How to Engage A Racially Diverse Workforce

racially diverse workforce
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Creating a framework that effectively supports your racially diverse workforce is vital to the health of your organization. How an organization chooses to approach this will determine the impact of employee retention, employee satisfaction, and the overall effectiveness of their holistic diversity and inclusion strategy.

Certainly, an organization also has a lot to gain as a competitor in our ever-expanding globally diverse marketplace. However, research studies continue to indicate that a racially diverse workforce increases the breadth of innovative ideas which contributes to an organization’s overall success.

The Challenge

Far too often, organizations are laser-focused on simply increasing the diversity of their workforce in order to match the demands of our diverse demographics. Yet, a diversity recruitment plan alone will be ill-fated if additional measures to sustain those new employees have not been integrated within the existing structure of an organization.

It is not enough to recruit people of color. To remain singularly focused on recruitment strategies alone will result in high attrition rates among these employee groups.

The Solution

I have included a few strategic solutions to consider when creating your employee diversity retention model. The key is to start thinking about how your organization can implement any one of these approaches before you begin your diversity recruitment strategy.

Let me reiterate that you want to have a clear idea about how you will implement your retention plan before your recruitment begins.

Here are some ideas to get you started on the path to creating an inclusive workplace where all your employees can thrive.

Consider creating relationship-building opportunities that go beyond watercooler talk and coffee breaks. The biggest cause of attrition among people of color in the workforce is the very real feeling of isolation. It is not uncommon for the number of employees of color in any given organization to be a small one. Therefore, establishing a structure that creates very intentional opportunities for employees to meet, network, and truly get to know each other is an effective approach.

racially diverse workforce
Photo: Shutterstock

You can design a weekly or monthly employee meet and greet hour, or perhaps there is an opportunity for a company-sponsored luncheon that provides a space for employees to gather in a low-stress space. Do not hesitate to use conversation starter cards to help each table or group get talking. Before you know it, people will be so engaged in conversation, the cards will no longer be necessary.

Often, when an organization makes the deliberate effort to create employee gathering spaces, it is not unusual for those to be one of the few times employees can meet to engage in non-work discussions.

An employee resource group or affinity group specifically for people of color is also important. These types of groups provide the space where employees can have a safe space to debrief and process experiences as people of color, without the fear of a white colleague or supervisor misinterpreting their sentiment. Rather, this space allows employees of color to speak freely without fear of retaliation.

Typically, these groups serve as a place of encouragement and are quite reenergizing to employees when they find themselves among others who are like them. I once formed a group comprised of myself, an African American woman, an Indian woman, and an African man. Although our nationalities were vastly different, we still shared similar experiences as one of the few people of color in our organization. So, we found great joy with each other when we could meet.

Invest in the professional development on your employees of color.  It communicates that they are valuable assets to the organization, and not simply commodities of color on a diversity checklist. When employees feel they are valued, it increases employee engagement and retention because they feel connected as humans.

So, I encourage you to create the appropriate spaces where community-building among your diverse employee groups can occur. When you commit to your employees, your employees will commit to you and you will gain a thriving workforce. Activate your power to make a difference.


About the Author

Dr. Rassheedah Watts

Dr. Rassheedah Watts, The Inclusive Community Architect is a speaker, certified diversity trainer, allyship coach and award-winning diversity practitioner committed to elevating human connections and activating people’s inner courage. She specializes in engaging the heart toward action on issues of diversity, inclusion, and leadership. For more information visit www.DrRassheedah.com.