Organizational cultures that include DE&I as a core value and business consideration are currently winning the talent game—and that’s by design. Research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) shows that listening to the voice of employees and maintaining a strong purpose, culture, and brand are key. This applies to all employee cohorts, but it’s critical to attraction, acquisition, and retention of talent from underrepresented groups.
And when it comes to meaningful progress on diversity goals, retention is just as critical as acquisition. The ten practices and principles outlined below combine to fuel equitable and inclusive cultures that are appealing to potential applicants and help retain hard-won diverse talent.
This is not a comprehensive list. To truly stay on top of the talent game, all employee surveys and data can benefit from disaggregation to show how experiences across demographic cohorts differ. There should also be a concerted effort to ensure that all groups have equitable treatment and a consistent employee experience as a foundation for the organization’s talent brand.
There’s more that can be added to this list, such as increased flexibility offerings and targeted well-being and benefit programs, but to set a solid foundation, start with the following:
1. Bias and pay audits are high-impact practices that can uncover a variety of systemic issues rooted in an organization’s culture and processes—from easily-fixed legacy practices to those that are nuanced and can be more of a challenge to the culture. Bias audits across all functions of an organization reveal trouble spots and help begin a dialogue to establish more equitable practices that support the organizations DE&I goals.
2. Stay interviews are critical to retention efforts in general and can be particularly impactful for underrepresented groups. The insights gathered by sitting down with high-performing employees can uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the organization’s culture and should inform and support a broader employee listening strategy.
3. Network development (connecting employees to key people) starting even before formal onboarding begins is an essential strategic practice. This is particularly impactful for new employees from underrepresented groups. Network development involves ensuring that new employees are connected with everyone in the organization essential to success for the role, as well as making connections that foster and support a culture of inclusivity and belonging.
4. Courageous conversations are a strong practice for connecting with employees to discuss complex social issues. They can also help organizations understand how various issues impact employees’ lives and potentially extend into the workplace. Training programs that equip managers to have meaningful conversations in turn promote healthy interaction, show organizational support, and identify issues that may be detrimental to an inclusive culture.
5. Representation equity is a step factored into all talent considerations and practices until it becomes operationalized. This starts with setting standards for diverse selection panels and interview processes to weighting diverse experiences and backgrounds. It also includes calibration sessions for acquisitions, development opportunities, and succession—auditing for equity can help stimulate talent mobility across the organization and career movement into upper levels. These processes should be supported by metrics that track progress in both pipeline and conversions.
6. Leaders live up to the organization’s values—from the everyday decisions made that are clearly guided by the ethics and standards of the organization to taking a public stand on social issues—the significance and importance of leading with a moral compass has grown in the past few years. While becoming full-time activists or pundits isn’t necessary, a timely and empathetic response to matters that impact diverse groups and communities can have a significant impact on those employee’s sense of well-being and belonging. Messaging (both internal and external) should be explicitly and consistently tied to the organization’s principles and commitment to an inclusive culture.
7. Leaders should expand their professional networks to include individuals from underrepresented groups and have development requirements related to allyship and advocacy. i4cp’s Leadership Redefined study confirmed that this next practice can help stimulate executive sponsorship for diverse employees. Incorporating ERG/BRG participation into executive development plans is one way to foster those connections.
8. DE&I goals for leaders are established, tied to compensation, and supported by strong metrics. This practice is critical to keeping DE&I a top priority. Boards of directors and stakeholders will support and drive change if you can tell them compelling stories with data. Use the organization’s unique stories to illustrate both the pitfalls of staying the course and the opportunities that benefit all stakeholders that come by supporting change.
9. Structures such as employee resource groups (ERGs/BRGs) and executive diversity councils are built. This goes along with making sure that the CDO and diversity function have all the organizational support and resources needed to do their work. One of the biggest reasons new CDOs fail is lack of resources, structure, and support. DE&I teams are usually small, so having champions across the organizations at all levels is a must.
10. Annual business plans for ERGs include retention, employer brand, or employee experience/engagement elements. This keeps the groups’ goals focused on issues that dovetail with organizational goals, ensuring they support the business in visible ways that highlight the skills and abilities of the groups. This will ensure that the value of the groups is recognized and reinforced, and that training and visibility is provided to members.
The above practices all clearly link to better DE&I outcomes and positively impact the engagement, attraction, and retention of underrepresented groups. See the infographic below to help keep these tips top of mind in the tumultuous talent market ahead.
Eric Davis is Creative Director & Senior Editor at i4cp.