Originally published in Training Magazine.
As companies look to hire more diverse talent, they must also consider how to retain employees with diverse needs. The intermediate step between attracting diverse talent and employee retention is creating an inclusive workplace. If employees do not feel included and later accepted for their differences, they will eventually leave because they do not feel a sense of belonging.
COMPANIES LEADING THE CHARGE
In the wake of 2020 protests and demonstrations, Fortune 100 companies stepped up to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Many companies not only released statements in support of movements like Black Lives Matter but also have continued the conversation by evaluating, reporting, and creating action plans to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. For example, Amazon committed to double the representation of senior black leadership at the VP and director levels, which also included promoting black employees. Amazon is also pledging $700 million to grow leaders from within. Initiatives like these are vitally important but also not the only way to have an impact. Here are five ways companies can support and grow diverse talent.
- Make inclusion a core value. Employee retention and inclusion go hand-in-hand, and the steps to create a more inclusive workplace are not grandiose. It starts with connecting with employees and being open-minded. Making an effort to listen to employees’ concerns is more than half of the equation to an inclusive workplace. Another key piece is speaking up about inclusion. Diverse talent often leaves because of a lack of inclusion and equitable treatment. When employees feel heard and understood, they will be more likely to stay at a company.
- Improve manager-employee relationship. Companies must recognize there is no one-size-fits-all management style. Rather, organizations should teach managers how to build personalized support for direct reports as well as help them to become effective talent coaches to employees. At times, there is a disconnect between diverse talent and hiring managers, who do not have the experience working with underrepresented groups. Improving manager awareness of underrepresented groups and employees can help mitigate bias in the hiring cycle and help build manager awareness of employee experience.
- Create networking opportunities. While showing a new employee the ropes is pretty standard, it is important to help diverse talent acclimate the first few months. It is not only important for companies to help diverse employees navigate their organization but also help them network. By not exposing diverse talent to networks (such as employee resource groups) and mentors, the employee might not achieve optimal success within the organization.
- Invest in mentorship. In CNBC and SurveyMonkey’s 2019 “Workplace Happiness Survey”, results found that nine in 10 workers who had a mentor said they were happy in their jobs. Mentorship programs are key for employee development, retention, and satisfaction. A mentor can also help create a clear career path for diverse talent within an organization.
- Reevaluate policies and procedures. Change starts from the top. Leaders of organizations must be invested in growing diverse talent and creating inclusive workplaces in order for there to be change. Before acting, companies should first evaluate their policies and procedures. Then, companies should reshape their practices with an anti-racist approach. Engaging employee resource groups and diverse employees to have a conversation and create an action plan is a great place for companies to begin.
MAKING AN IMPACT NOW AND BEYOND
While the road to a more inclusive workplace might seem long and, at times, hard to navigate, companies do not have to undergo this journey alone. No matter what background, all employees want the same things: to be understood, accepted, and appreciated.
To better understand diverse employees, companies should solicit feedback through surveys, assessments, and even focus groups. Barrier Analysis and research will also help companies unpack obstacles to inclusion. To foster a culture of acceptance, companies should set inclusion targets and communicate those things openly for discussion and alteration. Taking it a step further, companies must train their leaders on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and hold them accountable as metrics of success.
Finally, executive sponsorship of employee groups and support of learning and development opportunities for diverse talent is foundational. Investing in the growth and development of diverse talent is not only good for employee growth but also for the growth and development of the organization.