Recruiting for Diversity

by Andrew Rand and Judge Paul Gilfillan

Not only is it the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

Peoria County's Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) provides a high-quality service to the youth it serves in a secure, rehabilitating environment. The facility brings together all the components necessary to serve the needs of the juvenile population, including education; mental, medical and dental health assistance; and faith-based services.

In order to achieve this, the JDC is dependent on the quality and skill level of its employees. In 2015, we recognized we needed to increase the diversity of our employees to better match the diverse population we serve. We needed to broaden the range of perspectives, knowledge and approaches from which decisions are made.

In an effort to attract, hire and retain a more robust and diverse workforce, Court Services established a committee dedicated to increasing diversity within its three departments: Juvenile Detention Center, Adult Probation and Juvenile Probation. The committee quickly employed strategies to achieve these goals, with these six short-term objectives:

  1. Understanding what constitutes diversity;
  2. Evaluating the diversity of our current employees;
  3. Recognizing organizational strengths;
  4. Determining how to build on those strengths;
  5. Recognizing diversity challenges; and
  6. Determining how to address those challenges.

To date, the committee’s accomplishments include:

  • Establishment of a network of diverse professional organizations in an effort to develop partnerships to engage community stakeholders;
  • Development of a comprehensive list of contacts with universities to promote Peoria County employment;
  • Attendance at several university job fairs in an effort to network for diversity;
  • Review of our interview and hiring process to recognize conscious and unconscious biases;
  • Standardization of the pre-employment assessment tool implemented for all new hires;
  • Formalization of a new hire training program;
  • Completion of job satisfaction surveys;
  • Examination of ways to improve cultural awareness in the workplace; and
  • Exploration of ways to create and maintain a more inclusive work environment.

Since fully embracing these changes, the JDC has seen significantly more applicants from diverse backgrounds. In fact, during the last six months of 2016, 50 percent of our new hires were minority candidates. By contrast, in 2014 during the same period, only 24 percent of our new hires were minority candidates. By making diversity recruitment deliberate, our long-term goal is to attract, hire and retain employees who might not have otherwise been interested.

We recognize that we can make a difference in organizational effectiveness while providing improved and more culturally appropriate services. Not only is diversity recruitment the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. iBi

Andrew Rand is chairman of the Peoria County Board. Judge Paul P. Gilfillan is Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit.

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