Diversity and Inclusion

The Key to a Competitive Advantage: Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Workforce

This is the moment when you can see the gap between intent and impact.

Intent is what we mean to do — the motivation or purpose of our actions or conversations. Impact is what we achieve — the results of what we do or what say, how our actions or words are perceived.

How does this play out in the workplace?

Many companies focus on diversity initiatives in their organizations. They know that diverse teams bring a wider range of perspectives and ideas to the table, leading to better brainstorming, problem-solving, and business results. Diverse companies attract better talent and improve their decision-making, customer orientation, and employee satisfaction.

Even with good intentions, organizations can end up undermining their efforts if they don’t consider and account for the potential impact of their decisions, policies, or actions. We’ve outlined three potential risk points for organizations when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB):

1. Tasking your BIPOC employees with solving your diversity issues.

  • Intent: Invite those who have experienced inequities first-hand to participate in developing the solution.
  • Impact: Employees are unduly burdened, under-empowered, or seen as a data point.
  • Instead: Make DEIB everyone’s responsibility.

While the intent may be to utilize your internal resources to advance your goals, the impact is harmful. Expecting your employees to lead diversity initiatives, create plans, weigh in on social justice issues, and answer questions is lazy and insulting. This work is unpaid, non-promotable, and emotionally taxing. Instead, bring in an expert to spearhead your DEIB efforts. Whether that’s an internal position or a consultant group, give them the autonomy, freedom, and support they need to develop a solid, strategic plan. Then, support that plan appropriately and hold your teams accountable.

2. Focusing too much on hiring and not enough on retention

  • Intent: Build a more diverse workforce
  • Impact: The employee feels isolated, psychologically unsafe, and/or experiences impostor syndrome.
  • Instead: Implement structures to help new hires feel safe, seen, and supported.

Hiring a diverse workforce is only part of the equation. The next phase? Retention. Someone with a different background and life experiences can quickly find themselves feeling isolated or even psychologically unsafe in their new workplace. These feelings can lead to “imposter syndrome” as well as overwork, as a result of trying to prove themselves to the existing workforce. The goal should be to create an environment where employees truly feel comfortable speaking freely about their concerns and what they care about. ERGs, focus groups, and establishing a “tell me anything” open-door policy between managers and employees are all ways to promote inclusion and retention. 

3. Framing DEI as a “problem to be solved” instead of a strategic opportunity to build a competitive advantage

  • Intent: Make real, measurable improvements or be legally compliant
  • Impact: Employees are not engaged and/or are resentful
  • Instead: Focus on what we outlined above. Good business results are good for everyone. And your leadership team better be on board.

Remember, it’s all in the approach. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are ongoing processes that demand continuous effort and commitment. If the narrative around your DEIB approach becomes about trying to achieve a specific diversity metric or being legally compliant, your employees may become skeptical or resentful and disengage from those efforts. Communicating the strategic advantages of fostering a more diverse organization, which encompasses greater employee satisfaction, retention, and financial success, is vital to ensuring the entire team — from leaders to front-line employees — supports and participates in this important work. 

Forté partners with leading companies to recruit and retain phenomenal, diverse talent. Connect with our corporate team today to learn how we can support your organizational goals.

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