Retention: Why employees from underrepresented groups leave and what to do about it

3 minute read

An inclusive recruitment process is the foundation stone for creating a more diverse workforce but firms need to focus on retaining talented people from underrepresented groups too, says Nathalie Richards, CEO of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO London)

Icons of diverse people

Let’s say you’re an HR professional in a large tech firm and a new recruitment campaign designed to broaden the diversity of the workforce has resulted in a 10% uplift in the number of successful new starters.

In isolation, the organisation’s ability to attract more women and people from minority backgrounds might be regarded as a positive outcome. But what if only 1% of these talented new recruits are still working with the firm 12 months later?

While inclusive recruitment and induction processes are essential for improving the diversity of a workforce, firms also need to gain a deeper understanding of the issues that prompt employees to move on so soon.

Career development goals

All ambitious career starters want job satisfaction and equal access to opportunities for career development, and rightly so. But if these are not equally visible and accessible to everyone people will leave to find them elsewhere. 

While financial incentives may help an organisation to improve staff retention rates, firms that provide a broad range of opportunities for individuals to develop within their roles are much more likely to encourage them to feel valued and stay longer.

This might be a job swap with someone in another department or the chance to study for additional qualifications and skills to support their progression. A fresh challenge can boost job satisfaction and foster a culture where employees are valued and encouraged to make a full contribution to the wider success of the business. 

Clear representation at all levels

Organisations can often overlook the importance of ensuring new employees have role models across the business, including in senior roles, who look and sound like them or have come from similar backgrounds.

If there is a lack of representation it can create a sense of not belonging, or that little effort is being made by the firm to create an environment where workers from minority groups can be their authentic selves. People may then start to wonder whether they have a long-term future in the organisation.

Mentoring schemes can help to develop talent and provide young workers from minority groups with support from employees who have faced similar challenges in building their careers. With visible role models across the organisation young people will be more likely to feel they can get the same opportunities as everyone else to advance in their careers, supporting employee retention.

Nurturing networks

Strong industry connections can be critical for a young person’s ability to climb the career ladder, but not everyone has equal access to these networks or the same opportunities to build them.

This is another area where employers can help to bridge the gaps and improve retention rates. Networking events can be a great way to bring workers from across the organisation together and promote opportunities for new challenges within the firm. 

Targeted training for line managers and senior staff is also key to removing barriers such as racism, gender bias and homophobia, from across an organisation. By recognising and embracing societal, cultural and religious differences people coming into the sector will see they are represented and valued.     

Driving business success

Workforce diversity is a key factor in the success of any business. There is an untapped pool of talented individuals who share your organisation’s vision and have a significant role to play in helping firms to expand into new markets, launch innovative new products and provide quality services across the world. 

In challenging economic times, it makes sound business sense to commit to improving diversity and give more young people the opportunities they deserve, to succeed professionally and make a positive impact on the organisations they come into.

Those firms that are proactive at assessing and reshaping recruitment and retention practices to focus on diversity, equality and inclusion will ultimately find it easier to retain top talent, and therefore protect their bottom line.

Nathalie Richards, pictured below, is CEO of UK-registered charity Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO London) which provides young people from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds with quality educational, training and mentoring support to prepare them for career success

Nathalie Richards, CEO of SEO London

Published 19 July 2023
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