Retaining diverse talent is one of the greatest challenges facing the workforce today.
The compounding effects of The Great Reshuffling and growing emphases on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mean workplaces need to take extra care to not only hire with diversity in mind, but also to cultivate the diverse leadership within their ranks. Retaining diverse talent is bigger than building an inclusive workplace culture; it’s also just plain smart. Diversity and employee retention can ensure the stability and success of your company by reducing turnover.
From the C-suite to the boardroom, it’s crucial leaders focus on attracting, selecting, developing, and retaining diverse employees. Ready to get started? These five strategies will offer a blueprint for effectively retaining diverse employees.
Retaining diverse talent strategy No. 1: Know the numbers
Data is crucial. Analyzing the state of diversity within your organization right now will help you see the big picture, where your company’s biggest wins and pain points are. Basically, if your organization is not retaining diverse employees, you need to find out why. This information will help you craft a targeted strategy for diversity and employee retention.
According to a paper from Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School (ILR School), useful data can be sourced from exit interviews, post-exit surveys, employee focus groups, turnover studies, and qualitative studies.
Questions to ask employees include:
- Where would you like to see more diversity in this organization?
- Do you have access to tools you need to grow as a professional?
- Do you feel as though your opinions are valued?
For more question ideas, see our suggestions on 6 questions to ask about DEI.
In addition to capturing general data points about employee satisfaction as it relates to diversity, customized employee surveys should be used to help “find out whether the company’s value proposition is compelling enough around things most meaningful to those in these [underrepresented] groups,” per the ILR School.
Remember, this initial step is about gathering as much information as possible, including answering the big picture question of whether your organization’s diversity efforts and messaging are meaningful to all employees.
Retaining diverse talent strategy No. 2: Start with recruitment
In many ways, much of executive recruitment is about setting expectations. Executive candidates are highlighting what they can achieve in the C-suite or the boardroom, and hiring companies are defining what they’re looking for and what the job itself will be like. It’s this last part that may be one of the most under-looked aspects of retaining diverse talent for the long haul. More specifically, accuracy and transparency in the recruitment process is a boon to diversity and employee retention.
“Multiple studies prove that presenting applicants with a realistic job preview (RJP) during the recruitment process has a positive effect on retention of the new hires,” according to the Cornell paper. Being forthcoming about a role, from its positive attributes to the potential challenges, “[helps] new employees easily adjust and assimilate into the workplace.”
Retaining diverse talent strategy No. 3: Onboard with intention
Hiring a diverse candidate is just the beginning. It’s what happens once they’re actually on the job that is critical to retaining diverse talent.
Did you know that most onboarding processes are too short? According to the Society for Human Resource Management, most onboarding processes are treated like orientations rather than a true onboarding experience. Ideally, onboarding is “a comprehensive process involving management and other employees” that lasts up to 12 months, per the SHRM.
“When onboarding is done well, however, it lays a foundation for long-term success for the employee and the employer,” according to the SHRM. “It can improve productivity, build loyalty and engagement, and help employees become successful early in their careers with the new organization.”
The SHRM outlines five components that make for a robust onboarding process: preboarding, orientation, foundation building, mentoring and buddy systems, and reboarding.
Onboarding is even more pivotal when it comes to underrepresented employees, as it can contribute to a more inclusive workplace. At Purdue University’s Dismantling Bias Conference series, researchers emphasized that the “increase of underrepresented (URM) minorities in the workplace magnifies the need for socialization, which is defined as ‘the process by which newcomers make the transition from being organizational outsiders to being insiders.’”
“Empirical studies suggest that URM newcomers are less likely to be included in others’ formal or informal networks and may continue to be viewed as outsiders by supervisors and peers,” according to the research, “From Outsiders to Insiders: Understanding the Socialization Process of Underrepresented Minorities.” Per this study, structured and formalized socialization can be a game-changing way to help underrepresented employees connect and become a part of their new team.
Retaining diverse talent strategy No. 4: Cultivate and promote diverse talent
Attracting, selecting, developing, and retaining diverse employees is truly a full spectrum process. So, what do you do once you’ve hired and fully onboarded an employee? Ensure they have the tools they need to grow and thrive in the workplace. This will ensure their job satisfaction, and it serves as an investment in your organization’s future leadership.
Fortune.com suggests two simple practices that can help ensure underrepresented employees are not left out from potential growth opportunities: engaging equitably and giving equitable feedback.
“Without serendipitous watercooler meetings, managers have to be intentional about having conversations with their entire team to get a feel for how they’re doing personally and professionally,” according to the November 2021 article. “Make a point (and a plan) to check in with all direct reports—not just the ones with whom you have an easy rapport.”
Next is offering equitable feedback. “Compared with men, women receive one-third as much feedback linked to actual business outcomes,” according to Fortune.com, citing data from Stanford’s Clayman Institute. In Fortune’s survey on the Black Professionals experience, they found “lack of recognition of work was the number two reason given for African Americans wanting to change jobs.”
Equitable feedback is important for professional development, and the connections and mentorship that happens in the process can help underrepresented professionals and executives advance their careers.
Retaining diverse talent strategy No. 5: Routinely take stock of leadership
Culture changes happen at the top, and taking the time to reassess how your organization’s leadership engages with DEI can help in retaining diverse talent.
The University of Nebraska Omaha defines inclusive leaders as “leaders who exhibit openness, accessibility and availability in their interactions with followers.”
According to their research on inclusive leadership and creativity, some ways leaders can mobilize employees include:
- Modeling creativity and innovation themselves
- Providing resources for work and creative endeavors
- Invigorating and energizing employees
- Providing relational support
- Shaping the climate of the team or organization
Today’s leaders can serve as models of diversity, equity, and inclusion and encourage their colleagues and employees to do the same. They can provide resources and support that advance these principles for all employees. In all, leaders play a pivotal role in shaping the climate of any workplace.
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