Beyond Diversity: Equity and Inclusion Drive Retention

By Kristen Harris

We help companies elevate their marketing teams and firmly believe that a more diverse marketing team leads to better outcomes. Not only do we want to live in a more equitable and inclusive society, but the importance of having a diverse marketing and creative team has been proven repeatedly. I can think of several situations where a more diverse and inclusive point of view could have saved the company from embarrassing public failure. 

For a few strategies on improving diversity through your hiring process, check out Inclusive Hiring: Five Tips to Attract More Diverse Applicants for Your Open Role and Inclusive Hiring: Practices to Build a More Diverse Team

While we welcome client conversations about increasing team diversity, the hiring process is only the beginning of this work. Equity and inclusion are key to retaining the people you hire.

With a diversity focus, you may successfully attract and hire employees with a broad range of differences, including race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, age, and more. Especially populations that have been underrepresented in your industry or marginalized in society. 

By focusing on equity, you’ll ensure fairness and impartiality in your processes and procedures. This allows all of your employees equal access to resources and opportunities within your organization. 

However, with a focus on inclusion, diverse employees genuinely feel and are welcomed within your company. They’re able to fully participate in decisions, share ideas, access development opportunities, and positively influence the culture. 

When there is a focus only on diversity, diverse employees can feel forced to assimilate into the existing culture without influencing it. To mold themselves to better fit in, rather than being able to impact and evolve the culture. They code-switch as a survival tactic. 

When you have achieved inclusion, each person is valued for their unique abilities. Their unique background, experience, skills, abilities, and perspectives are all valuable parts of what they bring to the team. Diverse employees improve your company and culture by bringing and being themselves rather than just trying to fit in.

Inclusion requires intentionality. It doesn’t just happen; you have to make sure it happens. And you’re never really done; there is always an opportunity to do more, to make people feel more included. 

Areas to consider how you might be more inclusive:

  • New Hire Onboarding. Building equity and inclusion into your onboarding process can have a significant impact on retention. How new employees feel on their first day, week, and 30-60-90 days will set the tone for the entire time they work with you. And can often impact whether that tenure is long- or short-lived. Many of our Remote Onboarding whitepaper tips will help all new hires feel included, whether they are working remotely or onsite.

  • People First. Remember, every employee is an individual. Use “people first” language and focus on each person, not their categorization. Someone’s disability, ethnicity, gender, background, or other status is not who they are. Never make assumptions about someone’s situation, abilities, or needs.

  • Prepare Managers for Success. Make sure your hiring manager has a plan for making new team members feel fully included and welcome. Connect new hires with an “onboarding buddy” and make them aware of employee resource groups or opportunities to connect with other employees. Again, do not make assumptions. Share all resources with all employees, and allow each person to self-select for what they want or need.

  • Presume Competence. Talk about, train for, and keep focused on the essential functions of the job. Don’t make assumptions about what the person can or can’t do, or does or doesn’t know. If you have provided an equitable and inclusive environment, people will ask for any help or accommodation they need. 

  • Develop Talent. Want a larger candidate pool of experienced people suitable for management and leadership roles? Hire people for entry-level positions and give them equitable access to tools, resources, and opportunities for advancement. Ensure there are plans and systems in place for employees to develop and grow with your company. Representation may be a way to track diversity, but moving up in the company is a better measure of inclusion. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are complex subjects. However, with intentional focus and attention, we can all make changes with long-term positive impacts. Looking to add to, build or supplement your marketing or creative team? We live for this stuff and are here to help!