The Department of Human Services (DHS) is the largest state agency and Lauren Hunter is working to insure it is the state’s most diverse employer as well.
Hunter, who has been with DHS since 2015, took over as the agency’s director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion this past January. In her role Hunter oversees the agency’s diversity recruitment, retention and engagement strategy. Hunter said the workforce at DHS needs to reflect the diversity of the people it serves. She said her work at DHS is of a greater purpose than just working a job and securing a paycheck.
“I had been in the private sector as a corporate recruiter (prior to DHS), but I really wanted to do something impactful and meaningful; that’s what led me to state government and DHS,” said Hunter.
DHS is indeed one of the most impactful agencies in Minnesota. The agency is responsible for providing healthcare coverage to the state’s low-income residents, handles issues of child and senior protection and support, provides services to those with physical and mental disabilities, and offers support for those battling chemical dependencies.
Following the direction of Gov. Mark Dayton to diversity all state agencies, Hunter said DHS is on the right track.
“Since 2011 DHS has vastly increased the number of women, people of color and those with disabilities,” said Hunter. “We’ve hired 25 percent people of color, which exceeds the 20 percent goal set by the governor, and our 7 percent hiring of those with disabilities meets the mandated goal.”
Hunter said she has been using a variety of methods to recruit diverse talent to DHS.
“We’re on college campuses building a pipeline from schools to DHS; we’re building partnerships with a variety of community organization,” said Hunter. “And beyond recruiting, we want to retain and build avenues where DHS management has a diverse reflection of the population as well.”
According to Hunter, the efforts to diversify are not going unnoticed.
“When I first started at DHS and was out in the community I’d hear people say the people working with them from DHS lacked diversity,” said Hunter. “For example, people of the Somali community said they didn’t see anyone from their community out working in the field, so a couple of years ago we set up a booth sharing job opportunities at a Somali festival. Community members remarked how this was the first time that DHS showed intention (in reaching out directly).”
Prior to joining DHS, Hunter worked in talent acquisition for a variety of industries, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare and nonprofit.
An Indiana native, Hunter earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Indiana University and an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University. The member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is also a certified diversity professional through the Institute for Diversity Certification (IDC). She serves on the board of directors for Face to Face in St. Paul and is an executive committee member of the Twin Cities Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable.