Diversity is an important factor in your hiring process. There are plenty of tried and true methods for recruiting top quality employees of all different backgrounds. But the question is, how do you get them to stay? Is there a high rate of turnover among your diverse talent? How do you maintain a high quality, diverse workforce over time?
A Vicious Circle
A survey of companies in the Twin Cities found that a lot of employers were having trouble retaining people of color in their workforce. 16% of diverse employees overall and 22% of those under 30 expressed a desire to leave the area within the next five years.
There may be a number of reasons that make Minnesota less than appealing as a place to work, but the main reason cited was the lack of diversity in the area. So essentially, diverse employees don’t want to stay in the Twin Cities because there aren’t enough diverse employees. This leads to a vicious circle which continues to make employee retention difficult going forward. How do you break the cycle?
But of course, the problem goes deeper than that, and the underlying issue also lends itself to a solution. It’s not just a lack of diverse faces that drives people of color away, but a general lack of inclusion and cultural awareness.
The lack of diversity can make existing diverse employees feel alone and isolated. Many employees found their coworkers closed off and insular, making it difficult to connect with them in any meaningful way. Even if you’re not actively being made to feel unwelcome, when your working environment has a passive feeling of exclusivity, it’s easy to start thinking about seeking more inclusionary conditions elsewhere.
Furthermore, though many companies did exhibit diversity, far fewer people of color were found to occupy leadership positions. This could partly account for the insular nature of existing employees. When the lack of cultural awareness is coming from management, it can make connections even more difficult. Additionally, it could indicate a lack of advancement opportunities for employees of color.
Diversity vs. Inclusion
So how can you fix the diversity problem in your company when it comes to employee retention? The first step is not to think of it in terms of filling a quota, but instead looking with an eye towards actual inclusion. That means making sure there are top notch employees of color at every level of management, and that your diverse workers have real advancement opportunities. For your entry level employees, provide mentors who can help them map out a career path and help them on the road to success.
Encourage connection between employees of all different cultures and backgrounds. You can even hold events that encourage an understanding and appreciation for all different cultures. And make sure that the recognition of those cultural differences doesn’t stop with those events.
For instance, remember that not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Everyone gets off for Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter, but do Jewish employees get off for Yom Kippur? Do Muslim employees get off for Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, which are celebrated during Ramadan? Or do they have to cut into their vacation time to observe those days?
Cultural awareness and inclusion are an ongoing process, and an important part of retaining diverse talent. Simply having people of different colors in your organization is not enough. You need to make sure they feel like they’re truly a part of the family. Take an active interest in your employees, their wellbeing, and their inclusion in your company, no matter their color or creed. By doing that, you’ll be on the road to maintaining truly lasting diverse workforce.