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Craft a plan to recruit and retain diverse staff

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Companies need a diverse workforce to connect with clients and communities.




Recruiting a diverse workforce and retaining that talent are critical to success.

“Recruiting a diverse workforce starts with being intentional about your recruitment plan,” said Risha Grant, founder and CEO of Risha Grant LLC, a diversity consulting and communications firm in Tulsa, Okla.

To hire a diverse staff, businesses seek outside help, connect with universities and organizations, network and use interns. Then to retain staff, companies engage employees, offer opportunities for development, foster an inclusive culture and promote from within.

Bettye Taylor, managing director for Express Employment Professionals in Oklahoma City, said she is still approached by clients asking for a candidate with qualities that do not relate to the necessity of the position.

“I’m still amazed at how many companies aren’t up to date on what they can or can’t say to applicants or during the process,” Taylor said. “It’s usually on the smaller business level when companies don’t have their own internal HR [human resources] professional.

“Of course, it’s not intentional behavior. It’s merely a lack of knowledge.”

Express Employment Professionals helps client companies on HR best practices,” said Sheena Karami, the company’s director of corporate communications and public relations.

“We serve as a consultant, helping educate our clients on current human resources and equal opportunity laws related to their company size,” she said. “Regulations vary based on company size.”


Specifically, where can a company go to recruit for diversity?

“There are so many organizations that are national that you can tap into and connect with that can help you with the pulse of the area that you are in, and also help with the recruiting efforts,” said Josefina Bonilla, founder and president of Color Magazine, based in Boston. She also is chief diversity officer for BridgeTower Media, which publishes business and law journals.

Grant said to first develop a plan that includes goals about diverse recruitment.

“It should include reaching out to historically black colleges and universities, diverse organizations at colleges and universities such as Hispanic, LGBT, African-American and Asian-American groups,” she said. “There will also be organizations for women, black fraternities and sororities, among others.

“The idea here is to intentionally go outside of your usual recruitment efforts. You can also join networking groups that are diverse or disseminate information to those groups about open positions at your company.”


Recruiting is only part of the battle.

“The retention is a huge piece,” Bonilla said. “You can spend lots of money on recruiting; you can get top talent.

“But if you bring them in the door, and then you don’t help provide an inclusive environment for them to be able to thrive in, then no one is going to want to stay.”

To retain employees, companies are encouraged to focus on areas such as growth and development and engagement and fostering a feeling of acceptance.

“First and foremost, make sure that your company is creating a culture of inclusion,” Grant said. “Everyone needs to feel they are a part of the process for the company’s success strategy.

“Another vitally important tip is to allow people to show up authentically, meaning when an employee can bring who they are fully to work, you receive the best they have to offer.”


Growth and development are a vast domain and include areas such as training, succession plans and feedback. Grant suggested encouraging development by building a mentorship program, promoting internally and providing professional development opportunities.

To create a sense of engagement, companies incorporate employee resource groups into their culture.

“Employee resource groups are helping employees stay in the place that they work,” Bonilla said.


In employee resource groups, employees find peers with similar interests, which helps with their sense of belonging.

“Retention ultimately comes down to engagement,” Karami said.

“Companies make an investment recruiting their internal talent, and the cost of turnover or vacancies when talent chooses to leave can have a negative impact on a company’s internal morale, internal culture and, ultimately, their bottom line.”


The J.R. Simplot Co. has about 2,600 employees at its headquarters in Boise, Idaho, and employs more than 10,000 globally.

“We have a university relations strategy, which is about engaging early talent, such as college students and high school students, and building brand awareness for Simplot,” said Raquel Sheil, director of global talent and culture at the food and agribusiness company. “We have intern programs and development programs.

“From a diversity perspective, it’s understanding what universities and colleges have the disciplines that are important to us at Simplot, with the functional areas and the skill sets, and then trying to understand how to reach those college students.”


Sheil said it’s about connecting to minority associations on college campuses – for example, women in engineering – and making sure Simplot’s presence is diverse.

“We are also trying to understand where we might have gaps from a diversity perspective,” she said.

“We are trying to enhance programs or design new ones that really focus on a positive employee experience so that people feel that it’s an inclusive workplace, and that they can be their best self.”

BridgeTower Media is the parent company of Lehigh Valley Business. Color Magazine also is a publication of BridgeTower Media.

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