6 Tips from T-Mobile for Building a More Diverse & Inclusive Workforce

April 30th, 2019
Jon-Mark Sabel
Diversity & Inclusion
t-mobile diversity & inclusion

Despite years of focus, training, and strategic sourcing, many organizations continue to struggle with diversity and inclusion.

With over 60% of employees self-identifying as minorities, T-Mobile has one of the most active and effective Diversity & Inclusion programs in America. In 2018, they were named a “Best-of-the-Best” company for diversity and inclusion by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce and National Business Inclusion Consortium.

At HireVue Horizon, T-Mobile’s Senior Manager of Military & Diversity Sourcing, Donna Wright, explored how they approach D&I and put together highly effective diversity recruiting programs.

T-Mobile's Donna Wright on the importance of bringing "the whole self" to work.

Take Risks on Candidates

“Top talent can come from anywhere” is a common mantra in recruiting. But surprisingly few organizations put this knowledge into practice. Legacy sources of quality candidates are seen as “safe” and “less risky.”

This mindset can be detrimental if your goal is to build a diverse & inclusive workplace.

At T-Mobile, they flipped this traditional mindset around. Where other teams might see risk, they see value. Non-traditional employees and career trajectories look at things differently, and offer new perspectives on established processes. This is one of the reasons T-Mobile boasts an 85% internal promotion rate: they see value in non-traditional employees doing high level work.

When you consider candidates beyond conventional university programs, fields of study, work experiences, and educational attainment, you naturally widen the aperture for candidates of different backgrounds. An inclusive hiring process dramatically increases a recruiting team’s ability to build a more inclusive workplace.

Empower Vets to Translate their Service

Veterans don’t typically consider themselves a “diverse” population. But entering the civilian workforce often comes with its own set of challenges, and employers are uniquely positioned to step up and help vets with the transition.

See the approaches T-Mobile takes to make the civilian workforce more accessible to veterans:

Senior Manager of Military & Diversity Sourcing, Donna Wright, explains how T-Mobile plans to hire 10k veterans in the next five years.

Benchmark Your Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Another recommendation Donna makes is to participate in the Disability Equality Index. She explains:

“If your companies are not participating in this index, I encourage you to do it. Even if you don’t know where you’re going to land on it, it’s a good measure of where you are, what work you might have to do or want to do to make your workplace better - it’s just a wonderful place to learn about those resources as well.”

Bust Myths Around “Disabilities” with Hiring Managers

Accessibility is a topic that makes many hiring managers nervous. Most of their worries are unwarranted - things like wheelchair access, or “saying something wrong.”

Donna’s approach involves taking a “mini tour” through the office with the program manager on her team who leads how they attract individuals with disabilities. The program manager - a woman with rheumatoid arthritis and avid powerlifter - shares her story, and her experiences working with a disability. They explain that most disabilities are invisible, and explore how T-Mobile’s recruiting teams navigate the workplace accommodation process.

It’s easy for hiring managers to fall into a “what if” mindset when they only think about disability in the abstract. When you make disability concrete, human, and personal, the conversation changes. Most hiring managers at T-Mobile are surprised to learn that their powerlifting Senior Program Manager has a disability.

Turns out, they’ve seen first-hand the value a team member with a disability has to offer. The hesitation and worry begins to dissolve.

Partner with High-Impact Diversity Programs

Partnerships are a critical part of casting a wider net and uncovering candidates from more diverse backgrounds. Donna named some of T-Mobile’s highest-impact partners for sourcing underrepresented talent:

  1. Opportunity Youth. The Opportunity Youth Movement identifies at-risk 16-24 year olds who are not in school and not working, and connects them to relevant openings in your organization.
  2. FourBlock. FourBlock connects officer-level veterans with relevant opportunities. They offer a “Trek” program which allows candidates to work at 12 different organizations over 12 different weeks.
  3. reacHIRE. reacHIRE offers returnship programs to women who have gaps in employment, and connects them to relevant openings.

Mirror Employee Resource Groups in Your Recruiting Teams

If you’re building a distinct diversity recruiting function, you don’t need to start from scratch.

At T-Mobile, 23,000 of their 50,000 employees participate in at least one of their employee network groups. So when building out their diversity recruiting team, they looked at their six existing groups:

  • Women in Leadership & Tech
  • Military
  • Multicultural
  • Multigenerational
  • Access for Disabilities

Your existing Employee Network Groups (also called Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs) offer an existing, engaged community to build your programs on. Each of T-Mobile’s three strategic diversity recruiting leaders oversees two of the six focus areas.

A Continuous Journey

Most of these approaches are not easy. They require significant time, thought, and investment, and the willingness to rethink conventional approaches.

Watch how other organizations are rethinking TA to cast a wider net and uncover better candidates, faster.