Today, diversity of talent has become a major commitment of many companies. Here is how to attract and keep qualified minority candidates in your business.
By Susan Medina and Peter Gomez
Google, Facebook, and Twitter’s public announcements about their commitment to building a more diverse workforce have been widely covered by the media, and many other companies are sure to follow suit by evaluating their minority representation and taking action to improve their employee diversity.
Though the demand for diverse talent will increase, there’s still a relatively small pool of qualified minority candidates: most studies confirm that 90% of senior level positions are held by a Caucasian and 80% of mid levels are held by a Caucasian. This means that diverse talent is at a premium, and high-performing diverse employees are at risk for being poached away, particularly at these mid and senior levels. To combat poaching and retain talented employees, diversity initiatives must extend beyond the recruitment process. It’s absolutely critical that employers follow these best practices to improve retention:
Create a Culture of Inclusion
To create sustained diversity through long-term retention of diverse talent, especially at the mid and senior levels, companies must foster a culture of inclusion that is supported by a set of practices, policies, and programs to engage employees and make them feel that diverse perspectives and experiences are valued, understood and appreciated.
- Establish formal practices and policies. By formalizing diversity commitments in official practices and policies, companies will institutionalize a culture of inclusion with clear expectations and goals. The official policy should touch on recruitment and selection, compensation and benefits, professional development and training, promotions and transfer, and social and recreational programs.
- Make significant investments in minority communities. Growing a company’s capacity to engage diverse communities requires starting a conversation with those communities well before the hiring process. Companies need to actively reach out to the communities from which they hope to recruit employees. Companies may want to think about setting up a partnership with local service organizations or nonprofits, universities, community colleges, and trade schools, or even offering internships or scholarships. Partnerships like these enhance awareness of an employer with target audiences and show existing employees that a commitment to diversity goes beyond lip service.
Commit to Diverse Leadership and Work with Diverse Partners.
Companies that have demonstrated progress in their employee diversity have credited strong leaders with their success, in large part due to their identification of diversity as a top priority, their commitment of financial and operational resources to diversity, and their relationships with suppliers from historically underrepresented communities.
- Create a diverse board of directors and c-suite. How likely is an employee to consider a long career at a company if he or she doesn’t see anyone like himself or herself in a leadership position? It’s imperative to have minorities represented on a company’s board of directors and among its ranks of senior executives as a visible symbol of commitment to diversity at the highest levels. And it’s important to have leaders from diverse backgrounds drive the company’s initiatives to enhance diversity.
- Establish a diverse set of decision makers. Diversity in roles with policy-setting responsibilities and staff members with significant budgetary control and responsibilities go a long way in demonstrating a company’s true commitment to diversity of experiences and perspectives. It underscores to employees that people just like them are trusted with and can effect change in their organization
- Prioritize diversity in procurement policies and suppliers. A measurable commitment to diversity is expressed in meaningful business opportunities to minority-owned businesses. Who the company chooses to do business with reflects the corporate commitment to inclusion.
Help Mid-level Employees See Their Way Forward.
If an employee cannot see their career path within the company or easily identify an opportunity to advance, he or she is less likely to stay for the long haul. Establishing professional development and inclusive leadership training programs can help diverse employees see their future within an organization.
Employers must also establish clear career paths and help mid-level employees see the company as a place to grow, not a stepping-stone to something bigger and better. Having diversity represented on the board of directors and among senior executives is key to illustrating that upward mobility is indeed possible.
Create Mentorship Programs Between C-level and Mid-level Talent.
Employee mentorship programs—essentially linking people with similar backgrounds from all levels of a company—provides an opportunity for networking, mentoring, and socializing. Such programs can increase employee retention by demonstrating that people like themselves are not only finding success within their company but that there are people willing to help them succeed as well.
Mentorship programs between senior executives and mid-level talent are also an effective way to prepare diverse talent for future leadership roles, investing in their growth and increasing the chances of retaining them.
Tie Executive Compensation to Diversity Goals.
By incorporating diversity goals into compensation mechanisms, companies emphasize that their leaders have a vested interest in driving diversity initiatives. A number of organizations are incorporating this tactic. (Sodexo, for example, ties 25% of top executives’ bonuses and up to 15% of senior management’s bonuses to diversity goals.)
Connecting diversity goals to compensation – and making employees of all levels aware of the strategy – also helps junior and mid-level diverse talent see that the company is deeply invested in enhancing diversity.
Without a focused effort on retention of employees from diverse backgrounds at mid and senior levels, companies are at risk of becoming a revolving door for entry-level talent, with plenty of diversity in their junior ranks but with little at the mid and senior level. Diversity attracts diversity, so a concerted effort to retain diverse talent will perpetuate diversity and help employees see the appeal of remaining in a diverse community, despite attractive offers from competitors.
Susan Medina and Peter Gomez lead the Diversity Practice at Battalia Winston, a leading executive search firm. Their unique practice represents both a broad range of industry and functional expertise. They have most recently helped organizations such as W.W. Grainger, Baxter, Coca-Cola, and Whirlpool. Collectively, their team has over 30 years of experience helping clients build and retain diverse leadership teams.