Company retains diverse employee through inclusion programs

9 Ways to Retain Diverse Talent

You’ve invested time and resources into making your recruitment processes more inclusive. Now, how do you make sure your diverse hires stick with you in the long run? Here are 9 things you need to do to retain diverse talent.

 1. Address unconscious bias

We all believe we are ethical, unbiased decision makers, but studies into unconscious biases—deeply ingrained stereotypes that influence our behavior —prove otherwise. 

“More than two decades of research confirm that, in reality, most of us fall woefully short of our inflated self-perception,” writes Harvard University researcher Mahzarin Banaji in Harvard Business Review.

Our unconscious biases influence how we hire, onboard, manage, and promote employees. Here are a few examples of how unconscious bias can play out in the workplace:

  • Telling a female employee that they’re pushy, bossy, aggressive, or intimidating.
  • Ignoring a colleague or forgetting to cc them in emails.
  • Consistently leaving a teammate out of bonding activities.
  • Making assumptions about a person’s role in the company.

Behaviors like these not only have a significant impact on feelings of inclusiveness, but they also create institutional barriers to growth over time.

Companies that are committed to retaining diverse talent must, therefore, address unconscious biases to ensure that they don’t impact employees.

Business can dismantle racism.

Janet Stovall

2. Be amazing at onboarding diverse employees

An often overlooked part of the recruitment life cycle, onboarding is crucial to employee retention. An employee onboarding survey of over 1000 employed US workers revealed that 31 percent of people left a job within the first six months, with 68 percent of those departing within three months. 

If the first few months of a new hire are precarious, they are even more so for minority employees. To help them feel like they’ve made a good decision accepting your job offer, you need to develop an onboarding process.

Employer helps in the process of integrating new employees to retain diverse employees
Photo by Agência Brasília. Source: Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Onboarding should be more than just the paperwork done on your new hire’s first day. Effective onboarding includes properly introducing the new employee to the rest of the team, helping them navigate their surroundings, and training them on the specific tools and processes they’ll need to do their job.

For tips on how to improve your onboarding process, check out BambooHR’s Definitive Guide to Successfully Onboarding New Employees.

3. Support the creation of communities within your organization

We’ve mentioned that having friends at work makes work life happier. In the case of underrepresented employees, it can make a world of difference to have other people like them who can help them on their journey.

Communities help new employees to be happier at work and retain multiple employees
Photo by Western Area Power. Source: Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Support your diverse hires in forging connections with like-minded people. You can do this by supporting anyone who wants to form a community based on a shared identity within your organization. Ask them how you can help, what resources they need, and how they want to promote the initiative company-wide. 

Make sure to tell new employees about these groups during the onboarding process.

4. Train managers to lead diverse teams

Managers need to understand that their behaviors impact their team members’ sense of belonging. Train them to become aware of unconscious biases and how to identify talent that may seem different. 

Encourage them to continuously assess their processes to ensure that everyone on the team gets the same opportunities—are assignments given to everyone, including those who don’t raise their hands?

Motivate managers to become more inclusive by rewarding them for retaining diverse talent.

Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.

Berna Myers

5. Make the path to growth transparent

Make sure everyone knows what opportunities are available, and what competencies are needed to get to the next level. One example of how to do this is to make your promotion criteria public. 

Additionally, assess whether there are unwritten rules of career advancement at your company. 

Assistant professor at Harvard Anthony Jackson notes in his TED Talk, “Promotion at work is dependent on relationships with superiors. It’s not just what you know or who you know but also who knows you and how well they do.” 

Make sure diverse employees understand what they need to do in order to be seen by superiors.

6. Create mentorship and sponsorship opportunities

Every employee can benefit from having someone who will help them be better at their jobs and advocate for them. Minority candidates benefit from this even more.

Many organizations have mentorship programs, some specifically targeting diverse employees for this reason.

Corporate sponsorship programs with mentors and sponsors to support diverse employees
Photo by Brian Ujiieon. Source: Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Some companies have taken the idea one step further by creating sponsorship programs – see The Warmline at Intel. While mentors are confidantes and advisors, sponsors are advocates. 

Research by the Center for Talent Innovation confirms that effective sponsorship is critical to engagement, retention, and advancement of diverse talent. To learn more, check out The Sponsor Dividend, their report on the topic.

7. Develop a formal retention plan

Companies are starting to realize the value of developing a personalized retention plan. A retention plan often involves “stay interviews” – check-in meetings with diverse employees to check that their needs are being met. Experts recommend having “stay interviews” at least twice a year.

Retention plans tend to also involve “exit interviews” – meetings with diverse employees who have opted to leave the company. Exit interviews give real, unvarnished insight into how companies can better serve underrepresented employees.

8. Stand in solidarity with diverse employees

Skye Parr, an attorney at Husch Blackwell, spoke on one of the law firm’s webinars of how recent events involving racism and police brutality have impacted black employees. 

“As a black woman, these last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for me. The senseless killing of Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have impacted me deeply and caused emotions of fear, anger, sadness, and exhaustion (…) It is important to know that this experience is not unique to me. Many black employees have similar feelings yet must continue to work as usual.”

Companies that want to retain their diverse employees must show support by acknowledging and representing diverse employees and standing with their beliefs.

black employees feel impact of recent events of racism and violence and need support at work
Photo by Christina @wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Access ain’t inclusion.

Anthony Jackson

9. Don’t just invite, include

In her TED Talk How to Get Serious About Diversity, Janet Stovall invites us to imagine a place where people of all colors and races are able to advance in their careers and feel safe in bringing their authentic selves to work every day.

To get to that place, companies must become not just diverse, but also inclusive. 

What does being inclusive mean to you? What efforts has your company made to become more inclusive?

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