Are your workforce diversity plans not coming to fruition? You’re not alone. Only 1 percent of Facebook, Yahoo and Google tech employees are African American. And even employers supposedly leading the workforce diversity pack aren’t faring much better. According to recent figures compiled by the Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn, which tops the list, still lacks a balanced mix of ethnic minorities, as 30 percent of leadership roles are held by Asian individuals, yet Hispanic and African American representation trails at 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
Sharon Jones, chief executive officer of consulting firm Jones Diversity, guides corporations, nonprofits and educational institutions in developing workforce diversity and inclusion strategies and often leads unconscious bias training sessions. She provides insight into this persisting workplace issue.
1. Recruitment: Diverse candidates not advancing through the interview process
Building a diverse workforce begins — and often goes wrong — at the hiring stage.
“Sometimes, you find out [a company] interviewed a diverse pool of candidates, but they didn’t invite any of the diverse candidates to the office for further interviews,” Jones says. “Then, you know there may be a breakdown between the interviewing team and the company’s effort.”
Jones believes learning and improving starts with employers asking questions of themselves about their processes. “Why is it they didn’t invite anybody back? It could be unconscious bias going on. It could be a variety of different things,” she says.
To overcome this issue, hire a consultant to host a training session that teaches your workforce or members of leadership how to discover hidden biases, tools for overriding those biases and tips for practicing inclusive behaviors.
2. Retention: High turnover among minorities
When your diversity recruitment efforts yield positive results, yet your turnover rates among ethnically diverse individuals is high, there’s a problem. It’s often rooted in the culture of the company and a lack of inclusivity within, Jones says.
“What’s the experience of the people who work there?” she says. “A cultural assessment is a good tool to get a feel for the environment for all employees at the organization. It’ll tell you whether diverse individuals have a very different perception of the company – as compared to, for example, white men.”
A formalized electronic survey sent to all employees, as well as focus groups and one-on-one meetings, helps a company understand where it’s falling short in terms of culture.
Mentorship from members of leadership is a key enabler of employee development. However, mentorship is often informal, and is the outgrowth of personal relationships forged by shared interests and experiences – which inherently leaves out certain individuals.
Speak to people in key leadership roles and ask them about their mentoring efforts, Jones says. If the development is only occurring with non-minorities, it’s time to implement a standardized mentorship program.
4. Advancement: Lack of diverse promotion
“For me, [diversity] success means having diverse people in leadership roles in a corporation,” Jones says.
If your company has lots of workforce diversity but few of those people hold leadership roles, and historically get promoted at lower rates, Jones advises to consider why that’s the case – and to make diverse representation in leadership a priority.
“When you have leaders who are diverse, using all aspects of diversity, then the culture starts to change and it becomes one where all people have an opportunity to succeed,” Jones says.