Promising Practices: How Minnesota Employers Can Achieve a Competitive Edge - Ensure Racially Equitable and Inclusive Workplaces

1 May 2022

Workforce, News

By Andrea Ferstan, Vice President of Innovation, Policy and Research, Center for Economc Inclusion

Across the nation, companies are struggling to find and retain diverse talent, resulting in high turnover costs, lower productivity and down revenues. Many of those same companies are realizing that the key to unlock and achieve year-over-year growth and a competitive edge is to ensure their workplace is racially equitable and inclusive.

Research has long pointed to the economic benefits of racially inclusive workplaces. In Minnesota, research by Fed Communities found that by closing the state’s racial gaps in employment, our GDP would have increased by $2.3 billion each year (2005 to 2019).

Over the next 20 years, the pipeline of talent will increasingly be Black and Brown. By 2044, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian people will represent the majority of the nation’s population, workforce, and consumers.

In Ramsey County, the workforce is comprised of 36% racially and ethnically diverse employees. Starting now, employers have a window of opportunity to examine and make the necessary improvements to their workplace cultures and recruitment, hiring, and retention practices and policies.

The most successful companies will be those who commit to identifying barriers, crafting data-informed solutions, and taking meaningful action to close racial employment gaps and build a workplace of equity, inclusion, and belonging.

The time to build that racially diverse and inclusive workplace of the future is now.

The Competitive Edge - Data show the competitive edge of racially equitable and inclusive workplaces:

  • Businesses with a more diverse workforce have been shown to have more customers, higher revenues and profits, greater market share, less absenteeism and turnover, and a higher level of employee and customer commitment to their organizations.[1]
  • Studies have shown that feeling more included boosts productivity.[2]
  • Employers who intentionally find ways to advance the careers and enhance the experiences of their frontline employees of color—entry-level employees who engage closely with customers—can gain competitive advantage.[3]

There are multiple evidence-based practices employers can adopt to advance racial equity[4] for recruiting, attracting, hiring, and retaining diverse talent to create a workplace of racial equity, inclusion, and belonging. Closing racial employment gaps is how companies will achieve and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

1. Build the internal capacity for an inclusive, understanding, and adaptive culture that values the contributions of employees of color.


  • CEO commitment to racial equity
  • Chief DEI leader
  • Company-wide evaluation of managers at all levels of the organization
  • Commitment to anti-racism is demonstrated in the organizational values, strategy, goals, vision, performance reviews, and partnerships


  • Employee resource groups
  • Ongoing REI trainings
  • Address bias, micro-aggressions, and build a culture of anti-racism

2. Strengthen management and HR systems, policies, and practices to enable equitable outcomes for employees of color:

Stability Support

  • Childcare subsidies or vouchers
  • Competitive and equitable pay
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Employee hardship funds
  • Health insurance for all part-time employees
  • Transportation assistance


  • Minimum hour guarantees
  • Predictable and flexible scheduling
  • Shift swapping


  • Paid sick leave
  • Paid parental leave

3. Intentionally invest in the development, recognition, and promotion of more employees of color:

Hiring, Training and Retention

  • Cross-training
  • Recruiting people of color to management trainings
  • Investments in talent pipeline development; diverse referral programs
  • Peer mentoring and coaching to develop racially responsive leaders and executives

Other Supports and Partnerships

  • Clear career pathways and eliminate artificial barriers to advancement
  • Education/tuition assistance programs
  • Formal mentorship and sponsorship
  • Strategic partnerships with local and national organizations to build Grow Your Own programs

Building a racially equitable and inclusive economy that works for everyone requires long-term commitment, action, and accountability. The road map to closing racial gaps is available and achievable. Now, we need leaders across sectors to take those smart, bold first steps within their companies, catalyzing a ripple effect of inclusive growth in the region.


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, and Marketing and Services.


[1] Vivian Hunt, Dennis Layton, and Sara Prince, “Diversity Matters,” McKinsey & Company, February 2, 2015,

[2] Accenture-Getting-To-Equal-2020 Research Report

[3] Advancing Frontline Employees of Color, Innovating for Competitive Advantage in America’s Frontline Workforce by Fay HanleyBrown, Lakshmi Iyer, Josh Kirschenbaum, Sandra Medrano, Aaron Mihal; FSG and PolicyLink

[4] Ibid and Center For Economic Inclusion