Diversity recruitment is booming, but retention remains a “huge issue”

posted on July 24, 2020

July 17, 2020

By Sabri Ben-Achour and Rose Conlon, Marketplace

Protests against racism and police brutality have led many companies to issue statements denouncing racism and pledge to donate to civil rights organizations. But they’re also reckoning with entrenched discrimination within their workforces, often at the urging of employees who want leaders to turn statements of solidarity into concrete action.

One measure of progress is the number of Black employees and other people of color within organizations, particularly in leadership roles. And companies that help other companies recruit underrepresented job seekers say business has been booming lately.

“Going into COVID-19, we were a little bit worried because we saw so many organizations institute hiring freezes, even perform layoffs,” said Arthur Woods, co-founder of the diversity recruiting platform Mathison, which connects job seekers to companies like Accenture, Casper and the Long-Term Stock Exchange.

“But in the last month alone, we have seen more demand for Mathison than the entire last year combined,” he told Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.

Woods thinks corporate leaders are acknowledging the importance of building racially diverse workforces, especially in management.

But recruiting diverse talent is only the first step. Once they’re onboarded, retaining employees of color can be a significant blind spot for organizations.

“We see organizations that have instituted plans for diversity hiring actually failing to retain and advance those very job seekers,” Woods said.

New recruits who enter organizations with unwelcoming and discriminatory cultures often encounter microaggressions and face roadblocks to professional advancement.

“And those are all really good reasons to leave,” Woods said. “So we believe it’s just as important for organizations to be building out plans for diversity hiring as it is for them to be instituting programs: mentorship, executive sponsorship, career development, creating mechanisms for capturing feedback, really being able to create systems to ask people how they’re doing. Without those systems and structures in place, we almost see that there’s a hole at the bottom of organizations that isn’t going to be sustainable for their diversity goals.”

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