And so we embark on the fourth and final article in our series on the top social challenges facing staffing today. In our previous three pieces we have covered:
As we enter the final leg of this relay, we’ll grab a baton full of assumptions. We’ll assume that you’ve overcome many of the challenges relating to remote work and DEI. We’ll assume that your new and improved firm has managed to hire a perfectly diverse, adaptable, and high-end cast of talent.
And we’ll focus on the new challenge: retaining them.
Acquiring diverse talent isn’t particularly beneficial if that talent doesn’t hang around. Indeed it can be actively harmful, as the cost of regularly hiring and training employees can be huge.
How do you avoid such a fate? Let’s take a look at five of the most effective ways.
The manager-worker dynamic has changed. Leadership is no longer about strong-arming your team into doing what needs to be done, nor is it about treating your workers as replaceable, because top talent isn’t.
Modern leaders bring empathy to their role. They consider the needs of their workers and do what they can to meet them, as they know that a happy, fulfilled, and stress-free team is a productive one. They give special consideration to those who deserve special consideration: if workplace minorities need help in overcoming ingrained organizational biases, or new mothers need support in caring for their children, an empathetic leader will offer it, and will benefit the whole firm in doing so.
As outlined in our last piece, clarity and transparency are the keys to DEI success, and a company culture document plays a key role in providing both.
Does every team member know who you are, why you’re there, and where you’re going? Do they know what your values are, and the behaviors and policies that support those values? Inclusivity shouldn’t be a word on the wall, indeed such a public yet shallow effort can give your team a false sense of security, and do more harm than good. “We are inclusive,” they’ll say, “it says it right there!”
Instead, form a clear culture document, complete with your goals and how you’ll achieve them, and make it available not just to your team, but to anyone who might be interested in taking a look.
This culture document can serve as a guide to identify your current DEI issues. It’s then up to you to fix them.
“You begin solving a big problem through lots of smaller actions,” says DeLibra Wesley, Chief Operating Officer of The Delta Companies. “We found that our staff is about 50% men and 50% women, while 65% of our top producers are female. But in leadership, the number goes way down.”
Recognizing the dearth of female representation in leadership roles, Wesley’s organization formed a council whose job it was to improve the situation. It was they who pushed for many of the measures discussed in our last article: using skill sheets over resumes, and removing unconscious bias around gender, education, or work gaps.
They also put a renewed focus on internal promotion, ensuring that women who had proved themselves within the organization were given opportunities that may have previously been handed to external male hires.
Communication was also high on the agenda at The Delta Companies. “Over the past year employees have raised issues with our dress code, that we didn’t take Martin Luther King Day off, our awareness of things like pride month,” explains Wesley. “You have your normal banking holidays, but maybe you celebrate Eid or Juneteenth, or want to take a day off for Pride.”
So Wesley and her team began recognizing, celebrating, and granting leave for these occasions, with great success. “The cost of recognizing these things is small, but the return is huge.”
These inclusivity efforts also built trust within the team. “Last year we started a program called Courageous Conversations after George Floyd. It was a safe space for people to share their fears and frustrations, and it was like Vegas – what happened there stayed there. Initially there was some hesitation, but people began to feel safe in that space, telling us what they feel uneasy about, and what we need to do as an organization.”
Jeff Wald, Founder of WorkMarket, concurs. “If you create a culture in which people feel comfortable speaking, then your employees will tell you exactly what they need from your company,” he says. “Trust enables constructive conflict, which makes for better solutions that deliver better results.”
DEI isn’t a process with an endpoint. It’s one of continual improvement. You should always be thinking of ways to be more diverse, more equal, and more inclusive; to communicate better and to create a healthier work environment.
Inspiration can be taken from Dropbox, who have managed to find a way to retain those who are already halfway out the door. They have started to conduct ‘stay interviews’ for employees deemed to be flight risks – when the company determined that someone was thinking about leaving, they conducted an interview to find out why, and what they could do to fix it. Of the 200 or so people they identified as flight risks, 96% stayed after these interviews.
While it may not come particularly naturally to us humans, the benefits of DEI are clear. Happily the ways and means to capitalize on DEI are also becoming clearer and clearer.
Sure, the events of 2020 represented a challenge in the space, and will continue to do so for some time, but these challenges can be seen as an opportunity for diverse, equal, and inclusive firms to separate themselves from the pack, and to enjoy the endless opportunities that such efforts serve up.