The Role of Diversity in Recruitment & Retention

best practice communication culture diversity equity inclusion recruitment retention Dec 26, 2022


Surface level and deep level diversity both play integral roles in successful recruitment and retention processes.  

I have been pondering this idea of surface level diversity vs. deep level diversity a lot lately.  Mostly because it is right in front of our faces daily, no matter what sector you work within.  But how often do we think about it within the context of recruitment and retention?

“Surface level diversity is defined as the characteristics that we can notice about each other that distinguish us.  Deep level diversity by definition are the differences in beliefs, values, attitudes, etc., that do affect much more directly how a person behaves,”  (PSU, 2017).

I recently met with the Executive Director for a national nonprofit serving the education sector.  He was very curious about how he could increase the percentage of people of color within his programs.  His dilemma was centered around not only attracting people of color – but seeing successful matriculation through the hiring process and being retained.  He commented that he just wasn’t sure what they were doing wrong and was exploring whether or not there may be biases in their process.

Now, I’m not sure of the recruitment, hiring or retention process and practices they currently have in place.  But, I can tell you that this leader genuinely wanted his staff and program members to reflect the population they were serving.  Here are some questions I asked him that I would encourage you to ask yourself:

  • Who created your process?
  • How do you determine if someone is “qualified” in the first place?
  • Who determined the metrics for what a “good fit” will look, sound and think like?

Next, I advised him to explore the ideas of surface level and deep level diversity.  Often, organizations are focused solely on demographic recruitment (race, gender, age, etc.)  This often misses the mark with the most influential aspects of diversity which are psychological (personality, values, abilities, etc.)  Demographic variables can perpetuate stereotypical and prejudiced characterizations whereas deep-level diversity focuses on the person (Source: Harvard Business Review).  I personally believe that effective recruitment, hiring and retention processes uphold elements of both surface level and deep level diversity.

Finally, I challenged him to consider if their organization had a culture of knowledge sharing.  Why?  Sometimes, targeted recruitment efforts can be very successful at attracting people.  However, once those recruits matriculate through the onboarding process, creativity will only be enhanced if all team members maintain a culture of knowledge sharing.  This must be built by the leader.  For example, if a new employee grew up in the neighborhood where they are working but never shares their insider knowledge with coworkers – then the team is not improving together.  In fact, this can actually create division and silos of knowledge if the proper culture of connection, collaboration and creation has not been developed.

How do you go about truly knowing and leading the whole person – not just the surface or deep level intricacies?  This is where cultural mastery becomes essential.  Without a philosophy for recruitment and retention that is based in the principles of cultural mastery, you will only be able to lead your people so far.  Why?  “We cannot lead people to the highest levels until we know them at the deepest levels,” (The 6 Stages of Cultural Mastery, 2017).



Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.