Webinar Recap: Insights Into Effective Diverse Candidate Slates and Goal Setting

Panelists: Patricia Rossman, BASF Chief Diversity Officer & HR Communications; Natalie Coache, BASF Executive Recruitment Manager; Crystal Lannaman, BASF Head of Talent Acquisition and University Relations

In this webinar — a follow-up to our July 2019 webinar — chemical company BASF’s Patricia Rossman, Natalie Coache and Crystal Lannaman discuss how BASF expanded the diversity of its candidate slates by setting goals of achieving diversity throughout all areas of the company.

BASF began its journey toward achieving more diverse candidate slates — and hiring more diverse talent — several years ago. Executives realized that though there was an increase of diverse candidates applying to positions at the company, they weren’t landing jobs. Lannaman explained that they broke the issue down into two phases: the screening out of talent early on and the decision of who would be brought in for interviews and ultimately hired.

Lannaman addressed the issue of unconscious bias, saying despite good intentions, everyone holds unconscious biases. BASF had to create a powerful plan to mitigate it.

Part of that process, Rossman said, involved making diverse candidate slates a hard-driving business strategy.

Coache said the company decided on having a selection rate of 30% diverse candidates across the board. Why 30%?

“We picked 30% because of the fact that if you look at research that’s done by the World Economic Forum, for example, what they have said to us is 30% is about the point at which you don’t feel like an outlier. You don’t feel like an ‘only,’ whatever that definition of ‘only’ is, Lannaman said.

Identifying the Problem

BASF recognized an increase in diverse applicants, but stagnation in these applicants actually being hired. Those on the hiring team noticed diverse candidates were not being selected for interviews because unconscious bias was leading to managers moving forward with applicants that were more similar to themselves.

BASF recognized that not hiring a diverse array of candidates meant not hiring the best possible talent.

One area the group noticed a gap in diversity was gender representation in manufacturing roles. Women shied away from applying to manufacturing roles because they were male-dominated. The team is working now on identifying how BASF can attract more women into these roles, particularly through community outreach.

Setting Goals 

To meet this challenge, BASF set the goal of achieving 30% women and people of color hires in all areas of the company, and also creating a leadership pipeline for them so that ultimately, there would be more diversity at the top.

Taking Action 

The candidates BASF interviewed were 30% diverse, and so was the hiring panel. BASF implemented unconscious bias training to mitigate the issue of managers pursuing candidates that were like them. Additionally, BASF made 50% of the hiring panel diverse, which led to more diverse candidates being pursued.

Lannaman explained these were not quotas, rather, “rigorous targets to get results.”

“So, it’s the best men. It’s the best women. It’s the best people of all backgrounds,” she said.

Additionally, instead of hiring for experience and education listed on resumes, BASF moved toward wording job listings so that the company was hiring for potential through impact-based hiring.

“So this is a new approach we’ve adopted that transforms the way we attract and assess our people,” Coache said. “So instead of the traditional job descriptions that include a laundry list of responsibilities, you know, followed by a listing of very specific qualifications, maybe 10 years of this, 7 years of that, what you’ll see … are profiles that outline specific job outcomes and success factors, so those key things that are required to deliver a true impact in the role.”

Another crucial area was the leadership pipeline — not just in achieving diversity, but in creating a culture of it.

“We looked at movement into leadership. We are not looking to create an organization that, you know, is like a Noah’s Ark and we have two of this and two of that. We’re looking at a truly diverse, integrated organization with people that bring different backgrounds and skills at all levels of our company,” Rossman said.

BASF created a Diverse Leaders program in 2018 to help develop diverse talent and create a pipeline toward the top.

Finally, BASF partnered with other organizations to help bolster its cause, including the Executive Leadership Council, the National Hispanic Council, the National Black MBA, Hispanica, Society of Women Engineers and a number of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

As the company moves forward toward achieving more diversity, it is focusing on leadership action and accountability and awareness, education and communication to create a culture of inclusion.

“The talent was out there. It was out there all along. We just were not doing a good job of finding it and recognizing it,” Rossman said.

Key Takeaways

  • Aligning and partnering with key leaders is necessary.
  • Having diversity in interview panels directly related to achieving diversity in hiring.
  • Everybody has unconscious biases, and they take many forms, but addressing them through training and more diversity within the company — especially leadership and hiring managers — is crucial.

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