Whether consciously or not, certain people are often unsupported in their professional development. A company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts should not stop with recruiting a diverse set of people. Rather, it is crucial to nurture diverse talent and provide equal opportunities and support systems for traditionally underrepresented individuals to advance.
Why nurture traditionally underrepresented talent?
Studies have demonstrated time and again that leadership teams comprised of traditionally underrepresented groups produce better results than non-diverse teams. McKinsey’s study of over 1,000 companies revealed that diverse executive teams are highly likely to financially outperform non-diverse teams. Additionally, they discovered that, “the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.”
This same study, however, showed that companies have been slow to diversify their executive leadership and still, by and large, favor white men. Just 6.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female. And a full 20 percent of Black workers believe they (or anyone of their race) cannot reach their company’s C-suite. Frankly, that’s appalling.
Part of this painfully slow progress is likely due to underrepresented talent (specifically those who identify as women or BIPOC) experiencing a general lack of support in the workplace. These individuals may not have easy access to the same resources (such as a workplace sponsor or mentor) that others might enjoy.
How can your workplace consciously develop underrepresented individuals? Try the following 4 tips:
1. Check In Regularly
It is easy for underrepresented workers to feel disconnected from fellow workers or from company leadership. One of the easiest ways to bridge this gap is to establish regular check-ins (for all employees). Use these check-ins to ask open-ended questions to determine the following:
- What’s working? What’s going well?
- What’s not working?
- What are the individual’s immediate and long-term goals?
Making an effort to learn more about each team member is an effective (and relatively easy) way to establish connections, gain insight, and ultimately help them navigate their career path.
2. Offer Mentorship Programs
Workplace mentors are irreplaceable. Mentors provide a window into the company culture, valuable advice (based on lived experience), and personalized resources. When an individual regularly meets with a mentor, they gain access to a wealth of knowledge they probably would not have discovered on their own. Additionally, a mentor can offer insights into how company leadership operates and how best to climb the ladder to join the leadership team (if that is the mentee’s goal). Once a mentor gets to know their mentee, they can also act as a sponsor or advocate to help them gain a promotion.
3. Make Feedback Easy
Far too often, underrepresented workers feel as though their voices are not heard in the workplace. The majority’s opinion or way of working is likely to prevail, unless they dare to speak up. Speaking up or offering an alternative point of view should not be scary or require tremendous effort or courage. Rather, it should be normalized. When you offer many different feedback channels, you inevitably welcome diverse voices, ideas, and perspectives. It’s a good idea to provide both anonymous feedback channels (private messages/forums, anonymous surveys) and public ones (focus groups, team meetings, one-on-one meetings).
4. Provide Continuing Education Opportunities
In order to advance and remain competitive, your talent needs access to continuous training and learning opportunities. Sadly, companies tend to spend far less per capita on Black employees (81 cents to the dollar) and Hispanic/LatinX employees (68 cents to the dollar) than white employees. The implication is clear: the company is investing in those they want to support and advance. It’s time we equalize opportunities to continuing education.
Until underrepresented talent is, well, represented, we need to continue having conversations about how to support our diverse talent. Too often, companies do not provide the resources and pathways needed to elevate diverse employees. We need to consciously invest in, pay attention to, and engage in meaningful conversations with underrepresented team members. If we don’t, company leadership will continue to lack representation.