Originally published in HR Daily Advisor.

The pandemic presented significant challenges this past year. Many employees had to live and work at home while socially distanced from close family and friends. Companies also had to adjust by moving to remote work environments to keep employees safe while still responding to issues surrounding equity, diversity, and inclusion. Despite the perceived downsides, business disruption and the challenges that come with remote working present numerous opportunities for innovation.

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There is no question that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the way people live and work. Remote work appears to be the new normal, making recruiters pivot where and how they source talent. As the demand for diverse talent increases, companies must expand beyond their normal avenues to find qualified candidates but also reflect on internal practices to retain diverse employees. The truth is that the opportunities presented by having a remote workforce actually increase the available talent pool in a number of ways.

Diversifying the Talent Pool

With a move to a remote environment, the available talent pool has increased during the pandemic. Before, recruiters only had a few pools from which to source talent. With the barrier of geography removed for many positions, companies are now able to expand their searches to include more diverse candidates. This helps recruiters source, connect, and ultimately hire people from more diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences.

The remote work environment also helps reduce location bias. A study conducted by the University of Notre Dame found that hiring managers are biased against candidates who live farther away from the office. These candidates with perceived longer commutes receive less positive responses and opportunities to interview for a position. Remote work helps level the playing field for candidates who would have otherwise been overlooked.

New Channels to Source Diverse Talent

While a larger talent pool might broaden the search, recruiters must go beyond their normal channels to find diverse candidates. Expanding recruitment to historically black colleges and universities, as well as community colleges, is a start to reaching and attracting more diverse talent. Investing in these recruiting efforts will also provide brand recognition to not only current but also future students.

Another avenue for recruitment is local chapters of professional associations. These associations offer direct access to whatever group a company is trying to attract. The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) is an example of one organization that provides current and up-and-coming minorities with resources and opportunities to be successful in the accounting field.

Building relationships with groups like the NABA will provide a direct channel to diverse talent with the qualifications needed to fill open and future positions.

Finally, partnering with job boards targeted to find, hire, and promote talent could offer more visibility to companies. One example is Jopwell, a platform designed to help advance the careers for black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals. More than a job board, Jopwell scales services for diversity recruitment, marketing, and retention efforts.

Retaining Diverse Talent

Candidates looking for a new opportunity will go to a company’s website to find more information. For diverse candidates, the information about the company’s position on diversity, equity, and inclusion is a heavily weighed factor. Candidates of diverse backgrounds are looking to see themselves not only in company makeup but also in leadership. They are asking not only Can I see myself here? but also Do I see myself here?

Candidates being able to look across the table and see someone who looks like them—someone they can aspire to be like and network with—is powerful. The diversity of a team can even be a deciding factor when comparing career opportunities. If a recruitment team lacks diversity, consider asking employees of different backgrounds to join the hiring cycle. Companies that do not include diverse employees in their hiring cycle miss an opportunity to highlight and showcase their commitment to diversity.

Hiring diverse talent is just one piece of improving diversity throughout an organization. A company must create an inclusive workplace where diverse employees receive equitable treatment, opportunities for growth, and a genuine feeling that they belong. Happy employees are the best brand ambassadors for an organization. A diverse employee’s referral can go a long way with a candidate and even reach a larger talent pool.

What Is Next for Remote Work?

Remote work is here to stay. Companies will continue to embrace remote work indefinitely, as it offers benefits from financial and personnel standpoints. Remote work allows for companies to source and embrace more candidates from more diverse backgrounds and locations. A McKinsey report points to the financial benefits of diverse teams, which can only be strengthened in a remote environment. While the pandemic has changed the workplace and economy in a number of ways, it has offered a new, better way to move forward. The opportunity to diversify talent is there if companies are open enough to reflect and conform to the times.

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Derrick Coleman

Derrick Coleman has more than 20 years business experience and is the Practice Leader of GHJ Search and Staffing, GHJ’s recruiting division. Search and Staffing specializes in the placement of accounting and finance professionals into temporary and permanent positions across a broad range of…Learn More