4 Ways to Develop a New Employee Orientation Process that Attracts and Retains Top Diverse Talent

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Carmen Van Kerckhove, president of workplace diversity education firm New Demographic (http://www.newdemographic.com), shares four ways to develop a new employee orientation process that attracts and retains top diverse talent

If a company committed to attracting top diverse talent focuses exclusively on its recruiting strategy, but then bungles the new employee orientation process, the results can be grave.

In the latest issue of her email newsletter Diversity Career Success, Carmen Van Kerckhove, president of workplace diversity education firm New Demographic (http://www.newdemographic.com) explains the possible negative consequences:

  • Diverse candidates may feel as though a bait-and-switch tactic has been played on them.
  • New hires of color may spread the word about their unhappy orientation experience.
  • In a worst-case scenario, a new employee may even renege on his or her commitment to work at the firm and accept another offer or go back to their former job.

"Having an adept new employee orientation process is vital, especially as it relates to helping diverse hires feel welcome from day one," says Van Kerckhove.

Following are four tips for designing a successful new employee orientation process that will help attract and retain top diverse talent:

1. Determine the goals of the new employee orientation process

Decide what a successful outcome will look like; then design a new employee orientation process to accomplish it.

Goals might include making sure the new employee can identify with the new employer; making sure the new employee feels valued; finding ways to reduce the anxiety level that is so much a part of every new position; and decreasing the new hire's learning curve.

2. Introduce the new hire to an employee affinity group and mentoring program as soon as possible

Let them know about any social networks the company offers. Employee affinity groups help to eliminate feelings of social isolation because people with similar backgrounds are found in these groups.

Consider assigning a mentor to each new hire on their first day. A mentor can explain the corporate culture, make introductions to the right people, and explain protocol and programs. A mentor can also keep tabs on the new hire's progress and offer suggestions when they get stuck or struggle in an area. For best results, ensure that the new employee's mentor is not a direct supervisor or a peer who is in direct competition with the new hire.

3. Ask the new hire what they want or feel they need to learn

Orientation is a great time to learn from diverse hires about their expectations, hopes, and ambitions. Find out what they want to learn, the kind of people they want to build relationships with, and about any concerns they may have. Repeat the questions a month or two later, after they have settled in and know enough to be able to answer the questions better. Showing genuine interest in the new hire's concerns goes a long way toward establishing a sense of rapport, trust, and team-building.

If your company is having a hard time retaining diverse employees, it's imperative to ask employees of color where the lack is and what might be implemented to correct the issue or issues responsible for the exodus. Don't wait until the exit interview or a diversity audit to do this.

4. Involve the new hire's manager in the orientation process

In January 2007, the Level Playing Field Institute took a Corporate Leavers Survey. The results were eye-popping, revealing that more than two million professionals and managers leave their jobs every year due to workplace discrimination. When asked what would have kept them onboard, 34.1% of people of color chose this option: "Better management that recognizes abilities."

A significant part of the new employee orientation process should be a meeting between the new hire and his or her manager to develop a 100-day progress plan to make clear each party's expectations: What the new hire is expected to accomplish in the first few days and weeks; how success will be measured; what kind of support or learning the new hire can expect to receive, etc. Part of the plan could involve having the manager identify the areas in which the new hire can benefit from increasing knowledge, along with a way to equip him or her with the tools and/or training necessary to fill the gaps and achieve a considerable degree of success.

Van Kerckhove says, "A firm's new employee orientation process can make or break its diversity strategy. Wise companies recognize that recruiting diverse candidates is not enough. If they want to retain and promote them, it's critical to create a welcoming and supportive environment from day one."

Carmen Van Kerckhove, president of the diversity education firm New Demographic, specializes in working with corporations to facilitate relaxed, authentic, and productive conversations about race. She has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and has visited as a guest lecturer at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and many other colleges and universities across the country.

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