Henry Ford Health System, a five-hospital system in the Detroit area, routinely earns one of the top spots on DiversityInc.’s Top 12 Hospitals and Health Systems, an annual ranking of health care organizations that are committed to diversity. To make the cut, the 30,000-employee system is continually working to improve its talent pipeline, talent development practices, supplier diversity and other things essential to an inclusive culture.

Two years ago, HFHS created an executive diversity recruitment committee that reviews the applicant pool for all executive-level positions and approves all hiring offers before they are made.

The committee is responsible for meeting goals, established each year by the HFHS board of trustees, to ensure that the value of diversity factors into hiring decisions.

Because the committee must approve every senior-level hiring decision — and it has its eyes on the annual goal for the entire organization — the priority of diversity is part of the recruitment, interviewing and hiring process for those openings.

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The board sets the organization’s diversity-related goals, monitors metrics to ensure that the goals are being achieved and holds leaders accountable. Diversity-related goals are tied to the senior leadership bonus program, which accounts for 10 percent of senior leaders' pay.

The committee monitors the hiring process — and approves hiring decisions — for all positions at the director level and above, in addition to a few high-level manager positions.

The board sets annual senior leadership hiring goals that reflect the availability of diverse candidates.

The human resources staff use U.S. Census data to calculate the "availability" of diverse candidates for senior-level positions. Availability is an HR term that means the percentage of individuals in certain job classifications within a given recruitment area who are racial/ethnic minorities, women, disabled or veterans. For example, if 33 percent of all chief financial officers in the recruitment area are women, that indicates 33 percent “availability” of female candidates for chief financial officer positions.

To avoid the possibility of bias when reviewing applications, the HR recruiters who screen applications do not have access to demographic information such as race/ethnicity, gender and veteran status that applicants provide on their applications.

However, the system's Office of Workforce Diversity does have access to that information. For each senior-level opening, the recruiter submits the names of all qualified applicants to that office, which reviews the applicant pool to see if it meets the availability, as determined in the goal-setting step.

If the applicant pool does not meet availability, the recruiter is notified that more work is needed.

It is essential that all applicants included in the pool are “similarly situated,” meaning that their qualifications make them viable candidates.

“The object is to have our applicant pool where everyone has pretty much the same qualifications,” says Jan Harrington-Davis, system director for employee and labor relations, workforce diversity and employee compliance.

When an applicant pool meets availability, Harrington-Davis calls a meeting of the executive diversity recruitment committee to review the pool. That allows committee members to know the range of diversity that the hiring manager will see.

“From there, the manager can go ahead with the interviewing stage,” she says. “Then, at the time of the offer, the executive committee has a call to talk about the offer. It’s there that the offer gets approved or is not approved, meaning we need to go back for more outreach.”

In Harrington-Davis’ view, the executive diversity recruitment committee has an impact on the HFHS organization that is more important than increasing the diversity of the senior leadership team.

If a diverse applicant pool includes equally qualified candidates and the hiring manager wants to offer the job to a white male, the committee needs to discuss why.

“When you have your top HR executives throughout the organization having a dialogue about who brings what to the table and what will benefit the organization the most, that’s the richest experience,” Harrington-Davis says. “It’s far bigger than the numbers.”

Lola Butcher is a contributing writer to Trustee.