Building a Culture for Inclusive Recruitment & Retention

17 Jun 2021

Workforce, News

Building a Culture for Inclusive Recruitment & Retention

By Tony Tolliver, Senior Director of Partnership & Impact

The pressure to attract and retain the best talent has never been greater. The good news is that there are a lot of talented people, who represent the voice of your customers, looking for opportunities for a job like the ones you offer. But how will you attract them? And, if you attract them, how will you keep them? Our conversations with human resources leaders and other executives on their equity and inclusion journey often go something like this: “We can’t find people of color to fill our roles, and when we do find them, we can’t keep them. What I’m really trying to say is, I’m committed, but we’ve tried everything, and nothing is working.”  Sound familiar?  How often have you felt the same way? You need more employees, you want to be a part of building a more racially inclusive community, but nothing is working.

Recruitment and retention of Black, Indigenous, Asian and Latinx people, and other underrepresented populations go hand in hand. Recruitment improves when retention improves. Both can improve with intentional actions in three key areas:  Analysis, Planning, and Creating a Culture of Inclusion.

Mind the Data

Examining key questions can help you understand what is hindering talented people from choosing to give your business their talent. Ask yourself and your leadership or human resources team these questions:

  • What do jobseekers see when they look at your business?
  • What do employees who want to move up the ranks see when they look at upper management?
  • How well are your organizations vision, mission and values reflected in the demographics and experiences of your workforces and Board of Directors? 
  • How do your workforce demographics stack up against those of others in your industry or your competitor’s?
  • Do your customers see themselves reflected in your workforce, the people they interact with, and the people making decisions about the products and services you offer?

This data isn’t about meeting quotas or even simply reflecting the communities where we operate. According to McKinsey & Company, more diverse companies are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision-making, and leading to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.

And don’t forget, first impressions count! Onboarding and orientation efforts are one of the first critical keys to retaining diverse talent. According to The Business News Daily Editor, one-third of new employees begin searching for a new job before they have been with the employer for six months, and 25% leave before they have been there a year. In a war for the best talent, you need to know where you stand before you create a plan.  

Listen to the Experiences Behind the Data

According to Gallup, businesses in the lowest quartile for employee engagement experience turnover rates 31-51% higher than their peers. Those rates can be even higher when exacerbated by a culture that does not reflect the racial diversity of the community. How informed are you about how employees from different backgrounds are experiencing belonging and inclusion in the workplace, and how it impacts engagement? Employee satisfaction surveys are used by many employers as the norm to inform leaders about overall employee satisfaction. Some may add standard diversity-related questions to gain deeper insight to the culture. And many employers disaggregate the results by department, race, gender, age and other demographic fields. Yet, even when this data is disaggregated it may provide enough insight to enable leaders to identify and address root causes of low recruitment and retention rates of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian talent.

Once you’ve gained insight into the ways employees are experiencing the organization, you can begin to assess the opportunities for deeper engagement, inclusion, and belonging that can increase talent attraction and retention. Hiring a facilitator to host focus groups or interviews with employees from under-represented backgrounds to create judgment-free spaces for them to brainstorm ideas for your business is a great way to move forward. 

Creating a culture of inclusion

Companies that invest in their greatest asset—human capital—are often more successful at retention. Diversity exist in every organization, each of us bring a variety of experiences, and demographic characteristics. Inclusion and belonging however, require action, sustained over time the ability to see evidence of racial equity and inclusion throughout a company goes a long way in retaining diverse talent.

Employees stay where they feel welcomed.  According to Berrett Koehler Publishing Millennials say they would give up an average of $7,600 in salary to work in a better corporate culture.

Creating a culture of inclusion includes being intentional about addressing bias (at every level) by providing training and facilitating discussions. Consider assessments, focus groups, stay interviews, or pulse surveys for creating a platform for your employees to feel safe sharing their feedback to help you identify and eliminate exclusive policies.

Taking action to mind the data, listen to the experiences of people inside your business, and those you want to attract, and then building a culture of inclusion is not easy, or fast. But, it’s worth it. As you take these steps, you’ll create a platform to increase inclusion and belonging, which will pay off in diverse retention and recruitment rates.


About the Center for Economic Inclusion: The Center for Economic Inclusion is the nation’s first organization created exclusively to close racial wealth gaps and accelerate shared accountability for achieving regional inclusive economic growth. The Center is committed to increasing the number of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian workers earning family-sustaining wages in the Twin Cities region by 10 percent over the next five years. Through the Center’s employer inclusivity and inclusive growth consulting services, the Center partners with employers, like Ramsey County, who also seek to increase competitiveness and profitability by centering racial equity, inclusion, and belonging. Click here to learn more about the Center’s approach to supporting businesses in developing, implementing and facilitating change management in five distinct arenas: People (Talent), Procurement, Philanthropy, Policy, and Products, Marketing and Services.


About Tony Tolliver: With 20 years of experience in leadership diversity, and community engagement in the corporate sector, Tony Tolliver is responsible for strategic vision and innovation of workforce programming. To that end, Tony connects high-level strategic innovation with practical solutions to move the needle on inclusive employment opportunities.