Case Study: Improving Diversity by Changing Managers’ Mindsets


The CEO of a Fortune 100 conglomerate told the head of its multibillion-dollar industrial division to improve diversity at his unit — which ranked last in the company on diversity metrics — to better reflect their customer population.

The requirement? Sustainable cultural change.

Hiring managers (the most senior leaders making the final hiring decisions — not HR) are often the biggest obstacles to improving diversity, so Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge’s integrated a program focused on creating a sense of accountability among these leaders for their hiring decisions. We also provided them with coaching on how to better assess talent — particularly diverse talent — as well as address unconscious bias. And beyond building a pipeline of qualified, diverse candidates for a key area, we’re also developing an effective onboarding process to ensure the success and retention of diverse recruits.

Business Situation

A $6 billion industrial division of a major conglomerate had recently relocated from a small, Rust Belt city to a much more diverse metropolis, but its workforce was not representative of the broader population. In fact, the unit was ranked worst in the entire company for diversity. The CEO was now holding the division head accountable to ensure they had access to the most qualified, skilled talent — with an emphasis on diversity.

Our Point of View

Historically, efforts to improve employee diversity had been unproductive — they tended to be one-dimensional and limited to tactics for raising awareness, not improving outcomes.

Only now are leading businesses realizing the critical role played by hiring managers in defining job roles and interviewing candidates. We knew that the division’s lack of diversity could only be addressed through an integrated approach — one that focused on creating a mindset of accountability among hiring managers and looked beyond recruitment to retention and advancement of diverse employees.

How We Helped

Developing a diverse talent pipeline isn’t enough if the candidates never get hired and if they aren’t positioned for success.

To address the division’s specific needs, we developed a 12-month program that would:

  • Identify and pre-qualify over 50 women and people-of-color for specific management and executive roles across three levels.
  • Introduce candidates to hiring managers to engage them in the process and lay the groundwork for on-going discussions — even if no immediate opportunities exist.
  • Train hiring managers to better assess diverse talent, address unconscious bias and understand their role — and accountability — in the recruitment process.
  • Develop an effective onboarding process to improve retention of diverse hires.

Sustainable Impact

Our integrated, multidimensional program is designed to be replicated across the entire organization for sustainable cultural change. The division now has access to a pipeline in a high-need area, and hiring managers have the mindset and capabilities to implement a more effective talent acquisition strategy and become better leaders by:

Recognizing unconscious bias and building a culture of inclusiveness.
Adapting interviews for passive vs. active candidates (candidates who have been identified by the organization as having the necessary talent vs. those who have approached the organization for a job themselves).

Conducting competency-based assessments that take into account the division’s short- and long-term needs — not just when making hiring decisions, but also during yearly evaluations, etc.

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