One of the common goals and challenges of organizations striving to increase their diversity is the recruitment and retention of “diverse” employees. More and more companies see the connection between having a workforce that looks like, talks like and easily understands their consumers and the satisfaction, loyalty and spending of those consumers. They know the high return that comes from consumers seeing themselves in the face of the organization and therefore quickly trusting and relating to its representatives. They see the trust and effective communication that often comes when employees see themselves in the organization’s leadership ranks.
However, the language and framework organizations use to diversify their employees and leadership can be counterproductive to the ultimate goals of diversity, which is greater brilliance, excellence, and results. “Recruit” is an active term. It has a military flavor, and implies one “goes out and gets.” Organizations often “go out and get” (recruit) people of color, women, LGBT, etc. (the term “diverse” employees is damaging to the broader goals of diversity and inclusion) by targeting specific universities, publications, professional associations, and networks that can provide candidates and referrals.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with “recruitment”, when it’s the only strategy to diversify employees it’s inefficient and even costly. If the organization’s culture, values and systems don’t genuinely support, champion and hardwire inclusiveness – as well as diversity and high performance – the newly recruited talent won’t last. The Bliss-Gately Cost-to-Replace Tool shows that the average cost to replace an employee is 150% of their base salary, and many organizations find that the turnover of women, people of color, and other targeted groups is higher than the average.
Instead of recruitment, organizations should focus on attraction. If your organization’s leadership creates a culture that truly values differences in people and thinking and backs this up with actions – ensuring shared power and decision making, listening and making changes that work, holding people accountable for high performance in alignment with the organization’s values, and rewarding excellence – you won’t have to recruit. Diverse employees and leaders will come to you. Find out what those employees and leaders need and want, and they will be eager to contribute their brilliance to your organization and its mission.
Not only that, those employees and leaders will stay. “Retention” is a passive term, and implies mere “holding onto.” But instead of trying to keep employees from leaving, organizations should focus on inspiring them to stay. This is an active stance with a strategic focus – finding out why employees stay, especially high performers from targeted groups. Gallup estimated that only 29% of U.S. workers are actively engaged (35% internationally), and that the 17% of actively disengaged workers cost the US economy up to $300 billion in lost productivity. Not waiting until the exit interview happens or the turnover statistics come out to determine what’s working in your organization, or where the lost opportunities lie, yields tremendous benefits not just for targeted groups, but for all talent.
While having a diverse employee base and leadership team isn’t a cure-all for gaps in profit, market share, or consumer satisfaction, a focus on attraction and engagement creates a culture where nearly everyone wants to work. And when people want to be at work, they do better work which benefits everyone and boosts the bottom line.