Advice and insights on how corporates can better recruit Black candidates and support their career advancement.
Finance leaders and hiring managers committed to diversity and inclusion (D&I) and increasing the number of Black people on treasury and other teams reporting to CFOs need to embrace new ways to recruit and hire Black candidates while creating a corporate culture that welcomes Black employees, encourages them to stay and supports their advancement.
- That’s among the key takeaways from comments by finance professionals speaking in recent NeuGroup meetings and during interviews marking Black History Month. Another important point: achieving D&I goals requires active engagement and consistent attention.
- “You really have to make an effort to hire, retain and grow diverse talent,” said one member who is actively recruiting Black candidates. “I think there’s an idea of, ‘oh, we will just hire more,’ and everyone takes their eyes off it and expects to see them 20 years later in an executive meeting. Actually, it’s about that entire process and not taking your hands off of it.”
HBCUs and beyond. Tim Muindi, treasurer of ServiceNow, said in an interview that finance leaders who say they’re struggling to find more Black candidates “are probably not looking in the right places. That’s usually the biggest hurdle. I start by asking, ‘where are you looking?’”
- He added, “In most cases, you have to go meet them where they are. For me, being in the Bay Area, we want to add more Black professionals to finance, our eyes have to be wide open for potential opportunities, whether it’s in Detroit, Atlanta or wherever the case might be.”
- As part of that approach, Mr. Muindi said ServiceNow has expanded beyond recruiting at a few schools to reaching out to more historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and schools located in areas with larger Black populations.
- Summa Simmons, director of treasury at Victoria’s Secret & Co., told NeuGroup Insights that large HBCUs attract heavy recruitment from the Big Four accounting firms, but “there are tons of budding accountants and finance professionals that don’t necessarily want to go to the Big Four and are open to other career tracks beyond public accounting.” She also recommends talent acquisition/recruiters look beyond the larger HBCUs, saying, “there are tons of great HBCUs, sometimes local to the city companies are hiring in.”
- The treasurer who is actively recruiting Black candidates said she’s had great experiences working with HBCUs. “You’re playing the long game, you’re investing in them when they’re really young and growing through the organization,” she said. “You can’t hire someone at the director level with this path, but it’s been tremendous.”
Connecting with candidates. A number of members recommend working with the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and The Robert Toigo Foundation, industry groups that can help connect companies directly to potential candidates through job postings, mentorship and in-person job fairs and conferences.
- For in-person or virtual job fair events, Ms. Simmons says it is important to have diverse recruiting teams. “Make sure you bring employees and associates that look like the people you want to recruit—I think that’s the biggest piece of it,” she said. “Find the diverse talent in the finance organization and get them on a rotational schedule supporting recruiting initiatives so your prospective candidates can have candid conversations.”
- In recruiting Black candidates, the presence of people doing interviews who look like a candidate is “huge,” Mr. Muindi said. “The fact they can see somebody who looks like them in that role, it gives them a sense of belonging. They feel like, ‘This is a place I can go, start my career, grow my career and potentially even get to those senior levels.’ That really helps with that connection.”
- Black and African American candidates can’t always tell if a company’s commitment to diversity is real, Ms. Simmons said. So there are a number of questions potential employees may ask to distinguish lip service from true commitment:
- Is the appraisal system designed for employees to get direct and helpful feedback?
- Is there a development plan that leaders work on with employees?
- If employees express interest in promotions but don’t get them, are they getting meaningful feedback?
- If the company is successful in attracting diverse talent, does it have a robust and inclusive initiative to help retain that talent?
- When diverse candidates come in, are there mentorship opportunities?
Mentors, sponsors and allies. Mr. Muindi said that while he has had good experiences with mentors throughout his 23-year finance career, he has found sponsorship in short supply at more senior levels, defining a sponsor as somebody who will recommend someone else for opportunities—an essential part of rising through executive ranks.
- “I think it’s challenging across the board, but I think it’s more challenging when you are a minority. In most cases, they don’t have anybody that they relate to on those higher levels and have a relationship with, so it becomes more difficult to find that sponsor,” he said.
- Ms. Simmons, who leads Victoria’s Secret & Co.’s Black and African American inclusion resource group, said that it is also important to have allies at a company to foster a culture of true commitment to diversity and inclusion. To hear her thoughts on the importance of allyship, as well as what Black History Month means to her, please watch this interview excerpt.