If you want new hires to stay at your company long term, provide a welcoming environment.
You’ve worked hard to recruit and hire candidates of a diverse background. You may be making changes throughout the company, or creating more diversity within work groups or departments. No matter how wide-ranging or department-specific, making sure the effort put into reaching out into underserved communities and acquiring top talent will be wasted if they don’t feel welcomed and included from the first day on the job and beyond.
A welcoming, inclusive environment is the best way to start off any new hire’s road to long-term employment with your company. For businesses new to expanding their talent base, or for those more well-versed, going that extra mile for new hires that are breaking ground in the company or on teams assures your recruitment efforts will result in an inclusive “welcome.”
Creating an inclusive environment requires preplanning and thought. Onboarding sets the stage for a successful transition for a new hire: it can be especially important to a diverse candidate. When expanding your company or teams, look at issues that have arisen in the past, what could arise in the future, and where you can go a bit beyond to create a welcoming, inclusive environment.
Make it a top down initiative
Before you post your job online, talk to staff members and managers about your commitment to make the organization more diverse and inclusive. Stress the importance of building teams that better represent your business and your client base. There may be issues — some reasonable — like adding restroom or lactation facilities. Be ready to discuss these with the team, listen to concerns and respond with action steps. Let them know diversity is a priority and each of them will be a part of its success.
Do a sweep
No one has pin up girl calendars in their office any more (do they?), so you’re not likely to have to remove them when the newest member of the previously all-male team is female. But there can be other, less blatant, graphics and items around the workplace that can be problematic. Look at posters, calendars, office memes, etc., with a more critical eye.
Will they force the new hire in a position to be “one of the guys” or will she be able to be her authentic self? Ask what message the physical environment sends. If the office space looks like a frat house it might be time for a professional makeover — even if you’re not changing the gender dynamic.
Watch your timing
You may need to staff up during busy times, but consider whether or not a crunch period is the right time for a new person to start. They may have less access to training and help when everything is at critical mass. When possible, set new hire dates for times when they’ll have easy access to managers and coworkers. With less pressure, everyone can more easily support the new hire during training and onboarding.
Assign a buddy
An onboarding best practice is always to assign a buddy to a new hire during their transition: when you’re breaking new ground with a diverse candidate, make sure the person you assign understands their responsibility.
You’ve likely prepped your team for the new hire — they may even have been involved in the hiring practice. An onboarding best practice is always to assign a buddy to a new hire during their transition: when you’re breaking new ground with a diverse candidate, make sure the person you assign understands their responsibility. While you’re not holding them accountable for the new hire’s success, normal onboarding duties may not be enough.
Make sure the person you assign to help onboard the new hire is on board with your diversity plan. They’ll need to be accessible to the newest member of the team as much as possible, and will need to let the new hire know they can talk about anything to them. Prep the team member by letting them know HR or managers are available if the new hire encounters something the buddy doesn’t know how to address, and be ready to step in immediately if a helping hand is needed.
Many companies start their onboarding process with a networking plan for new hires. Meet and greets throughout the company are a quick way to put a face to the names of those you email or call routinely, but go beyond. Set up lunch dates and meetings widely to help the new hire make connections, both professionally and socially.
Remind employees that they were once “Nick the new kid.” It may have been awkward and challenging in those early days before they made friends. Welcoming any new hire, particularly one whose background and experience is different than yours, takes effort. Don’t stop after the first week: if a welcoming environment is what you want to achieve, take the time and the steps to keep it moving forward.
Set the stage for feedback
Your new hire(s) will quickly notice if they’re the only person (people) in the group with their background. You may have discussed this with them during the interview process, letting them know your commitment to diversity may be beginning with their hire. Let them know your responsibility goes beyond their first day. Set meetings with them during their first days and weeks for feedback time. Let them know you want their honest opinions on what’s working and what needs adjustment to make sure they’re successful in their role and the company.
Set meetings with them during their first days and weeks for feedback time. Let them know you want their honest opinions on what’s working and what needs adjustment to make sure they’re successful in their role and the company.
Listen with an open mind when concerns are brought to your attention. An automatic “they didn’t mean it that way” isn’t a satisfactory response to someone who had the courage to mention an incident that made them feel unwelcome. While every comment might not be worthy of a full-blown investigation, they may be worthy of a sidebar with the employee who may not even have realized they were insensitive.
Just because you’re not hearing about problems from the new hire, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Talk with their manager as well, to see if the newest addition to the team is being welcomed by the group. If the employee works independently, you may need an extra effort to expand their network within the company. If they’re part of a small or large group, the manager should be able to gauge the dynamic more easily. No matter their role, it will be important to get feedback from the new hire and trusted team members to make sure inclusion is going to plan.
When it comes to common activities and supplies, don’t assume the Christmas party will appear an inclusive event for every new hire, but don’t cancel it as a knee-jerk reaction either. Ask the new hire how they celebrate holidays, and make sure your event is inclusive to all walks of life.
Food items in vending machines or break room goodies may need an update as well. Ask the newest member of the team if there are sufficient choices for them and be prepared to make adjustments. It’s often the little things that make a big impact.
Emphasize respect and value
Change can be frightening: some of your employees may even be resistant to a more diverse working environment. Training may be necessary to get them to understand the value of diversity and the power it brings to the team and company. Your role will be to underscore that every member of the group has worth and is entitled to respect. While there may be resistance at first, don’t let it deter or derail your goals. Move forward with your plan to assure your company is as diverse as possible. Be prepared to remind any holdouts who can’t be a part of the effort they may want to look elsewhere for employment.
Building a diverse workplace won’t happen overnight. It will take effort, planning and may encounter a few glitches along the way. Celebrate the successes like making a huge deal when a new hire clears their probationary period. When you build on each success, the next is easier to attain.
Check out our People Ops Podcast episode “Going From Best Intentions to Best Practices for DEI.”