Companies can improve diversity by hiring more diverse candidates while also eliminating biases in their hiring and promotion processes, Cheslie Kryst, a civil litigation attorney in North and South Carolina, pointed out during a diversity and inclusion panel at the 2021 AFSA Vehicle Finance conference in February.
“Too often, organizations large and small just hire a lot of diverse candidates … and then they’re surprised when their retention rates are low, turnover is high, and their effort in diversifying their organization is slow moving,” Kryst said. “You’re pouring diverse candidates into an environment that doesn’t yet support them, that isn’t inclusive, and that needs a cultural shift and awakening.”
Companies can improve inclusion efforts by addressing their own rationalization of why diversity is difficult to achieve, by working to retain diverse candidates, and by reevaluating how promotions are determined, said Kryst, who serves as a diversity advisor for N.C.-based law firm Poyner Spruill.
1. Identifying diversity roadblocks
There is a misconception that a lack of diversity is caused by a limited pool of talent, but that is not the case, Kryst said, noting that businesses should assess the internal issues, such as biases in the hiring process, that could be preventing them from finding diverse talent. A blind resume review, for example, can alleviate biases based on names, while a standardized hiring process can ensure interviewees are given similar questions.
At the same time, a first step toward moving diversity initiatives forward is for employees to study the history of diversity issues within their field and in society, said Kristen Miller, vice president and general counsel for Global Lending Services, a subprime auto lender based in Atlanta. “I think it’s important for us to know the basis for where [diversity] concerns come from,” she noted.
It’s crucial for organizations to recognize where they actually are in meeting diversity goals compared with where the business should be, added Prabir Chakrabarty, vice president and associate general counsel for Mariner Finance, a Baltimore-based lender. “The impetus is on the organization to objectively say ‘we do not have diversity amongst our population right now’ … then to take that step forward to say ‘these are the things we want to do to rectify that situation,’” Chakrabarty said.
2. Focusing on retention
Retaining diverse candidates, especially women, has become a challenge amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kryst said. “Right now, because of the ongoing pandemic, women — especially mothers and women of color — are leaving the workforce in droves,” she noted.
Companies can retain diverse employees by fostering an inclusive environment, offering flexibility in the workplace, and being responsive to their employees’ needs, Kryst said. Examples include offering child care assistance, mental health services and more flexible hours, and allowing employees to work from home when possible.
3. Promoting diverse talent
Businesses may also notice diverse employees aren’t moving into leadership and management positions, Kryst said, noting that companies must look at who is making promotion decisions and whether those employees have been trained to reduce bias. Companies should also standardize the process for earning promotions, encourage feedback during employee reviews, and build mentorship opportunities.
“Our biases —conscious and unconscious — have inserted themselves into many areas,” Kryst said, adding that such biases, “often prevent advancement at lower levels, and then put us in a real bind when we want diversity at higher levels of the company.”
Diversity must be addressed from the top down to have a lasting impact, added Shunda Robinson, global vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion for GM Financial. “My role was the very first dedicated resource to diversity and inclusion back in 2015,” Robinson said. “From the very beginning, I expressed that this position had to be supported from the top. [With] senior leadership, there has to be buy-in from the beginning.”
Auto Finance Innovation Summit, the premier event for technology in auto finance, returns March 16-17, 2021, as a virtual experience. The virtual experience will offer the quality networking and education of past events, all through an online platform. To learn more about the 2021 event and register, visit www.AutoFinanceInnovation.com.