I am by no means a workforce expert. No..wait…wait, don’t click the X button. Now just hear (or read) me out on this one. After reading (and writing) multiple articles covering workforce diversity, the most recent article from Fast Company called “How Your Company Can Meaningfully Improve Diversity In 2017” confirmed my thoughts on the two prong solutions. Although the article covers the diversity solution in a much more drawn out five step program, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s even simpler than that.
Who you recruit matters! If you’re a top organization dedicating 70% of your resources in specific areas such as the north and the west coast, then it will be hard to increase your diversity numbers. A quick fact that not alot of people know is that, most black and Hispanic Americans currently live in southern states. If an organization isn’t committing a fair amount of resources in the southern areas, increases will be few and far between. Another key point is showcasing a friendly environment. When it comes to employment opportunities a big factor is knowing someone who works at the company already. To put it simply, if there isn’t alot of diversity in your organization to begin with, it will be that much tougher to increase it. It will also be hard to change it because the current group that benefits from it will not want to decrease their opportunities by including more people. Take away race and tell your current employees we will be looking harder at 20 schools or in 20 areas that does not benefit them and they will not support it. Keep that in mind as you deal with bias and look to increase workplace diversity.
Retention is harder than recruiting! Selling someone on your company is easy, but keeping them there is hard in today’s market. Millenials have a different perception of employment, and as such their first job is almost always used to segway themselves into a better opportunity. When it comes to diverse employees, the same can be said. The retention is often worse because of culture and a perceived lack of future opportunities. While many cry of bias in workplace promotion, I respond that bias is one of the hardest things to prove especially if an individual is unaware. There’s a saying that the biggest insults are the unintended comments, and this can cause tension and a short employment span. When it comes to being a minority, it’s hard to describe it to a group of people who have always been in the majority. Psychologically it definitely can mess with you when you’re the only one in a room for 3 years that looks like you. Culture matters and more support is needed for retention purposes.
I understand I’m not saying anything new, but I do think if organizations took the advice of the above comments it would go a long way. Reach out to diverse groups in other industries and ask them their perceptions of your industry and how they think you organization can improve. Sometimes advice from someone outside your industry is the most knowledgeable.