Ninety-six percent of companies we surveyed last year revealed they would be expanding their Diversity and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives.

Overwhelmingly, founders have realized the responsibility they carry in creating a safe, welcoming and productive workplace for people from all backgrounds. Employers hold positions of power and have the obligation to inflict the desired change by implementing it at an early stage.

Every company must start from somewhere, and the sooner you implement diversity-friendly hiring policies, the faster you can reap the rewards. Here are three areas startups should be focusing on.

Be Intentional and Proactive About Diversity Hiring

Your hiring process should be built upon three distinct pillars: intent, planning and measurement.

Firstly, aim to be specific about what exactly diversity and inclusion mean to your company. By setting a clear intention and communicating this internally to managers, you can ensure everyone is on the same page.

Next, you must make actionable plans that match your intent. Otherwise, it can appear inauthentic to potential employees if your careers page claims you value the expertise of women but your entire management team is composed of men. You must practice what you preach (and show it) to have any credibility.

Finally, you need to track your progress against your intentions and plans. Always be aware of where you stand relative to your goals. If you fall behind, ask your team why and adapt your plans to overcome the roadblocks.

Challenge Your Recruiting Process

It's common for founders to follow the path of least resistance when it comes to their early hiring practices. However, the initial hires can set the tone for everyone who is to come after. It can be difficult to change a culture once it is embedded, so it's crucial to set the processes up correctly from the get-go.

You should consider where you advertise your roles and source talent. Ask yourself if people from underrepresented backgrounds will be searching for employment in those places. Job descriptions themselves can unintentionally alienate potential candidates because of the phrasing used.

Design the interview process and think carefully about what questions you ask and whether they are relevant to the actual role. For example, asking people about their hobbies could trigger unconscious biases that could penalize candidates from backgrounds different from the interviewer. Where possible, use a diverse set of interviewers to minimize the chances of intimidating an interviewee.

You should also consider how to attract silver medalist candidates. These are candidates that have passed several rounds of another company's hiring process but were ultimately not hired. There are some inefficiencies to tackle in this regard because firms don't tend to share data about this with each other. But it's worth looking into it, as well as keeping your own records of silver medalists.

Advocate Your Efforts

I've worked with organizations that have had concerns about publicizing their DE&I efforts because they worry they will be perceived to be virtue signaling. If your actions match your intentions then you have nothing to fear.

Instead, you should make bold statements and trumpet your values as much as you can. Be transparent about your DE&I values on your website and job postings. A consistent message will encourage underrepresented talent to apply that might not have otherwise.

As building a diverse workforce is a challenge faced by many startups, you can join communities to gain their insights. You'll be able to learn how other companies attract a wider talent pool. If you're meeting your targets, then the next step is to help other startups by sharing your methods. This leads to a better work environment for everyone.

(Ilit Raz is the founder and CEO of Joonko)

Businesses nationwide reported US hiring continues to rise but at a slower pace, and uncertainty has increased
Businesses nationwide reported US hiring continues to rise but at a slower pace, and uncertainty has increased AFP / Olivier DOULIERY