You may be looking at workplace diversity and strategies all wrong. The feel-good “Can’t We All Get Along” sessions you are holding and the stock check box “anti-bias” videos you make folks watch are not going to help you get to the next level of becoming a culturally competent workplace. You will not become a workplace that knows how to acquire, develop, and retain top talent in an increasingly diverse but limited workforce. DEI training is not a magic bullet.
When companies engage in the right training incorporating sound DEI principles, the magic happens to help you retain top talent, including black employees.
The Great “Black” Resignation
Do your Black employees keep quitting? Besides ineffective training and strategy, there are a number of other DEI challenges that could be keeping you form attracting and keeping Black professionals.
Challenge 1: You are afraid to discuss race and identity in the workplace
Black employees, in general, discuss issues of race and discrimination whether they want to or not. We all want to feel like our employees have our best interest at heart and care enough about us to discuss issues that may impact their ability to work and be productive in the workplace. Racial identity is not the most important thing, but it is a thing in our North American context. Most of your employees had no choice in their racial identity. The government tracks racial demographics in organizations, and statistically, there is a demonstrated bias based on racial identity in hiring racial minorities. We are not at a point in our history where we can ignore identity factors deeply embedded in our culture even if we want to. Your Black employees or employees from other demographics could perceive that you dismiss a very important part of who they are. In turn, employees can feel marginalized or “less than,” so they seek employment with organizations that value all aspects of their identity.
Solution: Download my free conversation cards.
The cards will help you start having these important conversations, but you must practice workplace communication skills. There are several ways to work at this, but training your team leaders and supervisors to have effective conversations is a good place to begin.
Challenge 2: You don’t work on relationships with your employees.
Being culturally competent means that you can effectively navigate cultural differences. Different cultures have different understandings of the value of building relationships. While there is always variation within groups, we should seek to understand what motivates our employees and how we need to engage them. In general, the “come get this paycheck and be happy” era has gone by the wayside. Employees want to know that they are more than just a number, a cog in the machinery. People of all demographic groups want to know that they mean something and that their contributions matter.
Solution: Intentionally build positive relationships in the workplace.
This doesn’t come naturally to everyone, maybe not to anyone. Building relationships takes time and is an intentional
activity. Here are a few tips to help you:
- Start with a deep understanding of who you are, your core values, and your motivation behind the relationship. That helps you start building from a place of honesty and empathy.
- Schedule time to develop relationships. Intentionality is important.
- Be curious about others. Talk less and listen.
- Show genuine empathy toward the other person.
- If you need help ask for assistance.
- Show appreciation for the work the employee contributes.
- Be mindful of your role and authority.
- Be present when working on the relationship. Don’t let distractions take you away.
Challenge 3: The support you provide your staff is not culturally appropriate or relevant.
One 2021 poll found that 97% of Black employees are concerned about returning to work environments where microaggressions are commonplace.
Solution: Get the right people in the room.
As you hire staff and contractors and develop teams, you must clearly understand your diversity and inclusion goals. It is more cost-effective and efficient to create the right action plan rather than fix a mistake after the fact. If your planning team is not diverse and inclusive-minded, your outcome won’t be either.
When we tap into diverse talents of people, it enhances our workspace. Just think, if you had a bunch of men sitting in a room saying, “We want to be more inclusive of women, what should we do?” How will a group of men plan for something like that if you don’t have women in the room? Effective organizational change is impossible if you don’t have people that those change decisions will impact as part of the process. You will never get to where you want to go as a company. Education goes a long way. You have to create an environment where people can talk and communicate with one another.
Challenge 4: They are the only person of color at their level (or one of a small few).
Solution: Your employees need structured mentoring programs.
Studies show that structured mentoring programs which provide matching, training, coaching, and facilitation for mentoring relationships, increase the likelihood of satisfying mentoring relationships. How do mentors help you with retention? Inspiration and encouragement are two very valuable aspects of the mentoring relationship. It is not just about teaching skills but also developing a sense of vision and belonging for the employee. A few words from a trusted mentor can make a big difference. According to a study focused on women in the tech workforce (MentorNet.net), “Women students of color are particularly interested in having mentors who can discuss with them issues of race and ethnicity, and frequently desire to be matched with mentors of their same race/ethnicity. African-American women feel these needs even more acutely than other women of color.”
Challenge 5:There is no perceived pathway for growth.
No matter their race or other identity factors, no one wants to stay in a dead-end job.
Solution: Teach people how to grow, or they will go (to another job).
According to a Linkedin study, 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if they invested in their career development. According to Glassdoor, “One of the drivers of turnover is easy to overlook: allowing workers to stagnate in their current role. Even after controlling for pay, industry, job title, and many other factors, we find workers who stay longer in the same job without a title change are significantly more likely to leave for another company for the next step in their career. Stagnating in a role for an additional ten months raises the odds that employees will leave the company for their next role by about one percentage point, a statistically significant effect.”
Challenge 6: Your employees think you are a liar.
That is pretty blunt, but I have heard this from black employees and other marginalized groups. A nicer way of saying this is that your organization is not committed to DEI, and you are dishonest about it.
Solution: Tell the truth and honor your commitments to workplace cultural competency.
Workplace cultural competency requires sound strategy and empowered leadership. Diversity needs to be dispersed; it is a whole team effort. That means diversity without inclusion smacks of tokenism. Often, marginalized groups are relegated to one department or one sector of industry.
The segregating or exclusionary practices of the past can limit us. Many of our organizations are playing catch-up. The walls of history are often not very diverse or inclusive. We have to accept our past but, at the same time, illustrate how we plan to move forward. Before you make promises you can’t keep, answer these two questions:W
- What are your #diversitygoals?
- How will you get there?
Answering these questions truthfully takes time and strategic thinking.
Other Recommended Readings by Glen
- What Types of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training is Right for your Workplace?
- How Emotional Intelligence Helps Build an Inclusive and Diverse Workplace Culture
Are you losing valuable teams and staff because you lack the right focus and trainer? Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions. I would love to offer a tailor-made solution for your group. Not only will you be able to retain your black employees better, but cultural competency leads to a stronger, more diverse workforce overall.Book My Discovery Call