Leveraging Diversity to Increase Retention
Part Two

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We’ve undergone a complete shift since the Great Recession of 10 years ago. Then, the unemployment rate was the highest since the Great Depression, and now it is the lowest since 2000 at around 3.8%. While the booming economy provides great opportunities for American businesses and workers, it creates a competitive environment as businesses struggle to retain employees [1]. As wonderful as this is for American workers, this means that a number of organizations are struggling to find quality candidates, and many candidates who are hired, end up leaving shortly after. The average employee lifespan keeps getting lower every year. Approximately 91% of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years; meaning that most will have 15-20 jobs over the course of their working lives [2].

Some say millennials lack work ethic, others say that the employee lifespan is a product of the working generations’ lack of attention span, regardless of the reason, the reality is that today’s work force has changed. However, not all change is bad. Millennials want to make an immediate impact in organizations and they are more in-tune with corporations’ values and how they impact their community. That said, the typical 9-5, “work-only-to-get-money” mentality is antiquated and if organizations don’t adapt, they will never get and keep the best talent.

In today’s connected economy, creating a work environment that fosters cultural diversity is an incredibly important factor that will play a major role in your organization’s sustainability. Diversity creates the strongest work teams because people bring their unique experiences and apply it to the accomplishment of a specific goal. Top candidates seek an environment where they can immediately apply their unique experience and perspective while learning from the unique skills and perspectives of others. In this way, diverse teams provide a competitive advantage – not only for key business results but for your employment brand and employee retention. If diversity factors are not accounted for in the work environment, top talent won’t stay in your organization long. The most adaptive and market-leading organizations understand this and are using it as a competitive advantage. How can your company leverage diversity to accelerate performance and retention?

Building an organization committed to shared values and beliefs, using a hiring process that removes bias, and capitalizing on strengths with employee development will increase both diversity and its retention benefits. As mentioned in part one of this series, awareness and understanding is the first step to increasing diversity. Each of these talent strategies will only be effective if managers understand your culture’s core values and beliefs about success and how diversity is central to not only business results but your definition of how success should be achieved.

Hiring for Diversity

How can you ensure a level playing field in hiring?  Is it possible to evaluate candidates with equally impressive but different work experience and accomplishments? Using evidence-based and validated assessments and structured interview guides that measure your cultural and functional competencies will give hiring managers an accurate picture of what matters. Assessments and interview tools help hiring managers make sense of intuition (gut feeling) – capitalizing on their experience while removing bias. Assessments focus on what’s important for performance and increase your ability to hire high potential candidates with diverse backgrounds and skills. Importantly, the benefits of assessments extend to better supporting new hires. Corvirtus assessments, for example, provide detailed development of information about how you can support the candidate’s success on the job – informing you of their strengths and potential career stallers. Structured interviews also give the hiring manager, and perhaps potential colleagues as well, hands-on knowledge of how the new hire will approach critical work situations.

Building a Strong and Healthy Culture

Knowing where you want to go is equally important as knowing where you are. Is the culture you want the one you have? Many companies start with a clear picture of their definition of success and how it should be achieved, but during times of fast growth it is easy to experience “wobble.” You may have teams, locations, and leaders that view what’s important, and what’s being achieved, differently than others. Surveys and focus groups can help you uncover these gaps – which start with leadership.

Culture is foundational for diversity as it provides your team a shared destination and path to reaching it. Our team has a simple, short survey for leadership that measures where your culture “is” and where it “should be” for five core cultural areas: How you Behave, Care, Compete, Are Unique, and Achieve. This leads to a collaborative process where we can discover, define, draft, and align your organization’s culture so that it leads to your intended business results while capitalizing on diversity. A strong and healthy culture creates intense focus on your business goals. This helps remove bias in hiring, promotion, and other business decisions and creates an environment that attracts and fosters diversity. Understanding your culture will help leadership determine what kind of competencies and skills will add value to your work environment. Candidates who bring diverse experiences, while simultaneously embracing your values and beliefs, are capable of approaching and solving problems in new ways. The next question is, how do your high potential new hires grow within your company?

Succession Planning and Development

Successful employee development programs provide opportunities for employees to enhance strengths and build on opportunities. We work with organizations to determine your biggest strengths and opportunities by position, region, or department and then build a program to address them. Often, organizations undertake 360° feedback or a development program without thorough planning and intense commitment to following through with the results.  Intentional action planning and goal-setting are how these programs are successful.

Career pathing and succession planning is a prime opportunity to build retention. Communicating and nurturing the competencies, skills, and mindsets needed to reach the next level provides clear direction for employees and can build retention. Career paths and development programs are a wonderful opportunity to cultivate competencies related to cultural and emotional intelligence. Providing a clear career path for positions that traditionally lack one (like Certified Nursing Assistants in healthcare, or bussers and dishwashers in food-service) can be especially powerful. Our team has worked with organizations across industries to develop unique development assessments and experiences that educate employees about their strengths and opportunities and provide transformational opportunities to grow and flourish. Importantly, these assessments and experiences also provide leaders with key information about their teams to further engage and develop employees. Retention, diversity, hiring, and employee development all start with your culture: your definition of success and how it should be achieved.

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