Widespread social justice protests in 2020 led to an unprecedented focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at work, requiring HR leaders to ensure they’re following best practices to address the challenges. In response to the demonstrations, many employers issued strong statements confirming their commitment to racial justice and increased workplace diversity. Diverse employees, jobseekers, and investors are anxiously waiting to see if the companies will honor the pledges, take sincere sustainable actions, and make meaningful progress in the DEI space.
While many organizations focus their DEI efforts on recruitment and hiring, the retention of diverse employees is equally important. After all, the outreach and recruitment strategies aren’t effective if diverse talent exits the organization quickly in search of a workplace where they are engaged and valued and feel they’re an integral part of the team.
HR leaders can help employers fulfill their commitment to DEI and drive meaningful change by (1) restructuring their recruiting strategies to create more opportunities for diverse candidates and (2) establishing internal programs that foster more inclusive work environments. While there are no one-size-fits-all answers, here are some specific best practices that may help.
Develop Diverse Mentor Programs
Effective mentorship programs translate into higher retention rates. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, “94% of employees would stay with their organizations longer if there was investment in career development.” Similarly, Deloitte’s 2020 Annual Millennial Survey found two-thirds of Millennials “reported that their company demonstrated support through training and mentor programs and were likely to stay with their organizations.”
A well-designed mentor and training program helps to ensure diverse employees know and understand their career pathways and provides clear and transparent opportunities for growth. Diverse employees want to stay with organizations where (1) they can bring the best value and (2) there are clear chances for development. Demonstrating a vested interest in the employees in return creates an opportunity for excellent performance.
In addition, mentoring programs with specific goals can facilitate the intentional creation of an inclusive environment. Having relationships among a diverse workforce helps build an understanding of individuals; the value of differences; and, ultimately, inclusion. The programs can help build inclusive environments, giving all employees equal access to opportunities to grow and contribute to the organization’s goals.
Defining program’s goals. Design your program with the specific goal of creating an inclusive work culture that meets the business objectives of both the organization as a whole and the individual departments. Examples of effective goals include:
· Onboarding for new employees: Onboarding is typically viewed as new employees simply completing forms. A mentor being involved in the process, however, can have a positive impact on both the new employee and the organization. The mentor/mentee relationship can assist new employees in successfully integrating into the company. An early positive experience can lead to greater retention; enhance employee engagement; and, most importantly, foster feelings of “inclusiveness.”
· Development of skills for promotion opportunities: You can develop mentoring programs around specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely (SMART) goals that align with the organization’s objectives for growth.
· Retention efforts: Employee surveys can provide your organization with ample information to identify issues related to employee retention and promote an inclusive environment. Survey results can inform the type of mentor programs needed for “retention efforts.” The above-mentioned “onboarding” and “skills development” programs are examples of those kinds of programs.
Ensuring inclusive program. Design the mentor program to promote and provide knowledge-sharing opportunities about work styles, cultures, and backgrounds. The program should facilitate opportunities for everyone in the organization, including leadership, to be involved:
· Mentor selection: Be intentional in selecting mentors. Ideally, they should be solid performers with key attributes, including a positive attitude and patience. Prospective mentors should also be knowledgeable about the company and understand the program’s focus and specific goals. In addition, they should be enthusiastic about the opportunity and willing to put in the time, share information, and be invested in the mentee’s success. If you’re unable to accommodate every employee seeking to participate in the mentoring program, the selection process should be transparent to maintain workers’ trust.
· Program training:Be sure all participants understand their role and what is critical for the program to be successful. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to take the time to train both mentees and mentors. The trainings should focus on providing them with a better understanding of the organization’s expectations and their roles.
Ensure All Employees Have Opportunities to Succeed
Create programs and training opportunities for all employees that facilitate growth and development. Ensure the training programs are designed to accommodate all positions as appropriate and schedule in time frames, allowing for full participation.
Facilitate meeting opportunities that allow employees to contribute thoughts and ideas that could lead to successful outcomes for the organization. Training opportunities can include areas such as technical and soft skills development, onboarding, and subject matter options, such as management and executive leadership training programs.
Eliminate Barriers in Processes and Policies
Review processes and policies for discriminatory or off-putting language that could be perceived as barriers to opportunity and fair treatment. For example, refrain from specific gender, ethnic, or race references in policies.
Make sure your organizational processes (such as recruiting) are transparent and allow for internal opportunities. Review job descriptions, and eliminate language that could be perceived as creating barriers (such as “young and energetic”). Scrutinize the hiring processes to determine whether bias could be affecting the decision-making.
6 Ways to Improve Retention Via Employee Engagement, Recognition
Employee engagement and retention have always been a challenge for HR leaders. A fully engaged employee positively affects retention and productivity and fosters company loyalty. Some best practices for successful employee engagement include:
1.) Conducting surveys to measure employee experience and assess specific engagement needs
2.) Holding one-on-one sessions with employees to better understand the challenges diverse employees face and share how their contributions have a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line
3.) Training managers on effective communication and skills that foster engagement among teams
4.) Recognizing the accomplishments of all employees and establishing a reward program
5.) Communicating in a consistent and transparent manner
6.) Soliciting feedback and suggestions from diverse employees and encouraging collaboration
Other key initiatives for maintaining engaged employees are keeping the lines of communication open, conducting regular check-ins, and empowering them to take the lead on projects or activities. In addition, your retention strategies should include wellness and recognition programs.
HR leaders are facing many challenges, and the workplace is continually evolving. Applying the DEI “best practices” can assist you in developing your organization’s initiatives. Staying abreast of the trends and following best practices, along with evaluating your internal policies and external issues that affect diverse employees, will enable you to maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce.