4 steps to onboard and retain diverse talent


Published on: July 2021

Early this year, 35 Fortune 500 companies joined forces to create an initiative called OneTen, which aims to hire, upskill, and promote one million Black Americans over the next 10 years. OneTen comprises leaders across a variety of industries and organizations including Merck, Nike, IBM, and Amgen. If your organization has joined this coalition, or is otherwise committed to recruiting and hiring more diverse talent, what steps are you taking to onboard and consistently engage these individuals?

There is an important link between talent-acquisition and employee-onboarding processes. Because candidates form assumptions about working life at an organization very early in the application process, often even before deciding to apply, organizations should ensure that any messaging conveyed during this critical time be on-brand.

In the context of attracting, selecting, onboarding, and retaining underrepresented employees during the early days of their tenure, what does this mean? Here are four things to keep in mind.


Be visible

For companies committed to recruiting diverse talent: start with visibility. How can potential applicants apply to opportunities of which they’re not aware? Are your talent acquisition teams cultivating meaningful partnerships with organizations dedicated to diversity? Organizations that excel at recruiting and hiring diverse talent understand that the recruiting process begins long before the manifestation of a vacancy. They collaborate with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well as student groups such as the National Black Student Union (NBSU), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Black Business Student Association, and the National Pan-Hellenic Council to reach diverse talent.


Be committed

As you engage prospective underrepresented candidates, ask yourself:

  • Does your interview process reflect a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB)?
  • Does the interview panel reflect the communities you serve, or vary in work experience and background? After all, it can be challenging for an organization to tout its commitment to DIB if candidates are interviewed by a uniform panel of managers.
  • Are your mid-level managers held accountable for assembling diverse interview panels, or recruiting diverse talent?
  • Are you infusing your interview guides with questions that elevate inclusion and diversity?

Some organizations are investing in diversity and inclusion to the point of standing up DIB functions devoted to unearthing the biases, both conscious and not, that influence the interview process. These efforts are attractive to candidates and valuable for employees.


Be engaging

According to a 2019 study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago entitled Being Black in Corporate America: An Intersectional Exploration, 38% of Black millennials responded that they are considering leaving their jobs to start their own company, and 65% percent of Black professionals responded that it’s harder for Black employees to advance. Companies committed to recruiting diverse candidates must learn to retain such talent. Knowing the many reasons for attrition, what causes for departure are within companies’ control?

One strategy for preventing attrition is hosting events to improve employee engagement. For example, one organization holds an annual event called the African American Forum which gives Black employees the chance to hear from and network with senior leaders. This forum provides an opportunity for the company to invest in the development of its underserved communities and for the communities to gain direct access to leaders via workshops and panel discussions. Other ways to engage, develop, and promote underrepresented talent may include involvement in employee resource groups, formal mentoring programs, and more opportunities for senior leaders to hear the voices of their diverse staff.


Be accountable

Working with the facts is the best place to start. It’s impossible to solve a problem without fully understanding or acknowledging the depth of the issue, and this is doubly true for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in organizations. One approach is full transparency, as exemplified by a group of leaders who decided to courageously share their company’s diversity metrics at a recent senior leadership meeting, acknowledging the lack of diversity and need for change. This approach, just one of many, is especially effective in maintaining accountability.

As the fight for social justice continues, many organizations have renewed their commitment to attracting, selecting, onboarding, and retaining more diverse talent, and companies such as those part of the OneTen initiative are leading the way. However, just because your company isn’t part of OneTen doesn’t mean it can’t take steps towards improving diversity. We can do this. We should do this.

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