We talk a lot about diversity in hiring to create inclusive workplaces and diversity is important. One thing we don’t talk about enough, though, is keeping the people we hire. If we are going to create workspaces that reflect the inclusive culture we want, we need to do better at both.
Keeping Diverse Talent through Inclusive Culture
Before we begin hiring diverse talent, it’s important to look at the culture we are asking them to join. Equity in the workplace is guided by data and an equity assessment is the place to start as your organization works to build an inclusive culture.
To create a workplace where diversity is valued and where the people you hire will stay, examining the systems and behaviors in place in your organization is a must. Many people hired to “bring a new perspective to the table” frequently leave shortly thereafter because dominant culture in the organization undermines leadership’s proposed commitment to diversity.
We need to examine questions of power and procedure in our organizations and do what is necessary to root out imbalance and inequity we find there. Otherwise, we risk hiring the best people—and then watching them leave for want of better support or inclusion.
Centering Diversity in Hiring
In today’s equity work, there is quite a bit of information about making hiring more equitable. A quick search on the internet yields article after article about job fairs and adjusting your team’s practices.
You know who most people hire? People they know—or people who know the people they know. As much as society wants to tell us that billionaires are self-made or that “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is the most honest way to succeed, connections matter.
It’s important to be qualified, but to get those qualifications in front of the right person at the right time, frequently, it’s all about who you know.
How does that fit into equity work?
In a perfect world, those of us leading organizations would have broad and varied social networks that would connect us to all parts of society. Realistically, though, humans don’t work that way unless they are intentional about it. The first step, then, is to look closely at your own networks to find spaces where you have gaps, so you can grow in those spaces. BUT, authentic growth and connection takes time, so how do you fill the position you have open now if you don’t have a deep, personal diverse network to work from?
Remember that your excellent people know excellent people.
That one engineer who did that great work you loved? Ask her who she might recommend for your new position. Even if it’s not an engineering position. It’s almost a certainty that she will have resources that differ from yours, and expanding your network to include some of them can only enrich your candidate pool.
Keeping Diverse Talent is the Key
If you’ve been paying attention any time recently, you’ve heard the term microaggression. Microaggressions are acts of “indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group,” and they have a profound impact on your workplace culture.
As your team members experience microaggression, try to make sense of it, and become hypervigilant about avoiding it, the resulting emotional labor can cause stress that, over time, makes it easier to leave the job than to stay in it.
The solution? Working to create a truly inclusive workspace where people can safely discuss their concerns with one another.
Diversity is good for business. It raises team performance and helps expand your consumer base, but it only works when equity and inclusion are part of the equation.
To succeed, we need for every person in our organizations to have what they need to succeed—leadership opportunities, the support of mentors and sponsors that help them advance in their careers—but beyond that, we need systems that welcome the perspectives and contributions of all people to the table.
We need equitable distribution of power. We need to design processes with our people in mind instead of expecting our people to adapt to outdated systems that historically excluded them.
Creating Inclusive Culture
Hiring diverse talent is not the end of creating inclusive culture—and it is not the starting point. Creating inclusive culture requires that we change the ways we approach the workplace to ensure that every voice is valued and that every team member thrives in their work.
Acting with intention is the difference, and it is the only way forward.