LinkedIn’s Head of Diversity Shares Her Playbook for Creating a More Inclusive Workforce

Bruce Anderson

Rosanna Durruthy says that diversity is often seen as a series of checklists: Do this, do that, and then do more of this. But as the head of global diversity, inclusion, and belonging at LinkedIn, Rosanna prefers to see diversity and inclusion as a team sport — that comes with a playbook for finding success.

Rosanna has headed the diversity efforts at four companies and believes that everyone has to play a part on the team for diversity and inclusion to truly take hold at any organization.
“Most companies,” she says, “will often think of diversity in terms of head count, so talent acquisition often takes the lead. But in order for diversity to work, leaders have to own diversity. HR is an important part of creating the kind of experience that has people feeling they belong, and people managers create that experience of people feeling included as part of a team. . . . Allies play a critical role in creating that space of sponsorship and championing, so there is a role for everyone.”

Recently, Rosanna sat down with Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s global head of talent acquisition, to share her playbook for winning at diversity and inclusion in two episodes of Talent on Tap.
In the first episode, Rosanna and Brendan talk about who owns diversity and why it’s a topic that is sometimes difficult to discuss:

In the second episode, Rosanna shares ideas about the importance of training managers to lead diverse teams, using competitive benchmarking, and knowing the business case for diversity:
According to Rosanna, here’s what companies need to do to create a culture of a diversity and inclusion that really works:

1. Companies need to train managers to lead diverse teams

If diversity is, as Rosanna suggests, a team sport, then organizations need coaches who are excited to be leading squads with players who bring different approaches to the game.
“We have to up-level the skills of managers to feel confident and empowered to lead people who come from different backgrounds and experiences,” she says. “Otherwise, we’re always going to be in this dance of recruiting talent and losing talent prematurely or having the talent picked off by other companies.”

Your learning and development program should consider identifying and recruiting managers in your organization who have already had success leading diverse teams. Encourage them to teach a course and share their secrets with colleagues. If you’re pressed for time or expertise, LinkedIn Learning offers numerous courses and videos that can help, including Managing a Diverse Team, Managing Diversity, and Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (which is taught by LinkedIn’s former CHRO Pat Wadors).

2. Study your competitors and see where they’re having success attracting and retaining diverse workforces

Companies clearly need to know the competition if they’re going to succeed in building a diverse workforce.

“If you have competitors who are doing better at this than you are,” Rosanna says, “what’s the case to be more competitive in appealing to a certain segment of the workforce?” What can you learn about that company’s success attracting and retaining women or people of color, LGBTQ+ employees, or people with disabilities?

Rosanna notes that companies routinely benchmark against competitors in areas like compensation and employee engagement. “We should be benchmarking against our competition,” she says, “in relation to what does our workforce representation look like.”

This isn’t always easy. Fortune noted two years ago that only 16 companies on its Fortune 500 list release complete data for the race and gender of employees across job category and management level (and Fortune 500 companies employ 17.5% of the U.S. workforce). Another 84 companies on that list shared partial information, such as the percentage of women or nonwhite people in their workforce or leadership group.

To get a sense of how your company stacks up, you can turn to LinkedIn Talent Insights. The Company Report now includes a Gender tab that gives you access to the gender distribution of your company’s overall workforce as well as within different functions. You can also leverage it to benchmark against industry averages.

3. Bring diversity to your leadership too

Companies tend to focus their diversity hiring efforts on front-line employees. But that isn’t usually where the problem lies. According to LeanIn.Org’s “Women in the Workplace 2018,” women occupy 48% of entry-level positions in the United States but only 23% of SVP and C-suite roles; people of color occupy 33% of entry-level positions but only 13% of the most senior roles.
“All too frequently,” Rosanna says, “when companies premise talent acquisition strategies around diversity, they go for their junior or entry-level talent. Part of the challenge there is that’s how it walks in and they look up and wonder where are the leaders who look like us.”

And that creates retention problems. “That,” Rosanna says, “becomes the impetus for finding the next opportunity elsewhere. So you almost have to have a portfolio management philosophy to fix the mix.”

Porter Braswell, the CEO of Jopwell, a career advancement platform for black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals, touts the advantages of companies hiring cohorts of employees from underrepresented groups. Not just for entry-level jobs, but for hiring managers and more senior people. “Why would it be different?” he asks, noting the importance of new hires seeing people who look like them.

Other tactics your company can implement to change the look of your senior leadership include adapting a version of the Rooney Rule and requiring candidates from underrepresented groups for every open leadership position; changing the incentives in your referral program to generate a more diverse slate; and developing and nurturing the talent you already have.

4. Know the business case for diversity — and share it

“Some companies launch into diversity because they’re highly altruistic,” Rosanna says. “They believe in treating people fairly, and justice is important. I wouldn’t disregard that.” Amen.
“But we’re in businesses,” she adds “and the business case for diversity is proven in research that’s been done by McKinsey and Bersin by Deloitte that tells us that companies that have more diverse leadership in senior and executive management — diversity is represented by women and underrepresented groups — are more profitable and generate more revenue. Significantly more.”
As well, research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows that increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to better company-wide innovation and improved financial returns. Scientific American looked at decades of research and concluded that diversity makes us smarter and more creative and leads to better decision making and problem solving.

Final thoughts: Diversity is a cornerstone of winning teams

Talking about the business case for diversity brings us full circle to team sports, which have been one of the great proving grounds for the value of diversity. Team sports have shown, clearly and irrefutably, the power of bringing in the best talent no matter where that talent comes from or what it looks like.

The Brooklyn Dodgers famously signed Jackie Robinson, who became the first African American baseball player in the modern major leagues and led his team to six National League pennants and its first World Series title. The Boston Celtics were the first NBA team to draft an African American player, to start five African American players, and to name an African American (all-time great Bill Russell) as their head coach. By the way, they won NBA titles in 11 of 13 years.

For your company to have the best chance of winning, it should embrace diversity and inclusion. And as you embrace diversity and inclusion, approach it as a team sport.

“As a diversity leader,” Rosanna says to Brendan, “I’m reliant on my [talent acquisition] partner, who’s able to look at the market that we’re seeking to attract talent from and recognize where we have relationships to build that pipeline and where we don’t.”

Talent acquisition should act like a point guard in basketball or an attacking midfielder in soccer, setting up and feeding teammates so they can succeed and, more importantly, so the whole team can succeed.

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