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The Great Retention: Why Leaders Should Re-Evaluate Their DE&I Retention Strategies

Emma Ascott


For companies who are hoping to shift from the Great Resignation to the Great Retention, it’s time to re-evaluate diversity, equity and inclusion retention strategies.  

Some leaders blame the workers who leave, but the best look inward and examine themselves and understand how the company’s poor retention practices may be to blame for departures.  

While this process is uncomfortable, it is important. Organizations cannot ignore the costs of failing to retain diverse talent. Conversely, they cannot overlook the fact that if they learn how to retain the most marginalized of their members, they will end up benefiting everyone.  

If companies don’t take the time to create new strategies to make their workplace one where BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and veterans want to stay, they will fail.  

Deanna Singh, leadership and DEI expert, explained why so many organizations have a retention problem with underrepresented people. 

Allwork.Space: Why are underrepresented employees quitting? 

Deanna Singh: Many companies struggle to retain underrepresented employees, and that problem has intensified with the Great Resignation. What lies at the heart of the problem is that too few organizations have an articulated retention plan, and even those that do have one aren’t likely to have designed it to be sufficiently inclusive.  

Even if your company has succeeded at hiring a diverse group of people and has DEI initiatives in place, it simply may not be enough. In today’s landscape, your organization must be more inclusive than the competition to retain diverse talent. 

When I consult with organizations that recognize they aren’t retaining enough people from underrepresented groups (and that awareness is a step forward in itself) I begin a diversity audit. As part of that audit, I often ask to see their formal retention plan, which can lead to a lot of head-scratching. 

Not all organizations automatically appreciate the need for a retention plan. They keep doing things the way they have always done them, and that simply won’t fly in this labor market.  

A retention plan is a critical tool, and it must be designed from the outset to be deliberately inclusive. Otherwise, it will unintentionally reinforce an exclusive model and underrepresented groups will go where they feel they can better develop their careers. 

Allwork.Space: Why should companies shift from “exit interviews” to “stay interviews?” 

For talented, diverse employees to want to stay with your company, you must not only provide an inclusive workplace for them but also be prepared to invest in their growth.  

There are still too many employees today who feel as if they’ve been hired as “window dressing.” To encourage them to stay, there has to be a plan in place to show them that their hard work will result in their own development and advancement.  

I know this from personal experience. I once left a position when I was told that the company didn’t tend to promote minorities because they just get “poached” by other organizations. I decided then and there to leave, and in a matter of weeks, I had. 

Many organizations assume that all they need to do to retain diverse talent is to hire someone, pay them, and prevent the most egregious microaggressions at work. I think many leaders see their commitment to inclusion as similar to taking a Hippocratic oath to do no harm, forgetting that they must also do good.  

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    Gender Equity/Diversity
    Racial Equity/Diversity

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