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Diversity Needs Support

Diversity without retention and development is dead

There has been a lot of talk about increasing diversity in fields like Technology and Advertising.  When I hear talk about increasing diversity at a company a few things come to mind right away, both related to helping with retention and development of your new diverse hire:

  1. Is there support staff in place.
  2. Is there a support structure in place.

Bringing someone new to your company may be like bringing someone into a very foreign environment and there is no doubt they are going to need support and someone to talk to at some point.

Question is, are the support groups in place diverse? Does everyone in HR and OD look exactly the same?  If the answer is "Yes," or "we really didn't think about that?" you need to make some adjustments.

Support Staff

An easily overlooked part of increasing diversity is not taking into consideration the worldview and potential feeling of isolation when your new employee is looking for support.  

Hiring for diversity in your support areas is one way to get this done.

Another way is to create and support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).  You may have a diverse employee who is looking to talk to someone from a similar background as themselves and an Employee Resource Group is a great way to provide them with several people to choose from.  That brings up my next point, support structures. 

Sometimes you want to interact with someone who looks like you or at least doesn't look and think like everyone else at the company.

Support Structures
We hit on Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as one structure to have in place.  Another is to get an understanding of what is important to different diverse groups.

For example, as a Black man when I first moved to central Massachusetts to work for New Balance and then Intel there were a couple of things that where important to me that could easily seen as trivial in the eyes of the majority:

  1. Where could I find a barbershop.  Don't laugh I was going through numbers I found online and would clear my throat and ask them, "ahh, do you cut Black people's hair?"  
  2. The second thing that was important was finding a church where my wife and I would feel comfortable.  I spent all my working day around people who didn't look like me and when I went to church I wanted to connect with more people who did look like me.   

For you HR folks the conversation may sound something like,

What other needs do you have?  Any home needs, questions about communities in the area, places to shop, different places of worship (don't make the same mistake my first boss did and ask me why I couldn't go to mass on a non-work day.  My response, "because I'm not Catholic"), places to get a haircut, etc.
You can handle this yourself as an HR professional, connect them with an Employee Resource Group or connect them with an affable co-worker who may be able to help them navigate the corporate waters.  

That's all for now, create the support staff and create the support structure and you are on your way to not only increasing diversity in your company, but retaining diversity in your company. 

I am a free agent on the market, with over a decade experience as a corporate manager, program and project creator.  If you enjoyed this article we may want to work together to retain and develop diverse employees at your company.  

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