, you know, as slow moving as that is as a country, right. As a society are making movement in that direction. And that's a good thing, but you're a hundred percent, right. We do have a long way to go. There's there's so much bias in, you know, simply the way that we start our recruiting from our, the way that we write our job descriptions, you know, there's say a study that shows that white men will look, apply to a job that they feel 60% qualified for.
Whereas women and culturally diverse candidates need to feel closer to 90% qualified. And so a lot of those, you know, like to have on the job description can exclude some really great candidates. And then you get into, you know, name bias and school bias and even address bias when you're looking at resumes.
And then once you're in front of someone, You know, there's, there's a couple of ways to go with bias, you know, there's the negative bias, but then you've also got the positive bias. Right. And, and for those of us who have interviewed and I'm sure there are many of the folks that are on in this bowl right now that have interviewed candidates.
You know, if you find that you have something in common, right? Whether that be a school or a hobby or whatever, you're spending half of the conversation talking about that thing you've got in common and really haven't evaluated. If this candidate is qualified to do the job. So there's, there's bias. That can go either way.
But anything else that we want to talk about with regard to recruiting bias, and then I also want to get into some strategies that both of you recommend to mitigate that bias, all the way from job description to onboarding. So I'm interested in your thoughts there.
Lauren: Take off your zip code, take off your address. There's no need for anyone to have their resume with their address on it. At this point .
There should be no zip codes. There should be your phone number and your email. So, I mean, I used to have positions. Let's say I had a position years ago, years and years ago in Connecticut they'd be like, oh, we are not gonna hire someone from Brooklyn. Brooklyn to Connecticut. I mean, the amount of people that I could have placed over the last, however many years that were in San Francisco, that the job was in Chicago and they wouldn't even consider them.
I think they're you know, that I'm a huge person about not sharing. I don't know how many people know that about me. Stop oversharing a hundred percent. If you're pregnant, don't tell them, you don't know that is no one's business if you're pregnant, you don't have to advertise your age. Age discrimination is a huge problem.
And I really think that you just have to really work hard, in understanding what you're up against. And I think, I really think that you have to work on your almost, you have to work on your self esteem as much as you're going to put that resume together on your word, doc. And understand what you're up against.
I also believe you should not make assumptions. . Yeah. Can't make an assumption that, because someone, you know, there was someone once and they said, you know, all these white guys that where like flat front khaki pants and it's like, you know, my dad was like that, but my family is not, you know what I mean?
My dad didn't wear a flat front. He wore, my dad has passed away, but you know, he didn't wear flat front. Like he wore like cleated khakis, you know what I mean? Like they're just describing people and it's like, you don't know that that person isn't my dad's had a diverse team that, that worked for him.
And he was very careful about that to make sure everyone had a seat at the table. And that's how I was raised. Just don't make an assumption based on the fact that if someone, if someone doesn't get back in touch with you, that they're, they could very well be a jerk, but don't make that assumption. And don't put that on them just because one person is that.
Everyone is, does that make sense? Zip codes addresses off. They don't need to know how much you, where you live, how much you spend on rent. I've worked with people who have a lot of money and they're discriminated against because they think, well, they don't need the job. Why not? You know, I think also dates on resumes is, a job gap, job jumpers, people.
They say, people jump in jobs. Does that resonate? They're discriminated against if you're laid off by a company, why are you discriminated against people say, oh, they jumped around. No, sweetheart. They survived. So being really careful with dates, that those would be my suggestions. Bree, would you like to share?
Bree: Yeah. All of those tips, really resonate, you know, we've one that, that I see is I've seen so many times is, I think people do it without even realizing they put the year that they graduated from college. And although some people, as we talked about earlier can follow nontraditional kinds of paths in their education.
It, there is a chance that if you're, you know, if you're putting a college graduation year, that was in the seventies, let's say that you're opening yourself up towards the discrimination that you just, you really don't need to draw attention to that's, that's one that I've seen a lot. And, you know, as, as a staffing company, because we act as like the buffer between our customers and the candidates, one of the tricks that we've used is actually, you know, a person applying for a job, couldn't do this, but the agency can where we'll, we'll take off the person's name and we'll use initials instead. If we feel like perhaps, the client is not even considering them because they have a name that might sound foreign, you know, oh, I don't know how to pronounce that. So instead we just, everyone gets initials on their resume and I can tell you that we've our clients.
We have not received any pushback on that one. So people are remarkably open to that. Cause I think they don't really question why we're doing it. They think it's, you know, confidentiality or something
Jackie Ferguson: Love that. Love that one thing that I'd like to share as well. Thank you both so much for that, for those tips.
From the other side, right? From the hiring company, the hiring manager side, just understanding how to properly interview for your diverse candidates. So make sure that you are asking the same questions and not, oh, not over ask. Right? Don't over-engineer it made sure that you still have an organic conversation, but make sure that you've got six to eight questions that you're asking every single candidate.
So the jerk comparing skillset versus skillset, rather than, as I said earlier, you know, having a whole conversation about the fact that you went to the same college or grew up in the same hometown, make sure that you're comparing skill set to skill set, and then have other people in the room, make sure you're diverse.
Your interview team is diverse because where they will they'll balance your bias. Right? So everyone has some level of unconscious bias. So make sure that you're putting people in the room that are going to evaluate that candidate different than you evaluate that candidate so that you make the right decision for your organization.
Love those tips. Thank you both
Bree: so much for that. Yeah. Jackie, I'll add if anyone listening here is in a position where they're posting jobs and if you're interested in exploring your own bias, there's actually a really, really cool tool. It's an online tool called Textio. And it's just, it's amazing.
You, you basically plug in the text of your job description and it gives you all kinds of feedback on it. But it's specifically to address that kind of unconscious bias.
Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. That's a great, great ad break. Thank you. So Bree let's talk about employment for professionals with disabilities.
And I just led a build of an e-learning course on disability inclusion, and I learned so much what are some of the challenges with professionals with disabilities and what do employers need to know about employing professionals with disabilities?
Bree: Oh, yeah. Well, this is, this is a favorite topic of ours.
This is one that comes up pretty often especially because a lot of people have some hangups or really lack of education, lack of understanding about what it means to employ someone with a disability. So one of the things that one of our staff members who does a bunch of community engagement and, PR kinds of speaking engagements, one of the things that he's fond of saying is that disability itself doesn't really discriminate in that it affects people across all demographics.
So everyone else that we're talking about, regardless of gender, race, age, everything, disabilities affect everyone. So that's kind of the great equalizer in that sense, which is kind of a backwards way of approaching it, I think. But fundamentally from the employer side, there are actually fewer challenges than you would think.
With employing someone with a disability. So at peak we use the 80 AAA, which is the Americans with disabilities as amended act, definition of disability, which includes people with the types of disabilities that you typically would think of. You know, when people think of someone with a disability, they're often picturing someone who needs some kind of very visible accommodation, such as like a wheelchair or a hearing aid or something.
But the actual legal definition of disability in this era, and in this country spans a really, really broad range. So it includes a lot of invisible disabilities and chronic health conditions. So really common ones that we see that people don't even think about. Usually, depression, anxiety, add aDHD. We see a lot PTSD. So if an employer were to look around our office, they might have an idea. Of who, if they ask them to self identify who would say, oh yes, I am. I'm black, I'm Hispanic, I'm male, I'm female, those kinds of categories. But do you think you can look around the room and find the people who would self identify as having a disability or chronic health condition?
Sometimes, maybe. Yeah. Like I said, if there's something very visually going on with them, but equally likely, no, you have no idea. And also these kinds of conditions like depression and anxiety and ADHD and ADHD often carry, really substantial social stigmas. So people are really less inclined to talk about them too.
And what the, what the data has found is that people who do disclose their conditions to their employer, the person they're most likely to disclose to is their immediate supervisor. So. The reason for that is that that's the person who has, the biggest power to impact that individual's ability to get the job done.
They're not often going to HR, unless perhaps they've tried to go to their supervisor and they felt like they didn't get anywhere. Or maybe they have a new supervisor, they don't have that rapport going. So unfortunately the supervisors, who are kind of on the front lines, they're, they're often the least prepared to have those conversations and an informed, educated way, because frankly not a lot of training is usually provided, especially in smaller organizations for people at that level.
So one of the things that, that we advocate for at peak, like when we consult with our clients is for, ADA related training at all levels. Which fundamentally can help foster an environment of understanding rather than fear when someone comes to you with that conversation.
Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. And, you know, Bree, it's such an important conversation.
And it's so important for employers to realize and understand that having a culture that's inclusive of, of professionals with disabilities is important. And, and one of the reasons is because unlike other diversity groups, the disability community is the one group that any of us can become a part of at any time.
Absolutely. Yes. Yeah. And so, because of, you know, of that fact, you want to work for a company that is, has disability inclusion as part of the fundamentals of that culture. So. Thank you for sharing that. So important. So important, Lauren, you talk about being the head hunter of Yesteryear on your LinkedIn.
And I know that that has to do with the establishment of relationships and trust unless more about that phrase and what that means in your business and for your business.
Lauren: So I don't think I'm using that as much, any more that was, but I, I mean, I feel that way. I feel that everything is relationship based and I'm not transactional and I can't work with everybody, but I'm up front about that.
So, you know, years ago you would have people that. I don't know that everyone even understands how it works, but you know, there are lots of different types of recruiters. There's lots of different ways that you can work with, a head hunter. I had a hunter is different than a recruiter. Recruiters can headhunt, headhunters can recruit.
It's really very, it's a really big field, but my vibe is that I worked my entire career and I was focused on the person. Okay. Because I built teams and I build teams and I built diverse teams. And I built teams where I went into a company and I had one w we call them job orders. Right. And then. That then I would place 140 people on people were friends and they were godmothers to each other's children and they all still keep in touch.
And I'm really concerned about culture. I'm really concerned about fit. I'm really concerned about people working well together and coming. I think that when you have a head hunter or someone who's a recruiter really skilled or really knowledgeable like Bree and myself, where you would go into a company and say handed over to me, I'll fix your problems because companies don't go to recruiters because.
They want to spend money companies go to recruiters because they can't fill the jobs. I don't know if everyone knows that. Unless you have a, you know, obviously Bree has a different type of business, but when you look at someone like me, the companies aren't running to saying here's some money, can you go fill us there?
They're annoyed because they can't. And oftentimes you have to say the reason that you can't is because you're doing it the wrong way. So if you can partner with the companies, I believe that that's a head hunter. If Yesteryear, where there was more of a focus on the person than the fee. If that, does that make sense?
If you're transactional and you're only concerned about fees, recruiters, our recruiters who like Brie or myself or her dad, who've been around for a long time, you know, we weren't folk, we're not focused on the fee. This is, this is what we do for a living. It's very, I think obviously for Bree and for myself, very mission-based, but my concern is the person, not the company and has always been that way since I'm 23 years old.
Jackie Ferguson: Hmm. So important. Thank you for sharing that, Lauren. So I believe recruiting diverse talent is integral to the sustainability of business. The demographic shifts in our society that we talked about earlier, how does diversity in our workforce benefit business?
Bree: Oh, boy, I think we both have a million things we could say so you know, don't, don't hate me, but here's, here's a little bit of numbers. So again, coming at this from the disability lens 45% of the American population has at least one chronic condition, 26%. That's a quarter of people have some kind of a disability, something that we would recognize as a disability.
So from my perspective, if you are a business that is hoping to serve the American public or American companies through either products or services, and if you are not employing individuals with disabilities and chronic medical conditions, then you're missing out. You're missing out on key insights into how your customers think into what matters to them, to the challenges they face.
It'd be like, you know, it'd be like creating a smartphone without Siri. It leads you to blind spots that you're, you're missing. If you're not bringing a diverse group of people to the table.
Jackie Ferguson: Bree love that. And just, just a note for everyone who's listening Siri was created by a professional, with a disability, for, you know, to accommodate people with disabilities.
And that's one of the many accommodations or adaptations that all of us use. So thanks for sharing that.
Lauren, what would you like to add?
Lauren: That was amazing. Bree those were really great numbers and it's so true. I actually sat next to the man who created Siri two years ago at a conference.
Wow. That's cool. Yeah, he's actually really cool. He's a very nice man. He sold Siri to Apple. Then he went on and built big space for Samsung and now he has another company pulled up Samsung. He, yeah, it's incredible to get to look at, I think, you know, to go to go to your question about sustainability of biz of these businesses, you know, I feel like these companies don't feel healthy unless they're diverse.
. I feel, you know, I'm a very, I'm an empathetic person. But you get that vibe of looking at a Deloitte where everyone looks the same and you're like, oh, it's so exhausting. You know, come on guys. Let's shake it up. Shall we and women too. It's not just me. It's men and women at these organizations.
But what I think is really important about sustainable companies is the health of them. And if they're not healthy and they're not a true representation of the United States of the world, I think they're going to be in trouble.
And they're only going to have themselves to blame again. Who do I, who do I have a challenge with this HR? Human resources. So I don't, I think if we could have that conversation about sustainability with HR and some of these organizations maybe we'd have a better shot, maybe we could also decentralize HR.
But sustainability to me and especially , I do I have a learning disability it's been and a lot, what a lot of people don't know about disabilities is that their superpowers and understanding that someone with ADHD can have, I can have 75 things open, but when I need to work on my taxes, I struggle. So I will have two other programs while I'm working with my accountant or something like that. I know how to work with that, but I think just really being, I think kindness will help, will help sustainability.
Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely Lauren, thank you for sharing that. So let's at this time, see if we've got some questions in our bowl.
Bear with me, cause this is the first time I'm doing this, but feel free if you've got a question to raise your hand at the bottom of the screen and I'll invite you up to ask your question. If we don't have any questions, I will keep asking more questions of our great guests today, but I'll give a second.
But you know, we've got about 15 minutes left, actually just about 13 minutes. So as we begin to wrap up and Bree, I'll start with you. What would you like to leave this bowl with, from , understanding about inclusive recruiting? What do you want to talk about as we begin to wrap up?
Bree: Well, for me, it's kind of bringing it back to basics. So,
when we talk about diversity in the workforce and in the workplace I think that there's a tendency right now to, to maybe over analyze, and from our perspective, at least, with working with people with disabilities, it, whatever you're thinking about is a lot more pervasive than than you may have thought before.
So it's one of those things to like open your eyes, open your eyes, open your mind. Which also goes back to my earlier point of reassessing the requirements that you might have in your job, just because the last person that did this job have these skills and check these boxes. Does that mean that the next person does?
Because those are the kinds of hiring decisions that can perpetuate in non-inclusive environment without even deliberately meaning to other ways that we can see that happen too, is people who, they, they hired their friends, because there's a lot of data about there, about how you're more likely to to be friends with people and to have people in your social circle who kind of look like you.
So a lot of these, again, unconscious bias sorts of things. But looking at the tactics that you're taking to fill a job and also of course with disability, because that's my passion and that's what my life's work is about, that it impacts a lot more people than you think that it does. So just because you don't see what's going on on the surface with someone, understand that they are a whole person and there's a lot going on that you can't see
Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely Bree. Thank you for sharing that, Lauren, some final thoughts from you about inclusive recruiting.
Lauren: Okay. Let's break this down. Bree was so hard to follow because she was amazing. So everything Bree said, and also what I want people to, I, okay.
Let me talk about candidates, job. I don't, I hate that word candidates. Job seekers, job seekers. You do not give up after the first trial and you do not make assumptions because I think that many people don't realize within, within recruiting that many times the resume is never seen. So when they make the assumption that they weren't brought in for an interview because of X, Y, and Z, that it might be their own.
Feelings about who they are, what they bring to the table, or maybe some of something they might view as a shortcoming. I don't think you should do that. I think you should just be very non-emotional about it and proceed with no caution. Just do it, stay in there. Second. I think that when you are a candidate, , you have to have great amount of confidence in you because you're up against a lot.
And with diverse recruiting, maybe you feel like you're, you don't belong there, or maybe you don't see anyone at the table who looks like you. Screw it. Be the first one. Okay. When it comes to recruiting, I'm anti employee referral. I have always been anti employee referral because employee referrals bring in little mini sorority, fraternities of everyone who looks the same. And I think that's a disaster and I have a huge challenge with it. If you don't look like them, walk like them, talk like them and they're pushing employee referrals. So I think employee referrals should go out the door. They shouldn't, they should not have that.
I also think that the human resources organization function should be broken apart. And I believe I would like to see more hiring managers involved in making the decisions on their teams versus if you're a recruiter and you speak to a hiring manager and HR talks to you, like your flight plan saying playing mother may I.
So I would like to see the human resources function completely broken down because I feel that that's the challenge. That's the biggest challenge. I wish companies would kind of have a conversation about it. I would like to see a lot more conversations in C-suite about it. And realized that as you said, and this is so well you know, while shared in this call about it's beyond the checklist, right?
That people who are over 60 should be hired that pregnant women, that people who are, that have cancer, it should not be just, people need to be seen. That's my biggest thing. So that would be it.
Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. Thank you both for sharing that. And Bree, just to, as I was listening to you both make these statements at it, brought up a new question for each of you, as we begin to wrap up our time, but Bree for you. You know, one of the issues that we have with disability inclusion, I think starts from when we were at young age and our parents would say, no, don't ask the question. Don't stare, right? It left us unprepared to deal with or to interact well with professionals with disabilities in the workplace. How do we learn right to be able to engage and, and understand disability etiquette and have those strong relationships in the workplace where.
Professionals with disabilities feel seen and feel valued, feel welcome, feel embraced. How do we begin to start bridging that, that education gap?
Bree: I love that question. I love that's a great little ad hoc question for us. So, and that's, that's a fantastic point about, not being prepared from an early age and, you know, I think that that gets, kind of, added on to, as we age too, when we become aware that there's political correctness and oh, I think my parents call them this, but I think I'm supposed to call them something different and you know, oh, what's this people-centric language that I've heard about.
What does that mean? And we often catch people that are sort of, they're afraid to enter this conversation because they're afraid of unintentionally offending someone. So, and then, you know, then there's people who don't care and that's a different conversation. But what it boils down to for us.
And we talk about this a lot amongst our team is these two words of empathy and sympathy and how they're different. So sympathy I think is how, we're often taught to respond to situations where we don't really know what to say. So maybe if we're having a conversation with someone and their cancer treatment comes up, Oh, I don't really know how to handle that.
So then our response might be a sympathetic response, but those are the kinds where the person on the receiving end might not leave that conversation feeling great about themselves. So I always ask people, which would you rather be on the receiving side of empathy or sympathy, and as long as people understand what that word empathy means, that's what they choose.
And so that's what I advise is to when you're going into those conversations, if you're not sure how to talk with a coworker who you understand, might have some, some kind of health condition going on. You're not really sure where the boundaries are of how you should talk is to use an empathetic approach, which kind of is an attempt to not put yourself in their shoes. Cause that can be presumptuous a bit, but instead to think, how do I want them to feel when they leave this conversation?
Jackie Ferguson: Excellent. Excellent advice, Bree thank you so much. And Lauren, for you, you know, when job seekers work with recruiters, how can they evaluate a recruiter? That's going to advocate for them the way that you do.
Lauren: They're not going to advocate for them.
Jackie Ferguson: Got it. Okay. Okay.
Lauren: They're not so I'm different because I do, but I'm a disruptor in recruiting. What is, you know, that, that means a lot of different things, but they should not. They should have, they should know that the client is who pays the bill.
And I do believe that there are recruiters like myself, who've always done the right thing and said, you know what? This job isn't for you stay where you are. You're secure. You have a family, you know, this is too risky or something didn't make sense, or that's just who I am. And I'm so glad that I stuck to my core as my compass, but not everyone does.
So I think you really have to understand, and also understand that a lot of recruiters, most recruiters work on commission and their commission comes from a fee that they, that the client who's paying the bill that they're paid on commission and they're doing their job. And just, if we could speak about empathy, being empathetic to the person who's doing their job and that for a lot of people, they don't realize that working with a recruiter, that's a free service while they're the product or the, you know, of the, finding that person for the role of the company's paying the bill and not to be tacky about it, but to be great, but to be graceful.
Bree: Hey, Lauren. I think you'll love to hear that at, at our company. We don't, we're not commissioned, that's a very important criteria
Lauren: How do you get paid then
Bree: oh, well, there's still, there's still a fee to the client, but the individual contributor is not on a commission and then
Lauren: that's right.
I mean, that's amazing and that's not, that's not the norm at all.
Right. And I work only with job seekers. So I took that out of the mix. I got sick of I'm a disruptor in recruiting and a lot of people don't understand what that means, but when they, when they talk to me, they understand because I'm sick of doing it. I'm sick of the discrimination. I'm sick of people being ghosted, and I'm not interested in helping HR fill a role where they're gonna. I have thousands of stories. I could write books that would literally make you sick of what goes on in recruiting. So, but if you are working with a third party recruiter, or if you are working with someone at an agency, I mean, I've some of my closest friends in the world where clients or candidates, and I'm very close to them and you can have a very respectful relationship, but, but, and be patient and, and, and understand how the game is played and be comfortable in asking, you know, anyone who would come to me over the years, I would say, I might not be able to call you back same now, you know, just build, be a relationship builder.
You know, I would say that that would be the best thing for candidates. Be empathetic towards the recruiter and look to build a relationship. And don't be so turned off. If one job isn't for you, when you build that relationship, maybe the next one would be great for you. Right? Thank you notes. They thank you for your time.
So that's I'm very much into relationship building.
Jackie Ferguson: Thank you so much, Lauren and Bree, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you this evening. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and for everyone that joined this bowl, , to hear our amazing guests. Thank you so much. I've enjoyed spending this hour with you again, Lauren and Bree. Thank you so much.
Lauren: Thank you for having us.
Bree: It was wonderful.
Thank you very much, Jackie.
Have a wonderful evening, everyone, talk soon.
Jackie Ferguson hosted a live episode of Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox on Fishbowl Live about mitigating recruitment bias, plus strategies to recruit and retain diverse top talent from recruiting experts Bree Sarlati, CEO of Peak Performers, and Lauren McDonald, CEO of Intuition Co-Op.
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