If the recruiting process is a courtship, then an employee’s first days set the tone for the marriage that follows.
By Julie Kamph, CEO and Founder, JBK Associates International
After more than a decade spent running a firm that specializes in diversity recruitment and retention, I’ve learned that success comes down to building genuine relationships. Given the stakes and the sensitivities that come with even discussions of diversity, these relationships only develop when every step of the process shows care and integrity.
Ironically, the organizations that do best in diversity recruitment don’t prioritize diversity above all else. They prioritize diversity equally with skills and cultural fit. It’s easy to take a shortcut by permitting a spot on a slate for a diverse candidate who may be less qualified, but that approach puts hiring managers in an impossible position and sets up potential employees for failure—hardly a formula for respectful relationships.
JBK Associates International conducts hundreds of searches including some for highly complex roles, and I can tell you that it’s a mistake to suggest that diverse candidates with top qualifications just aren’t out there. They are out there; they just require effort to find and attract.
It helps to have a diverse hiring team. Clients who do are more likely to show the sensitivity needed to answer common tough questions ranging from “Am I on this search because I’m a person of color?” to “Why does no one running this company look like me?” At JBK, the experience and skills of a fully diverse team help us work through the questions to build a promising candidate-employer relationship.
We also follow up closely with every executive we place—that’s when we see the impact of onboarding. If the recruiting process is a courtship, then an employee’s first days set the tone for the marriage that follows. Diverse employees who don’t receive thoughtful onboarding can feel like a new spouse left alone to take out the trash, and that disappointment makes an early exit look tempting. Those welcomed with a customized program, resource groups, mentoring, and a willingness to listen will want to stay—provided they have the chance to grow.
The most effective tactic I’ve seen for instilling that confidence is sensitivity training. The benefits of diverse perspectives come at the price of tough conversations, and few executives have a natural ability to negotiate tough conversations in an environment that’s multiracial, multigenerational, gender-balanced, and filled with employees of different faiths, sexual orientations, physical abilities, and backgrounds.
Internal audiences may not always welcome sensitivity training, but its absence has real costs. When employers don’t train managers to question the assumptions and filters they use to make business decisions, diverse new employees may need years to assimilate. By shortening the assimilation period, organizations can drive gains in productivity and also increase their ability to retain the diverse workforce they’ve worked so hard to attract. Increased retention in turn will help draw new diverse employees.
As with anything involving human relationships, successful diversity recruitment and retention takes commitment. For the team and clients of JBK Associates International, that commitment pays off by offering us exciting opportunities to work with some of the world’s best diverse talent.