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5 Things You Can Do To Recruit (And Retain) Diverse Talent

Portrait of a group of young businesswomen working together in a modern office

You want to attract a more diverse slate of candidates. It’s more than a business case for better results and financial performance. Diverse organizations are more successful at retaining talent, and diverse teams are crucial for innovation.

You have the right goals. But are your hiring and retention practices – while well-intentioned – undermining your objectives?

Often, it’s the subtle things overlooked by a hiring panel or dominant group – things that diverse candidates will notice and use as a reason to avoid your company no matter how great the opportunity.

How To Attract And Retain Women of Color

If you are trying to attract and retain diverse candidates, especially women of color, here are five things you need to consider:

  1. Check the job description for gender bias or masculine tone. Words like dominate, competitive and drive might seem neutral – but social science says otherwise. Especially in male-dominated fields, words like these reinforce a gender preference and women will be less likely to apply. Often these words are ingrained in the company culture and a masculine tone becomes the communications standard so no one on the inside notices. If you want to attract women of color, use fewer limiting adjectives and strive for a gender-neutral tone.
  2. Remove bias from the process. Some people suggest hiding the candidate’s name and identity but that feels like a quick trick to me. Instead, standardize your interview process, structure the questions to focus on skills and competencies, consistently evaluate candidates and train your interview team on removing bias from the hiring process.
  3. Great intentions don’t always produce great results. Trying to create comfort and familiarity with diverse candidates with comments like “We’re colorblind in this office” says to diverse candidates that they are invisible. Overreaching is rooted in an interviewer’s fear of a misstep and often it will backfire.
  4. Customize onboarding. One size does not fit all. A hiring manager is bringing on two people – a white man and a woman of color. The manager creates a list of people the two employees should meet – and it’s the exact same list because the process is about the job and not the person. Instead, think about people who will help the employees feel supported and learn the culture of the company. If the man will manage summer interns, then connect him to a manager who did the same thing last year. If the woman is a veteran, then introduce her to a member of your military employee resource group. The goal: provide the best onboarding experience for every employee.
  5. Don’t forget about women of color after they are hired. We are invested in and dedicated to retention of diverse employees. That takes a combination of many elements – metrics, work culture and environment, and employee resource groups, just to name a few. Note that I mentioned our focus on diversity separate from inclusion. Inclusion is how employees feel and relate to the culture; retention focused on diversity is identifying and supporting an underrepresented group.

The Difference Between Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity is the mix; inclusion is making the mix work well. Inclusion is as much about the underrepresented groups as it is the dominant group. For inclusion to work you have to pay attention to both.

Now, you can’t speak genuinely around retention unless you address development. To retain women of color, you must ensure that those employees have as much visibility and access to career enhancing opportunities as the dominant group.

Remember, in many cultures, it’s appropriate to quietly do good work and hope to be rewarded with career opportunities. It does not feel natural to talk about yourself and your accomplishments. Make sure you are not overlooking women of color because they don’t show up for work the same way the dominant group does.

Candace Barnes
Candace Barnes
Manager, Global Diversity Programs, Global Talent Organization & Culture of Inclusion, Rockwell Automation
Candace Barnes

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