In an age of economic globalization, businesses are striving to achieve workforce diversity and inclusion by employing individuals from different backgrounds to provide both tangible and intangible benefits to the organization, but few are succeeding at diversity retention.
Understanding the advantages of workforce diversity helps organizations establish a competitive edge. Numerous studies have concluded that companies with diverse teams are more profitable, productive, creative and innovative.
- Companies that employ people who represent diverse populations and points of view are better equipped to compete on the world stage.
- When everyone acts and thinks alike, they’re more likely to have the same approaches to products, distribution, management and sales. However, when people approach problems and challenges from varied perspectives, they are able to uncover more creative solutions. In addition, research suggests that diversity increases innovation and improves market growth.
- Workplace diversity improves employee morale, and in return employees tend to work more effectively and efficiently. Diversity amongst leadership within a business allows managers to bring in new skills and methods for achieving unity within their teams.
Diversity has become a top priority for recruitment and talent acquisition. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 57% of recruiters say their talent acquisition strategies are designed to attract diverse candidates. Diversity recruitment is futile if long-term business strategies are not committed to creating an inclusive corporate culture and a formalized program to retain these coveted employees. In order to truly succeed in today’s business climate, companies need to take a closer look at diversity retention, because high levels of diversity-related turnover are affecting their bottom-line.
Employing a diverse workforce has many advantages but it’s not without challenges. A company that recruits and employs diverse employees must foster an inclusive culture that promotes dignity and respect. Old ways of thinking and entrenched prejudices may incumber efforts and create tension amongst employees. Since diverse new hires come from varying backgrounds, it may be more difficult for them to assimilate. Further complicating matters is that a majority of businesses lack a diversity on-boarding program to assist with that transition.
Generally, there is support available to managers when it comes to diversity recruiting; however, there are very few resources for how to manage and retain diverse employees. As a result, managers of diverse employees may not fully understand their unique needs and expectations, and without some form of personalized management, diverse employees may not reach their full potential, making them more likely to leave the company.
Ultimately, diversity turnover has the potential to directly damage organizational effectiveness (potentially causing diverse/non-diverse employees to leave), reduce innovation, and hurt the company’s brand (and future recruiting efforts!).
Formalize Diversity Programs
When it comes to diversity recruitment or retention, many leaders are unsure how to begin. As a result, they are also understandably hesitant at the outset, particularly if it means having to convince senior leaders to effect change. While every company’s solution will be unique – based on the specific needs of their diverse new hires and employees – it’s wise to first take an assessment of corporate policies and culture through candid engagement with the entire team. In addition to helping leadership set longer-term goals, the feedback often magnifies obvious areas for immediate improvements, generating priceless early momentum. Leaders who skip this step, or fail to extend the conversation beyond a handful of specific constituencies within their teams, remain vulnerable to the same group-think and blind spots they hope to cure.
Suggestions to improve diversity retention:
- The most crucial step to successful diversity retention is to formalize the program, complete with a staff, budget and results metrics. Only then will you be able to adequately plan, track and measure its progress and effectiveness. A great starting point is to benchmark diversity turnover. Once calculated, it allows leadership to showcase the value of diversity hiring and retention and strengthens the business case for formalized programs.
- Effective onboarding is also critical, since 90 percent of employees make the decision to stay at a company within the first six months. Onboarding processes that are not data driven are not as effective. Data collection is essential to the advancement of diversity retention, and should include periodically surveying your new diversity hires (and employees) to identify their issues, as well as “what is working” that keeps them at the company. In addition, diverse employees require tailored approaches to onboarding.
- Training, training and more training. One day of inclusivity training sessions won’t get companies anywhere. Teams who are serious about shifting their cultures and retaining diverse employees must understand that meaningful transformations require ongoing, committed action. Further, as with any change to corporate policy, driving team buy-in requires companies to demonstrate how those changes will positively affect all employees. While that may be a daunting prospect, the upside is that as progress is made, sustaining gains is much easier than effecting the initial shift.
Companies that cannot have an in-house executive or team devoted to diversity, inclusion and retention can benefit from working with outside experts and trainers to create a program specific to their needs, as well as receive ongoing counseling.
Retaining a new diversity hire takes intentional actions – a formalized diversity program, on-going training and often a culture shift. This may seem like a daunting task and one more program for your busy organization to execute, however, the time and the effort you put into your successful diversity program will help retain your talent, increase your revenue and support your company’s growth initiatives, having a long-term positive effect. We should never think of diversity without inclusion, in the same way that we should never think of recruitment without retention.
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