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5 Practical Ways to Support & Retain Underrepresented Talent

There’s a disconnect when it comes to DE&I in the workplace. At our digital workshop, held in partnership with Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Crystal Lynese Walker (Sr. Director of MLT’s Racial Equity at Work team), shared that despite more DE&I commitments by employers, progress has been limited.


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To help your organization better support and retain underrepresented talent (URT), here are 5 key takeaways from the workshop.


1. Focus on promoting from within. 

When it comes to representation, focus tends to be on recruitment, but there’s much more to consider. “One of the most important ways to build a diverse workforce is from within,” Crystal shared. This means concentrating on retaining and promoting the URT you already have. 

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with each step up the organizational hierarchy, there are fewer and fewer URT. Addressing this by investing in and promoting the diverse talent on your team allows URT to feel like they belong and to see a future for themselves at your organization, making them far more likely to stay.


2. Provide organization-wide transparency around promotion and career growth potential. 

MLT’s research reveals that, along with a sense of belonging, a clear growth trajectory can make URT four times more likely to stay at an organization. Often, however, there’s insufficient transparency when it comes to promotions. “More organizations need to find ways to make sure they’re providing this information to their employees,” said Crystal. 

Creating clear standards around the steps required for advancement can greatly improve retention.


3. Invest in training to help managers give clear and actionable feedback.

“75% of underrepresented talent and people of color in the workplace do not get the same level of feedback as their white peers. This is often because white managers and leaders don’t want to seem racist.”

This leads to missed opportunities for growth and makes promotion more difficult for URT. Companies can improve upon this by investing in training for managers on delivering effective and unbiased feedback. 


4. Create pathways for URTs to access experienced leaders. 

Many underrepresented individuals surveyed by MLT shared that finding a mentor or sponsor was difficult for them. According to Crystal, you should be training all of your leaders to be great mentors and stewards for underrepresented talent.  

Facilitating interactions between managers and underrepresented employees can also foster understanding and strengthen workplace relationships. “When you have a strong internal network in your organization, you’re two and a half times more likely to have confidence that you belong,” shared panelist Erica Van Steen (Sr. Director of Advisory Services & Experienced Talent Network at MLT).


5. Provide flexibility in where and how your employees work.

As more and more organizations push for a return to the office, it’s worth considering how this could disproportionately affect URT within your workforce. “Our research showed that remote and hybrid workers felt more engaged than their onsite counterparts…And there were historically high levels of engagement for working mothers in URT,” said Erica. 

Granting employees agency in the logistics of their daily work demonstrates trust and contributes to their sense of being valued and respected.“Whether you frame it as a choice or flexibility, this is about trusting your people.” 

You can read more insights from MLT on retaining underrepresented talent here


Missed the workshop or want a refresher? Check out a recording of the workshop here.