“The words of the elders do not lock all the doors, they leave the right door open.” -African Proverb

Written by: Helen Hope Kimbrough

So you’ve embarked upon a talent management search looking for the right candidate to meet the goals and objectives of your organization. In your search, it has been decided by the executive team or the board that this candidate must possess the following characteristics: he or she must have a strong business background with the ability to fundraise and manage budgets, a leadership presence with demonstrated success, a relational quality that exudes authentic engagement to build partnerships along with other attributes for the role. Through several months of search, you have narrowed the candidate pool down to the one person who will be offered the job and has accepted it.

Of course, everyone is excited about this new journey and can’t wait to get started. But now that this new hire has entered the door of your organization, how do you lay the groundwork so that this person can achieve growth and success? What steps do you put in place?

As an experienced professional and board member, I have witnessed instances throughout my career where individuals (especially people of color) have joined or contracted with an organization, and the experience fell flat very quickly. In these cases, the blame was placed on the individual with words like ‘inadequate’, ‘ill-equipped’, or ‘unsuitable for the position’. Other commonly used phrases include ‘he was not a good fit for the company’ or ‘she was not a team player within the organization’. And sometimes, this treatment can extend to being shunned or having limited future opportunities based on the perception of what was stated or heard which has a negative impact.

As an African American woman, I have been on the receiving end of this, and it can be extremely traumatizing because you begin to internalize and believe the rhetoric that you hear. Plus, the trauma is magnified by the daily microaggressions and lack of respect. Examples of this could  include working collaboratively on a team project, but not receiving recognition for it or being invited to join a meeting to share your perspective only to feel invisible afterwards or having someone else be promoted who is less qualified. It’s subtle. It’s blatant. It’s frustrating. It’s demoralizing. And people of color feel this way far more than they should.

So what can organizations do to prioritize diversity and offset these challenges? How can they impart support and create an inclusive and equitable work environment?

Assess Values and Guiding Principles

Values are defining, touchstone ideals that guide an organization in its perspective and actions. Values permeate everything the organization does and must be an expression of the many people who make it viable. Guiding principles are “applied values” meant to govern action and direction of how best to move forward.

As you onboard new people, it may be helpful to take a second look at your values and guiding principles. Do equity and inclusiveness show up? Are there ways you can express your commitment to creating a work environment where everyone can thrive?

Assess Culture and Environment

The intersection between culture and environment is undeniable, and companies must acknowledge how cultural differences of its team members play a factor in the environment. These differences can be easily overlooked but without acknowledgement of them, it can create tension and misunderstanding.

It’s proven that opportunities have not always been favorable to people of color based on race, gender, and cultural differences. However, it is also proven that a culturally diverse workforce produces better outcomes in innovation, thought leadership, productivity, and financial rewards. As an organization, are you pulling from what’s comfortable by tapping the same people or are you willing to challenge yourself by embracing different cultures for a better result?

Check out this article, to view the top benefits of workplace diversity.

Unpack Equity

Equity is ensuring fairness and access which may mean providing additional considerations. Such as, a first generation college graduate may need more support and training from human resources to understand the workplace protocols and procedures. Additionally, it may be valuable to designate a mentor or invest in a coach to discuss daily operations, goal setting, employee resource groups, or future development and advancement opportunities.

Unpacking equity is a process to evaluate barriers, seen and unseen, and to build onramps for people to ensure equal access. Road to Hire has done an incredible job of ensuring first-generation college students and students of color have access to higher education and high-earning careers for a prosperous future.

Institute a Team-Based Approach

One of our strategic goals at Next Stage for 2022 is to institute a team-based approach with clients. Incorporating this style of project management means that we are all responsible for the quality and success of our deliverables. Although we’ve just begun, we appreciate the opportunity to work closely with one another and build upon each other’s strengths. We believe this collaborative work style and learning while doing is making us better.

As we move beyond the door of hiring more diverse candidates, let us be more intentional and thoughtful in our actions about how we integrate new team members into our spaces. For it can’t solely be on an individual to shoulder the responsibility – everyone must join in to make this a successful and sustainable partnership.