Workforce Diversity Project: Employers


The Workforce Diversity Project sought to provide strategies for three target audiences: employers, job seekers and English Language Learners (ELL). Three separate “hubs” were developed to make it easier for website visitors, like you, to find the right content. You are currently visiting the employer hub. In this hub, you will find:

  • ​Stories from employers who have successfully implemented strategies suggested by the Workforce Diversity Project. Contribute your own success story by sending Partners in Diversity a message through this form.
  • A snapshot of the challenges identified by employers during the research phase of the Project.
  • A comprehensive list of the strategies developed to help human resource recruiters diversify their workforce. 

Featured Success Stories

Top Challenges Faced by Employers

Recruiters in the three industry sectors, including unions and staffing agencies, were asked how they find job candidates from these communities and what, if any, practices have been implemented to adapt to changing diversity in the regional workforce.

Many organizations are focused on hiring a more diverse workforce but struggle with knowing the best way to recruit from these communities. The key is finding new ways for employers to use the resources available in the region. Currently, many use traditional ways to recruit workers, such as newspaper ads in ethnic publications or job postings sent to community organizations that do not have a primary focus on workforce development. As a result, these job postings do not always capture the attention of eligible community members as intended.

Some businesses have taken proactive steps to recruit ELLs and people from communities of color. For instance, some companies had removed barriers for applicants that do not meet specific education and language requirements. Other employers do not require workers to have a driver’s license if driving is not a part of the job. Once hired, some companies provide training in the new hire’s native language and organize work crews by language. While these practices are not employed by all companies, their success at some businesses shows opportunities for others.

Trade unions interviewed for the study reported that often participation in skilled trades is generational. Many of those who join a trade have a family history of union work. Unions also reported that language barriers can be a serious issue on job sites where safety is paramount, though in some cases crews that speak the same language have been formed to overcome this challenge. 

Historically, union recruitment was based solely on referrals, but now many unions are proactively recruiting and seeking diversity in their membership. To make changes within the hiring structure, they said it is critical to have leadership at the top of the organization driving efforts to change. 


In phase two of the Workforce Diversity Project, Partners in Diversity conducted interviews and surveys with human resource professionals and job seekers from ten communities of color including Native American, African American, Hispanic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Bhutanese, Slavic, Iraqi, African and Tongan communities on how they find jobs. 

Barriers addressed during community interviews included that many do not know where to look for jobs, and job seekers require help building resumes, polishing professional interviewing skills, and identifying how to contact local organizations that offer these services. It is also important for people from communities of color to get information about job opportunities, career and/or trade training, and other resources from a trusted source.

Through interviews with human resource recruiters and job seekers from communities of color including English Language Learners, several workforce diversity outreach strategies and tools were identified and recommended to help employers find new ways to recruit candidates and diversity their workforce.

This list of recommended workforce diversity strategies includes:   
  1. Diversify recruitment: Build trust within communities of color by targeting communities of color for partnerships and collaborations.
  2. Develop relationships: Engage local business leaders, educational institutions, and other community resources that offer apprenticeships and internships to provide individuals with on-the-job training opportunities.
  3. Purposeful engagement: Being intentional with development of a diversity plan and promoting efforts that target communities of color and promote equity and inclusion will enhance opportunities for all.
  4. Implement internal retention strategies: Assess internal retention policies to strengthen recruiting policies in communities of color. 

Relationship Building and Targeted Outreach in Communities of Color

Relationship building was cited by both human resource professionals and representatives of communities of color as being extremely vital to the success of diversifying the workforce.  It was recommend that relationships be built between recruiters and community organizations to help build trust to maximize recruitment efforts and positive outcomes.

Many recruiters noted that they send their job announcements to several community organizations. Very few, however, have relationships or partnerships with the community organizations to help them recruit or advocate for them. There is often no follow-up telephone call or email to ensure that the job announcement was posted or made available to targeted community members.  In some cases, there is no other targeted outreach to communities of color. One company indicated that it strives to participate in activities located in communities known to be ethnically diverse and that their campaign displays minority, disabled and women employees on billboards and truck ads.

Some of the additional recommended relationship building and targeted outreach strategies include:
  1. Posting job opportunities at community organizations, as well as at local schools, businesses, churches, and barber shops.
  2. Sponsoring meet the employer and pre-hire events on-site or at selected community organizations to introduce prospective employees and communities of color to each business to learn about your specific application and hiring process, your company expectations, your organizational culture and diversity, and equity and inclusion policies.
  3. Training community representatives to educate and train people in their communities on how to apply for jobs.
  4. Participating in diversity job and career fairs, as well as cultural events in communities of color.
  5. Advertising job opportunities in print and online media, as well as job search engines and sites.
  6. Advertising job opportunities in multiple languages on your website, on job search sites, and in print and electronic media targeting communities of color, e.g., Chinese Times, Hispanic News, The Skanner News, The Observer newspapers, and Slavic Radio.
  7. Placing periodic advertisement or public service announcements to inform communities of color about each company’s diversity, equity and inclusion policy.

Partnerships with Community Colleges and Educational Institutions

Several of the businesses and unions that were interviewed and surveyed indicated that there are a number of opportunities to partner with community colleges and educational institutions to train current or prospective employees through career pathway certification programs.  Some of the manufacturing and skilled trades employers in the Portland-metro area, for example, have partnered with community colleges to create programs on-site and at the Swan Island Trades Center so that employees can be trained for specific industries, as well as for career advancement within the same company or industry.

Health Careers NW is a career-ladder program developed by partners that include WorkSource Portland- metro, the Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Employment Department, Housing Authority of Washington County, Portland Community College, Mt Hood Community College, SE Works, Central City Concern, Community Action, Human Solutions, Inc., and the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO). Approximately 20 area health care employers signed on as partners with an intent to offer industry exposure opportunities, paid work experiences, and direct hiring of program participants.

Other career pathway certification programs are available throughout the Portland Community College - Cascade Campus and the Climb Center for Advancement, as well as Mt. Hood Community College, Pioneer Pacific College and Sumner College. Examples of certification programs include career pathways specific to manufacturing, healthcare, construction, and other skilled trades, as well as technology and engineering. 

Other suggestions include:
  1. Working with community colleges to fill specific jobs through training and certification.
  2. Offering employer-based immersion and/or industry specific language programs on site and in partnership with community colleges.
  3. Offering paid training and/or tuition-reimbursement benefits for employees who successfully complete training or certification programs.

Internal Diversity Recruitment Policies

Survey and questionnaire respondents cited employer bias as a major barrier for many communities of color to securing living-wage jobs. Representatives of the communities of color noted that rarely do they see people of color representing many of the companies that participate in career fairs or during the application and interviewing process. 

Some recruiters noted their company’s successful policies include developing a diversity equity and inclusion (DE&I) plan which includes, among other things, a diversity recruitment policy, and zero tolerance policy for inequality and racism in the workplace. 

One company shared that they have a detailed affirmative action plan which reveals the company’s leadership stance and commitment to equal employment practices.  It also outlines the direct participation of executive staff in monitoring and taking responsibility for the diversity, equity and inclusion of all employees.

Another company discussed its diversity DVD featuring their African American CEO in an hour-long presentation about their business culture and diversity practices, which is shown at new-hire orientations. Diversity is a constant theme in this company, where an annual, mandatory inclusion and diversity training, which includes an exam, is provided to all employees and management.

Other businesses created diversity councils and affinity groups to help monitor and address employee wellness and workforce issues. These groups reported their success at helping to identify tensions between different genders, cultures and communities of color in the workplace. 

Other respondents noted that change only occurs after leadership buy-in and participation. They shared how their leadership had identified a “diversity advocate” or “champion” from within the leadership team to help hold management accountable.  They also noted how their companies connect their diversity policies to management’s performance evaluations to ensure that their diversity goals are met. Some tie a portion of executive compensation to the attainment of these published goals.

In addition, interview respondents recommended the following strategies to help human resource recruiters understand and accept different cultures and alleviate cultural biases:
  1. Include current employees of color in the recruitment, hiring and interviewing processes.
  2. Create an on-boarding processes that encourages current employees of color to train and mentor new employees in their own language.
  3. Engage diverse employees in the development and implementation of a diversity recruitment plan.
  4. Add the DE&I Plan and the Diversity Recruitment Policy on company websites.
  5. Advertise the DE&I Plan and Diversity Recruitment Policy in print, electronic and social media.
  6. Provide annual cultural proficiency, multiculturalism and diversity training for all staff and management.
  7. Understand that employees of color who accept leadership roles may experience a higher risk of discrimination.
  8. Provide correct translations and interpreters when possible, especially for major meetings.
  9. Include training about diversity and the corporate culture in the onboarding process.
  10. Train hiring managers on cultural competency, sensitivity to differences, and inclusion.
  11. Train all staff in conflict resolution, especially in terms of ethnicity, race, gender and religion.
  12. Ensure that the demographics of leadership reflect the demographics of the workforce.
  13. Commit to equal and fair treatment by management to set the tone for an equal working environment.

Employee Retention Strategies

Community members suggested that increased access to apprenticeships, paid internships and on-the-job training programs--as well as mentoring--would help with employee integration and retention. Prospective employees are often rejected because of the lack of recognition of credentials from foreign universities or unverifiable work experience. It was often suggested that employers use skills tests to determine job readiness.  Unions and some employers noted that often English Language Learners, people of color and, women, particularly in skilled-trades jobs, can become isolated. When this and other “employer-bias”-related issues occur, these employees do not succeed and are let go, or they quit.

One employer, who indicated that some cultural diversity exists in the company leadership, offers an extended on-boarding program where, after three months on the job, new hires are introduced to the affinity groups.  They also offer a three-day diversity training regarding inclusion and diversity for managers who are expected to reach the executive level.

Respondents recommended the following strategies be implemented to increase employee retention:
  1. Expose prospective employees to workplace culture through paid internships and apprenticeships, and on-the-job training opportunities.
  2. Enlist mentors to help integrate prospective and new employees.
  3. Offer extensive new hire orientation and include training about diversity and business culture.
  4. Offer English language classes on site or in collaboration with other industry partners.
  5. Provide tuition-reimbursement for work-related and English language classes.
  6. Develop career pathway certification programs with community colleges and other industry partners to encourage upward mobility.
  7. Provide annual cultural proficiency, multicultural or diversity training for management and employees.
  8. Create a diversity, equity and inclusion council and/or affinity groups structured around employee panels to address employee wellness and workforce issues and to provide social support for new hires.
  9. Practice zero tolerance policy for inequality and racism in the workplace
  10. Be aware of tensions that may develop between different genders and communities of color in the workplace.
  11. Be aware that accepting leadership roles may come with a higher risk of discrimination for women and people of color.
  12. Provide translations and interpreters when possible, especially for major meetings and trainings.
  13. Create on-boarding process that allows current employees of color to train new employees in their language.
Partners in Diversity is also working with human resource association and other partner organizations to disseminate these resources, including the Portland Human Resource Management Association and the Portland Business Alliance.