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3 Ways Leadership Can Help Retain Underrepresented Talent

The Great Resignation swept through the workplace like a tornado last year, and the storm of discontented talent is still brewing. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 48 million people quit their jobs last year, which was an all-time high, but more workers are prepared to follow suit. In fact, 40 percent of employees are actively looking for a new job right now.

But it didn't have to be this way. Of those who left an organization last year, 52 percent report that their employer would have retained them if only they had done something different.

And that something could have been DEI.

A survey by GoodHire found that 81 percent of workers will consider leaving their job if a company is not making a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. As a result, in order to keep the dam of lost talent from breaking in the workforce, causing a tsunami of staffing shortages, it’s important for companies to retain workers from underrepresented groups through inclusive leadership. The following are some ways to do it.

1. Tackling Racial Issues

After the brutal murder of George Floyd, many organizations began to acknowledge the painful racial issues that black and brown people deal with on a daily basis, and they realized that workers are not necessarily able to bifurcate their racial identity from their professional lives—and they really shouldn't be expected to. 

To retain talent from underrepresented groups, it's important to tackle the conversation of race in the workplace. Although it is quite difficult, having these real conversations goes a long way toward making the workplace more inclusive, bringing people together, and creating more understanding among coworkers. To do this effectively, you need to handle this sensitive topic with respect, compassion, and maturity, so workers from underserved communities can express themselves openly, knowing that their colleagues will listen and develop empathy for their lived experience.

Also, be sure to examine your policies. Are you really giving workers from different racial backgrounds what they need? If you don’t know, ask them directly. Create an employee resource group where they can discuss these issues, and have decision makers in your organization attend their meetings to find out more about their concerns. Additionally, use what you've learned about these demographics to attract new workers. Remember, no one knows a community better than the people who are part of it.

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2. Nurturing Female Leaders

Although women in the workplace have broken the glass ceiling and risen through the ranks to obtain leadership roles, they often end up leaving these positions—but not for the reasons people usually think. Common misconceptions are that some women leave management because they don't have the confidence and ambition to successfully navigate these positions; they're working mothers too challenged by juggling their professional and personal lives; or they simply don't have the leadership skills needed to be effective.

These narratives couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is, many women leave leadership positions—not to mention leaving the companies they work for—because they’re not getting the support they need. Lack of child care, flexible schedules, and training have caused women to make the conscious decision to opt out of these positions in favor of something that better suits their needs.

To retain these workers, your organization needs to support the development of women so they can perform, as well as gain the skills they need to inspire others to do their best work. Also, create policies and a company culture that is truly supportive of women and their unique needs in the workplace.

3. Remembering Religion

When we think of DEI, we usually don't include religion in the equation, however, organizations need to remember that people's faith is a huge part of who they are—so if we're saying that employees can bring their whole selves to work, that should include their religious convictions. After all, can we really value intersectionality without factoring in a huge part of people’s lived experience? Should people have to leave their religious beliefs at the door whenever they come to work? Although you don't want to turn your workplace into a place of worship, to retain employees, you should want them to feel comfortable talking about their faith, just as they would be talking about their gender, race, sexual orientation, or disability status.

To make your organization faith friendly so people of all faiths feel included in the workplace, be clear that you allow religious expression, and create policies that make this expression possible by offering accommodations—whether workers need breaks to pray or exceptions to the dress code. In addition, formally make religion part of your DEI initiatives, so potential candidates don't feel like they have to hide their faith if they come to work for you.

Retaining workers from underrepresented groups is not just about the numbers—it’s truly an art that leaders need to master in order to keep this talent, as well as their allies. These tips can augment your current DEI efforts, which will make your workplace more attractive to current employees and create an employer brand that draws in potential hires.

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