To Retain Employees, Focus on Inclusion — Not Just DiversityApr 22, 2022
To retain talent, most organizations offer the typical things: free coffee and tea in the break room, competitive benefits, generous raises and bonuses, and employee recognition programs. But none of that works for an employee who doesn’t feel comfortable in his or her work environment. Picture, for example, a Muslim who prays in his car because he doesn’t want to advertise his religion, a mother who doesn’t put up pictures of her children so that coworkers won’t question her commitment to the job, or a gay executive who is unsure whether he can bring his partner to company functions.
Employees who differ from most of their colleagues in religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and generation often hide important parts of themselves at work for fear of negative consequences. We in the diversity and inclusion community call this “identity cover,” and it makes it difficult to know how they feel and what they want, which makes them vulnerable to leaving their organizations.
Most business leaders understand the diversity part of diversity and inclusion. They get that having a diverse workforce is important to customers and critical to succeeding in a global market. It’s the inclusion part that eludes them — creating an environment where people can be who they are, that values their unique talents and perspectives, and makes them want to stay.
The key to inclusion is understanding who your employees really are. Three of the most effective ways to find out are survey assessments, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations. To be effective, however, they must be approached in a way that accounts for the fact that people — particularly those in underrepresented groups — can be more difficult to get to know than we think.
In an ideal world, all leaders would be adept at understanding their employees and making sure they didn’t lose any through neglect or ignorance. In the real world, however, most aren’t tuned into the factors that can get in the way of knowing what’s important to employees both individually and collectively. Tools such as segmented engagement surveys, focus groups, and personal conversations can guide management in taking the actions that will help keep their talent engaged and committed to the organization.
The first step in retaining more employees is to use these tools and engage in what we call the 5 L’s—Listen, Learn, Love, Lead, and Leverage. To receive a copy and learn more, click here.
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