10 Tips for Retaining a Diverse Workforce
Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace can help everyone feel valued for their unique contributions. Taking steps to become more inclusive may mean addressing outdated policies and committing to real support for diversity and inclusion within the workplace. Inclusion in the workplace should be an organizational effort, practiced by every employee and leader, that aims to make groups and individuals of culturally, socially, and physically different people feel comfortable, accepted, and equally treated in the workplace.
Here are ten strategies to help you retain a diverse workforce.
Fight Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, is reflected in the way we make decisions focused on individual perspectives and learned stereotypes. Allowing these assumptions to affect management decisions, such as failing to assign a mother of young children to a project that may involve overtime, is just one example of how an employee's career potential may be affected.
The best way to fight unconscious bias in the workplace is to acknowledge that it exists. Others around you may be experiencing microaggressions or even outright hostile behavior that you aren't aware of, because you have not experienced similar situations in your career. When companies are working toward maintaining diversity within their workforce, they should be open to learning about unconscious bias and finding ways to bring it to everyone's attention so that all employees can experience a safe and supportive work environment.
Clarity is essential when promoting an equitable workplace. Employees should understand what they need to do to succeed. Promotions should be based on documented achievements. Those striving for career advancement should be given the opportunity to seek out additional information, if needed. Managers need to set job expectations rather than leaving employees to find their own path.
Showing employees that they are fairly compensated by providing transparency around salaries and wages can help to further bolster job satisfaction. HR managers with access to holistic data should examine and analyze company-wide data as part of their efforts to help ensure everyone is being paid fairly and in accordance with stated equitable compensation guidelines for their positions.
One way to support a diverse workforce is to offer flexibility in employee work schedules and benefits. Some of the standard work practices of the past may no longer be a good fit for all of today's workers. Flexible schedules can come in different forms and allow employees to have greater flexibility with respect to when they complete their work and where they complete their work. This can help to provide more freedom to attend to personal needs such as a time and place for religious observance or closer proximity to childcare. Flexible PTO or holiday schedules may also give employees the opportunity to choose which days they take off for holiday celebrations or important family events. Offering job flexibility can be an important retention strategy and can signal to employees that your company is striving for a more inclusive workplace.
Support Communities and Affinity Groups
Companies can offer support of diversity within the workplace by facilitating affinity groups that connect employees seeking guidance with others of similar identities or backgrounds. An affinity group is simply a group of people who share a common interest, background, or career goal. These groups may be formed in-house when the proper resources are available. Company leaders may also provide information on external industry affinity groups for employees who request support that is not currently available within the company.
Check in and Offer a Safe Space to Speak
Employees should be made aware of safe places within the organization where they are free to bring up issues such as hostile behavior in the workplace. The employee should also be assured that their concerns will be taken seriously and addressed in a timely basis. If needed, changes should be made to policies and procedures to prevent similar issues from arising in the future.
Managers should also be encouraged to proactively check in on a more informal basis with employees. In this way, small concerns can be addressed before they grow into larger problems. An exit interview process can also help to identify retention issues among employees.
Develop a Solid Onboarding Process
All employees should feel welcome and prepared for their new job. Inclusive practices can be integrated into the onboarding process with a focus on equitable distribution of information. Benefits information should be delivered in a format that is accessible to everyone. Employers may advise the new hire of any existing affinity groups. Details about job expectations and company advancement should be explained.
During the onboarding process, key management and HR contact information can be provided so that a new employee is not left alone to navigate unfamiliar territory. The goal of onboarding is to set employees up for success in their new position and with the company by providing the resources they need to get up to speed quickly. A thoughtful, tailored approach can be helpful rather than using a one-size-fits all presentation of information.
Focus on Inclusion, Not Just Invitation
True inclusion goes beyond inviting someone to a meeting and letting them sit at the table. Every employee should actively participate in company strategy-setting and decision-making. In this way, the business will truly reflect the perspectives of everyone involved and increase the value of each individual's contributions.
Provide Mentorship Opportunities
Mentors can provide much-needed guidance and advocacy for newer employees. Not only can mentors provide assistance with big-picture plans such as career direction and advancement, they can also be a trusted source for employees seeking answers to more tactical questions about their daily responsibilities. Companies should ensure that there is someone available in-house with the knowledge and resources to answer questions and address concerns of all employees. If needed, additional mentorship support can be sourced through external industry associations centered around specific affinities.
Respect Employees as Individuals, Not as One Homogeneous Group
Companies should provide information and allow employees to make their own decisions about what works best for them when seeking guidance and mentorship. Some employees will appreciate the chance to connect with others of similar backgrounds through affinity groups, while others may not feel the need to take advantage of the opportunity. No employee should feel as if they are being lumped into a single group due to one specific characteristic or their background including age, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or ethnicity. Rather, each person working for the company must be viewed as an individual with their own unique perspective.
Companies that want to reap the benefits of an inclusive workforce need to go beyond simply hiring employees from diverse backgrounds. A sincere effort is needed to overcome unconscious bias and provide equitable opportunities. Identifying and resolving issues on a timely basis shows a commitment to change and supports a thriving workforce. To retain workers and set them on a path for success, inclusive practices should be designed and embedded into organizational processes.
For more information and resources on workplace inclusion and diversity visit our DEI resource center