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How Not To Talk About Diversity/Inclusion - If you Want to Actually Recruit Diverse Candidates

Most of us have work to do related to optimizing the diversity/inclusion that exists in our organization.  That's just the way it is - even if you're in good shape overall, there's always room for improvement in specific areas.  No organization is perfect.

For some HR and recruiting pros, you may have the added challenge of recruiting diverse candidates to areas of the country that are... let's just call it WASPY. Or rednecky. What diverse candidate would want to live in some of the areas you're expected to recruit them to?

They wouldn't want to live there - but you're expected to sell, so sell you do.  That's the sales game of what we do on the talent side. Bucks

But if you ever needed to see a diversity recruiting tactic that was offered up with good intent but is sure to go down in a mountain of flames, look no further than Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigen.  To say he's ineffective at diversity recruiting is being too kind.  More from the Chicago Tribune:

"In an era of sound bites, Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin delivered a doozy, calling the city "segregated" and "racist" as he was attempting to explain how a new arena, about half funded by taxpayers, would change the environment.

"We know we can't cure the world," Feigin told the Rotary Club of Madison, according to the Wisconsin State Journal on Sept. 21. "But we are very determined to get ourselves involved in programs that we can measure a difference in and put our claws into for a long period of time and show a difference.

"Very bluntly, Milwaukee is the most segregated, racist place I've ever experienced in my life. It just is a place that is antiquated. It is in desperate need of repair and has happened for a long, long time. One of our messages and one of our goals is to lead by example."
 
I guess it's laudable for Feigin to call out segregation so plainly here. But then again, he is the beneficiary of $250 million from the state, city, and Milwaukee County. I'm thinking a quarter of $1,000,000,000 could be better spent than buying an arena for two hedge fund managers.
 
More importantly, you have to think about who you have to recruit. The NBA player base is 80%+ black. Milwaukee already has trouble landing free agents, and now you're going to use this as your talking points?
 
What would happen if you shared the same type of message in your college recruiting pitch when you're trying to recruit diverse engineers to an all white town in Mississippi for their first job out of college?
 
First, no one would come. Then you'd probably be fired, as you should.
 
The intent in diversity recruiting shouldn't be to hide to the truth.  But you gotta sell.  Share the numbers related to demographics. Answer questions. Then get back to the business of selling the opportunity to diverse candidates.  They're going to have a great career at your company. 
 
You don't have to hide from the history of the area you're trying to recruit for. But if that's your lead, you're not the sales person as a recruiter you need to be. 

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