Member Edmundo Costa Speaks: To Improve Workplace Diversity, Focus on Retention After Initial Hire

The Challenge:

In the situation at hand, a business leader was seeking insight into an HR strategy that would promote sustainable diversity in the company. 

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

If I were in your shoes, I would create a mentoring program for new employees whose demographics are underrepresented in the company. Diversity is absolutely important in hiring, but I’ve found that focusing on retention has a more meaningful, long-term impact. Employees often depend on networking to get things done, an unofficial dialogue that is often central to productivity. When someone comes on board with a different background -- and without explicit access to that network -- they can feel out of place. In order to feel welcomed and prepared for success at a new company, new and diverse employees need to be proactively included.

We have a policy of interviewing at least one person from an underrepresented group when we’re filling an open position. However, I’ve asked myself, “Is this enough? Do our new hires feel like they belong?” I decided to discuss this with our Chief People Officer, who in turn created a mentorship program to help our new employees build relationships and feel at home with us.

In my personal experience, I’ve learned that my boss can’t always be my mentor. I lived through this during my first job out of college when the company I worked for identified mentors outside of my core working group to welcome me and help me build my network.

When it comes to improving diversity, setting a quota isn’t enough – long-term change requires stepping up to the plate and putting in the added effort to thoroughly welcome and engage underrepresented employees. Best of luck!