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3 strategies managers need to know to keep diverse talent from walking out the door

November 29, 2021, 10:00 PM UTC
"Managers are the stopgap for employee attrition, and in today’s Great Reshuffle retaining top diverse talent is as important as any business objective," writes Andrew McCaskill.
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We have all heard the adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. While there’s no empirical data to support that notion, there is a lot of data that suggests we are in the most dramatic shift the world of work has seen in a generation. Nearly 90% of professionals agree that the pandemic has made them reevaluate their priorities in work and life. In fact, a LinkedIn survey on the Black Professional experience found that 29% of Black professionals are either actively looking or thinking about quitting their jobs. The number is even higher for Latino professionals(37%) and women (36%) according to an October survey conducted by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn. 

While many women, Black, and Latino professionals have taken steps to find a new job, the silver lining for companies is that these same professionals are willing to stay, if given support and the chance to grow through talent mobility opportunities. For companies, it all starts with managers. Retention will require managers to get comfortable with putting in the extra effort. 

Engage equitably

Working through a global pandemic has dramatically impacted everyone, but Black, Latino, and Asian communities have had disproportionate health and financial impacts. Regularly checking in with employees is essential, and managers have to ask themselves, “Am I engaging my team equitably?” 

If you naturally tend to check in with some employees more than others, consider the impact this may have on your whole team. Playing favorites can leave a team member feeling unappreciated, like it wouldn’t matter if they moved on to another opportunity. Without serendipitous watercooler meetings, managers have to be intentional about having conversations with their entire team to get a feel for how they’re doing personally and professionally. Make a point (and a plan) to check in with all direct reports—not just the ones with whom you have an easy rapport. 

Give equitable feedback

Engaging equitably isn’t just about the “how are you” conversations; it’s also about giving feedback equitably. Statistically, women and people of color receive less feedback and lower-quality feedback than their white male counterparts. Researchers at Stanford’s Clayman Institute found that compared with men, women receive one-third as much feedback linked to actual business outcomes. In our survey on the Black Professionals experience, lack of recognition of work was the number two reason given for African Americans wanting to change jobs. Feedback is a gift—whether it’s a pat on the back or a course correction.  

One of the worst scenarios a manager can find themselves in is avoiding providing feedback to colleagues from underrepresented groups to avoid being perceived as biased. This creates a vicious cycle where people not only miss out on the feedback they need to grow and develop, but they also miss out on opportunities, promotions, and career growth. While it might be harder to give feedback to someone different than you, you must do it equitably so everyone on your team has the chance to grow and improve. 

Equitable feedback is also about being explicit and intentional about your “why” for the conversation. Start by asking, “Is now a good time to give you some feedback?” Provide context, be specific and factual and give concrete examples to avoid confusion. Center the conversation on the business impact and outcome and how you can help them succeed on the path forward. Feedback should be both frequent and timely. No one should hear about a performance mistake a month or a quarter after it happened.

Embrace flexibility

Professionals are not only in the midst of an internal career awakening, they are experiencing the Great Reshuffle as they rethink their entire working model. But employees of color are facing a unique set of lived experiences. Our research found that 46% of Black professionals ages 18-34 and 44% of Latino professionals ages 18-34 have faced blatant discrimination and/or microaggressions at work. In fact, Slack’s Future Forum think tank found that only 3% of Black workers in the survey wanted to return to the workplace fully in person, compared to 21% of their white counterparts. Future Forum surveys also found that employees of color reported fewer microaggressions and a heightened sense of belonging in the remote environment.

Open, informed, and empathetic conversations about how all employees want to work is important, but inclusion and inclusive retention strategies will require extra effort on the part of managers. The biggest takeaway for managers is to prioritize flexibility for employees of color. Companies and managers who want to retain their top diverse talent should recognize these insights when deploying their return to office strategies and policies. 

People of color are experiencing the world and the world of work differently than their white counterparts. For managers, supporting and retaining diverse talent will require intention, creativity, and conscious effort. From having meaningful check-ins and sharing timely feedback to acknowledging unique needs and being flexible, managers are the stopgap for employee attrition, and in today’s Great Reshuffle retaining top diverse talent is as important as any business objective.

Andrew McCaskill is a senior director and career expert at LinkedIn. He’s a marketing and communications executive with deep knowledge and understanding of building and managing diverse teams. He’s a champion for DEI and an on-air contributor for SiriusXM. 

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