Recruiting Strategy – Optimizing for Complexity (3 of 4) – Achieving Gender Parity

Recruiting Strategy – Optimizing for Complexity (3 of 4) – Achieving Gender Parity

Welcome back! As we discussed in our first post, we’re breaking down the three corners of the recruiting Trade off Triangle (ToT) and provide real-world examples of companies who have won by making intentional trade offs.

In this installment we’re going to talk about Complexity.

Complexity encompasses considerations such as high-volume, niche skill sets, diversity initiatives, geography, language skills, security clearance, etc. For most companies, these variables will become a reality at some point and many aren’t proactive when it comes to adapting their recruiting practices to account for them. Read on to learn how Luum made diversity a priority and has made huge strides in gender parity.

Luum – Engineering Gender Parity in <90 Days

Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in every industry these days and, at times, scary topics for many business owners. Everyone wants to create an inclusive environment but where do you begin? How do you avoid the possible pitfalls, or ostensible snares, along the way?  

Luum is an up-and-coming bootstrapped startup in the Seattle area. Small but mighty, they were around 23 employees when we started working with them. While gender diversity was strong across the broader company, they wanted to increase gender diversity on their engineering team now –while they were small– so team growth continued in that direction as they continued to scale. They believed in laying the foundation for this diversity would strengthen their resolve moving forward and speak to the core values of Luum.

The nature of Luum’s business makes this foundation an imperative. They are completely redefining an industry – the employer commute benefit. This seemingly benign perk –when applied the Luum way– changes a company’s culture in addition to strengthening its ability to attract and retain talent. Diverse experiences, perspectives, thinking for oneself, are what enable Luum to listen to the market, the customer, and each other – to adapt to this uncertain future.

What is diversity and inclusion?

  • Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs. In recruiting, diversity refers to demographic representation across your employee population and candidate pipeline (as they identify with the differences outlined above).  
  • Inclusion in the workplace means creating an environment where people feel safe and accepted regardless of, and, in a perfect world BECAUSE OF those differences. Let’s be clear about one thing – you won’t have diversity across your employee population if you don’t have an inclusive environment.
  • You can have diversity, but without an inclusive environment, you are unlikely to retain employees from underrepresented minorities.  

Now that we’re on the same page, I’ll wax poetic about startups and diversity, because when you need people, you need people!  

There are many business cases to be made for focusing on building a company with better representation across typically underrepresented groups. Despite these business cases, it’s a tough decision for a startup to willingly choose to complicate their search when they are DYING for talent.  

Why is recruiting for underrepresented minorities difficult?   

  • Underrepresented minorities are underrepresented for a reason. Historically, they haven’t had the same opportunities as others, due to a myriad of reasons, including but not limited to: social injustice and pressure as well as socioeconomic status. So it’s a smaller pool of talent than the majority or more broadly represented groups in the workplace.  
  • Due to the above mentioned point, these candidates don’t always fall into the traditional profiles companies are looking for. While there’s been an increase in representation of underrepresented minorities in prestigious schools and degree programs in the last 10 years, these candidates are still earlier in their career or have come to the industry through less-traditional means. Many startups don’t have the senior bench strength to mentor junior employees or employees with less traditional backgrounds.
  • In addition to the fact that it’s a smaller pool of talent in general, historically it has not been wise or socially acceptable to identify with certain underrepresented groups publicly. While it’s becoming more acceptable to identify and celebrate differences, most people still aren’t including those items on Linkedin or their resume. So even if you figure out how to FIND prospects and candidates from underrepresented groups, it’s an even smaller population of these already reduced talent pools.  

So, if you thought finding good engineers was like a needle in a haystack, finding candidates from underrepresented groups is like looking for a grain of salt on a beach.  

Now, let’s get back to our friends at Luum.

In an effort to increase representation across their engineering team, Luum committed to searching for candidates from underrepresented groups to invite into their pipeline, in addition to candidates who were applying on their website and referred by employees.  Two things to note:

  1. This did not mean reverse discrimination. No qualified candidates were rejected because they didn’t identify with an underrepresented minority. It meant going the extra mile to find candidates from underrepresented groups to invite them into their interview process.  
  2. This did not mean lowering their hiring bar. All candidates were held to the same standards to reach the offer stage.

Leadership at Luum were prepared for this to complicate the search––and possibly take longer to fill these roles. A sourcer/researcher was engaged to focus their research on potential candidates who self-identified as belonging to an underrepresented minority (through many means, including affiliation with different universities and professional societies and associations, meetups, conferences, etc. that were for these underrepresented groups). It’s important to note that no was was making assumptions or judgement calls on how these potential candidates identified – our researcher only searched for candidates who self-identified.

Just over two months later, Luum increased gender diversity on their engineering team by 20%. Now men and women are equally represented, 50/50. 

Now, let’s revisit a statement I made earlier: Without an inclusive environment, companies aren’t likely to retain a diverse workforce. Companies must lay the foundation for inclusion through benefits and policies that allow people from all walks of life to feel welcome, respected, and celebrated. In addition to benefits and policies, companies must have a culture built on mutual respect.

Luum strives to create this foundation through comprehensive medical benefits and generous flexibility/leave policies equal to those of companies 100x their size, and a respectful and welcoming, respectful environment which allows for people from all walks of life to come and do their best work there.  

The fourth and final installment of the this series will cover Time and how companies are hiring the right people when they need them to reach their goals.

If you’d like to learn more about Flywheel Talent Strategy, visit us at or send us a message.

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