Attracting, Retaining and Promoting Diverse Talent
By Tammy Ramos, J.D.
Note to our Readers:
Leap Solutions is pleased to have guest writer, Tammy Ramos, J.D., once again write on a timely topic about diverse talent in our DEI article series. Tammy partners with Leap Solutions to provide DEI consultation to our clients.
In this issue of our newsletter:
- Generational Considerations
- Recruitment Strategy
- Retention Strategy
- Promotion Strategy
The lack of diversity in the leadership roles in Fortune 500 companies is a persisting challenge and a disappointment for professionals of color. Although the murder of George Floyd in 2020 brought enormous attention to the disparity of racial and ethnic diversity in leadership roles, the initiatives for DEI has brought very little change. According to the Route to the Top 2022 report by Heidrick & Struggles, it found that diversity among CEOs has only grown a mere 2% from 22% in 2021 to 24% in 2022. These numbers are despite 93% of executives surveyed for the Heidrick & Struggles reporting that they supported diversity, equity and inclusion and agreed doing so was a business strategy. Black CEOs still account for less than 2% and Hispanics less than 4%. This article will not attempt to address all the reasons for the disparities but will instead endeavor to provide real solutions and strategies to increase diverse representation through solid recruitment processes, effective retention practices and comprehensive leadership development for professionals of color.
The objective in this article is to increase the representation of diverse talent in leadership roles. To do that, it is imperative to have a basic understanding of the five generations that currently make up the workforce, as each brings a different mindset and expectation of their employers. More specifically, there are some additional nuances of racially diverse talent that should be considered when assessing recruitment, retention, and promotion strategies.
Today, there are five very different and distinct generations in the workforce.
Traditionalist (76 to 99 years old)
Baby Boomer (57 to 75 years old)
Generation X (41 to 56 years old)
Generation Y, also known as the Millennials (26 to 40 years old)
Generation Z (25 years old and younger)
Each generation has been shaped by the history in which it grew up. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are loyal, have a strong work ethic, value job security, and respect hierarchy. Generation X are entrepreneurial, autonomous, value independence, and prefer monetary rewards while also enjoying work/life balance. Whereas the mindset and values of Millennials and Generation Z is quite different from the older generations. Millennials are technologically savvy, results oriented, value feedback, and prefer relaxed work environments. Generation Z have a high need for authenticity, value diversity, expect inclusive cultures, and want their employers to be involved in social responsibility.
For purposes of focusing on the future of Fortune 500 companies, it’s necessary to thoroughly understand the two youngest generations currently in the workforce, the Millennials and Gen Z respectively. In the context of history and culture, they’ve never known a time without cell phones, the internet, or cable television. They have had immediate access to information about global warming, wars, famines, political upheaval, and in most recent times the reminder of the persistent, unwavering racism in the United States as they watched George Floyd be killed by police. In addition, they’ve lived through a worldwide pandemic, COVID-19, which makes them ever so aware of the fragility of life.
Consequently, these two youngest generations are not willing to sacrifice their personal lives or values in exchange for more money or greater prestige. They are moved by feelings of “belonging” and “inclusion”. They seek meaning, and they want to work for employers who align with their values. Creating a sense of belonging is critical for employers who want to better accommodate and prepare for this [younger] generation.
A deeper look at the racial diversity of the two youngest generations will provide even more specific intel as to what drives young professionals of color.
As this table indicates, based on the Pew Research Center, 39% of Millennials and 48% of Gen Zer’s respectively are racially and ethnically diverse. They are also leaders within ideologies of sexuality, religion, and gender diversity. These two generations are dominating and transforming the workplace landscape. With that being said, unfortunately, a closer look at the black and Latinos within these generations reveal that they are still struggling to find their power in the workplace. In the Coqual report “Being Black in Corporate America” it was found that 31% of black Millennials say they spend a great deal of energy to be authentic at work. And 25% reported feeling like they bear the burden of being the entire representation of their race or ethnicity.
Additionally, although Latinos today are the second fastest growing demographic in the workforce and are projected to be nearly 21% of the labor force by 2028, Korn Ferry reported that “Latinos face a paradox in the United States of being both ubiquitous and invisible.”
Despite accounting for almost 20% of the U.S. population, as we saw earlier, Latinos only represent 4% of senior-level positions. Consequently, it is no wonder that Latinos feel invisible. They are not fairly represented in leadership roles.
Given these dismal statistics, it’s no surprise and is also encouraging to note that Millennials and Gen Z-ers are driving change. They expect to see diversity at the top. In Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey Report, they found that “Millennials are twice as likely to stay with a company beyond five years if that organization has a diverse workforce that represents their values of diversity, equity and inclusion.” Also, in a recent Monster survey, 83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer and 26% said they want to see diversity in leadership. Consequently, it is crucial for the future of industries across the board that there be a thoughtful and clear strategy around recruitment, retention, and promotion that will attract diverse Millennial and Gen Z talent.
- Create inclusive recruiting practices – First, reach out to schools that have a more diverse student body and post internships, host job fairs, and offer networking opportunities. Second, engage recruiters who specialize in identifying racial minorities and connecting them to job opportunities. Third, connect with diverse associations like the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Women of Color in Engineering Collaborative, and so many others. And last, access resources to stay abreast of best practices for recruiting professionals of color.
- Develop fair interviewing processes – Bias in interviewing is an insidious obstacle for professionals of color. Paulette Brown, the first woman of color to be president of the American Bar Association explains that bias is a mental reflex that affects decision making. Bias is “an inherent cause for poor candidate selection” in large part due to affinity bias which is “. . . having a more favorable opinion of someone like [you].” Interviewers can unconsciously exclude candidates who are not like them because they don’t “feel” a connection and/or chemistry. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid bias and minimize its negative impact. First, create standardized questions, guides, and/or rubrics to ensure objective criteria are being considered in the selection process. Second, ensure interviewing panels and hiring committees have diverse individuals conducting the interviews and making hiring decisions. This simple step has been shown to improve diversity hiring; for example, at Intel, diversity among new hires increased from 31% to 45% after the company required diverse interview panels. Third, require that the candidate pool of interviewers represents diversity because increasing the number of diverse candidates in a pool from one person to two people increases the likelihood of a diverse hire by almost 80%.
- Design attractive compensation packages – First, understand what young diverse professionals value. Money alone is not sufficient. In “Making Their Mark” nearly 30% of employees would prefer time off over money, and 89% said they would trade off benefits, like flexibility, over a pay raise, and “62% say they’re more productive when working remotely.” Consequently, in addition to offering competitive salaries, include options for work/life balance, flexible working hours, job sharing, and/or working from home. It is time to be creative and think outside the box. Third, ensure that monetary compensation is transparent and equitable. Be aware that according to LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index, about 81% of Generation Z workers believe sharing information about pay and salary will lead to more equitable pay in the workplace and about 75% of millennials also believe sharing information on pay can lead to pay transparency.
- Foster a culture of inclusion – True diversity and inclusion requires more than just creating policies and programs. Companies need to consciously and intentionally foster diversity and inclusion through active strategies like branding, discussion, and setting measurable goals for diversity. Tracking and following up on goals is key to shifting D&I from a moral to a business issue. As mentioned earlier, both Millennials and Gen Z-ers want a workplace culture that is diverse and inclusive; a place where they feel like they belong. Being able to recruit them is one thing, being able to retain them is an entirely separate challenge. Make DEI a priority in deeds and not just words. Hire a DEI expert who can drive all DEI goals that permeate every aspect of the business so that it is not a silo. Empower the DEI leader with financial resources, a support team, and decision-making power. Making this investment will demonstrate a genuine commitment to increasing diverse representation.
- Develop an effective onboarding program. Many professionals of color may be the first in their families to have a college degree and a professional career. A first-generation professional is the “First” in his/her immediate family to obtain a 4-year college degree and/or to obtain a higher-level professional position than what was held by either parent. Historically, without additional support, these individuals tend to face more challenges adapting to career and professional life. Being a “first-generationer” can even be considered another dimension of diversity. With no one to turn to at home, first-generation diverse employees need guidance. Help them to understand what the unspoken rules are. Inform them on whom to seek out with questions. Provide a realistic time frame for them to learn. Consider pairing them with another more senior leader who can support them for the first 30 days. Have a 30-60-90-day follow-up to check in on their progress and adjustment into their new role. This will facilitate setting them up for success.
- Encourage wellness in the workplace. 65% of Generation Z and 60% of Millennial workers say it’s “very important” for their employers to provide mental wellness benefits and 73% of Generation Z employees and 74% of Millennial employees have utilized mental health benefits offered by their employers. No longer is mental illness taboo. The younger generations value mental wellness, self-care, and work/life balance. They are looking for employers who provide access to resources that support their wellness. It’s vital that employers begin to incorporate these values and cultivate healthy workplace cultures effectively.
- Develop clear career pathways. Are the steps for advancement clear in your organization? Are they consistent across functions, departments and consistently implemented by leaders? Does everyone know what those steps are? Is there a way to ensure that all employees have equitable assess to these steps? Bias can be an obstacle. For example, the halo effect is a type of implicit bias that occurs when you attribute certain abilities to someone simply because of an accomplishment, such as graduating from a top caliber college or having an impressive job title. You may assume that the person has abilities that he or she does not or give the individual more credit than he or she deserves. It’s important to remember that Millennials and Gen Z-ers are not willing to stay in jobs for a lifetime and retire with the gold watch. They are a generation that has enjoyed instant gratification. According to Deloitte’s 2022 survey, four in 10 Gen Z-ers plan to quit their jobs within two years, and over a third would do so even without another job in place. However, if they have a clear career pathway for upward mobility and career success, they will be much more likely to stay and take those steps for advancement.
- Create a mentorship and sponsorship program. In addition to social pressure to demonstrate commitment to DEI, young professionals of color expect to see diversity at the top. Given that most Fortune 500 organizations do not have proportionate representation in leadership, it becomes even more crucial to develop formal mentorship and sponsorship programs that are intended to promote diverse talent. Mentors can add enormous value to professionals of color. However, mentorship alone is not enough. To promote diverse talent, there must be sponsorship for that talent. Sponsorship is not mentorship. Sponsors serve as champions for an individual; they take co-ownership of protégés’ career development and are willing to go out on a limb to advance the careers of their protégés. They show diverse employees that the organization believes in their potential and is invested in their success. Ballard Spahr LLC is leading the way with its Sponsorship Program called INVEST which was launched in 2020. The program lays out clear guidelines for roles, responsibilities, and criteria for participation, along with accountability for the desired outcomes for the sponsorship relationship.
- Require leadership accountability. Achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion goals cannot be achieved without leadership commitment and more importantly, accountability. This requires a call to action. Implement an accountability policy. One example can be borrowed from the legal profession. It is called the Mansfield Rule and asks “law firms to consider at least 30% historically underrepresented lawyers for 60% or more of the leadership roles and activities” and offers certification for law firms and corporate legal departments who adopt it. The goal of the Mansfield Rule is “to boost the representation of diverse lawyers in law firm leadership by broadening the pool of candidates considered for opportunities for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities, and senior lateral positions.” A new version was created and launched for legal departments that requires 50% consideration of all historically underrepresented lawyers for internal leadership and outside counsel roles. Applying the Mansfield Rule is, working at its intended purpose to diversify leadership to drive systemic change in leadership.
In conclusion, it cannot be minimized that managing a multi-generational workforce is hard work, but it cannot be overemphasized that it is important work. With more generations than ever working side by side, employers are positioned to create strong, innovative teams rich with diverse thought, experience, and expertise. Additionally, those organizations committed to embracing the multi-cultural dimensions of professionals of color and creating intentional talent lifecycles intended to advance the multi-faceted of diverse talent, will enjoy a competitive advantage, more innovation and creativity, better employee morale, higher profits, and more satisfied clients and customers.
Are You Ready to Leap?
Leap Solutions is a diverse group of highly skilled management, organizational development, and human resources, and executive search and recruitment professionals who have spent decades doing what we feel passionate about helping you feel passionate about what you do. Our HR specialists can help you get a handle on the ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines, programs, and legislation that may impact you and your employees. We are available to work with you to develop practical solutions and smart planning decisions for your organization’s immediate, near, and long-term needs.
To print this article, Click Here