Employee Retention Depends On Inclusion Not Just Diversity

by | May 20, 2021 | Company Culture & Employees, D&I Articles | 0 comments

Workplace diversity is VISIBLY on the rise as leaders understand having a diverse workforce is important internally, to customers, and overall business success. Inclusion, however, is NOT something we can always see and affects employee retention & mental health tremendously.

To help elevate employee feelings of inclusion and belonging, I’m taking actions of which YOU can do too. You don’t need the title “leader” in your job description to be one. You already are a champion and have the ability to drive more diversity and inclusion if you choose to use your human power. (Read this point again)  


Workplace Inclusion Best Practices For Managers:

  • Have personal conversations and not just one time. Get to know what’s important to each team member so you can continue to support and include each individual in ways that matter to them (not yourself).
  • Be transparent. Invite people to decision-making meetings & if you can’t for any reason, ‘close the loop’ and inform of outcomes.
  • Offer employees a ‘suggestion box’ to contribute ideas for improvement. Let them know you did something with their feedback.
  • Call out great work when presenting. Say individual names out loud as recognition of unique talents & perspectives feels good. People will do more when recognized and included.

What would YOU add to this list to enhance your employee experiences? Remember: when employees feel valued, appreciated, and included, the customer sees and feels it too. Employee experiences fuel customer experiences.


More Diversity and Inclusion tips from Harvard Business Review.

While published in 2018, the principles still apply.

To retain talent, most organizations offer the typical things: free coffee and tea in the break room, competitive benefits, generous raises and bonuses, and employee recognition programs. But none of that works for an employee who doesn’t feel comfortable in his or her work environment. Picture, for example, a Muslim who prays in his car because he doesn’t want to advertise his religion, a mother who doesn’t put up pictures of her children so that coworkers won’t question her commitment to the job, or a gay executive who is unsure whether he can bring his partner to company functions.

Employees who differ from most of their colleagues in religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and generation often hide important parts of themselves at work for fear of negative consequences. We in the diversity and inclusion community call this “identity cover,” and it makes it difficult to know how they feel and what they want, which makes them vulnerable to leaving their organizations.

Most business leaders understand the diversity part of diversity and inclusion. They get that having a diverse workforce is important to customers and critical to succeeding in a global market. It’s the inclusion part that eludes them — creating an environment where people can be who they are, that values their unique talents and perspectives, and makes them want to stay.

The key to inclusion is understanding who your employees really are. Three of the most effective ways to find out are survey assessments, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations. To be effective, however, they must be approached in a way that accounts for the fact that people — particularly those in underrepresented groups — can be more difficult to get to know than we think. Here are some best practices for getting to the heart of who your employees really are:

Segment employee engagement survey results by minority groups.

Many organizations conduct employee engagement surveys, but most neglect to segment the data they collect by criteria such as gender, ethnicity, generation, geography, tenure, and role in the organization. By only looking at the total numbers, employers miss out on opportunities to identify issues among smaller groups that could be leading to attrition, as the views of the majority overpower those of minorities.

In 2015, for example, women constituted 52% of the new associate class at global law firm Baker McKenzie, but only 23% of the firm’s 1,510 partners. To find out what was keeping women from advancing to senior roles, I asked our researchers to segment the results of a firm-wide engagement survey to examine responses from women lawyers. Based on that data, we learned that many of the firm’s women associates didn’t want to be partner nearly as much as their male counterparts.

That prompted us to launch a follow-up survey to find out why, which revealed four things that would make partnership more attractive to women: more flexibility about face time and working hours, better access to high-profile engagements, greater commitment to the firm’s diversity targets, and more women role models. Those four things became the basis for an action plan that included, for example, a firm-wide flexible work program that promoted remote working. By 2018, the percentage of women promoted to partner had risen to 40%, up from 26% in 2015.

Use independent facilitators to conduct focus groups.

Focus groups are another way to gain deeper insight into what employees care about and the issues that may be causing frustration and burnout.

One company-wide employee engagement survey conducted by a $15 billion food company showed that the employees in the Canada office had much lower work-life integration satisfaction scores than those in other countries. After conducting a series of focus groups to find out why, we discovered that many employees were receiving emails from their managers on weekends and feeling obligated to respond even when their managers told them not to until Monday.

We also learned that the leaders in that office were often tied up in meetings all week and used the weekends to catch up on email. When we asked the employees for solutions, they suggested banning emails on weekends and not having any meetings on Fridays so that managers could use that time to catch up on correspondence. After the office implemented these new policies, employees reported being happier and less stressed when the survey was conducted a year later.

These groups are best facilitated by an outside company or trusted diversity and inclusion professionals who don’t have a vested interest in the outcome so that employees can speak freely.

The road to retention

In an ideal world, all leaders would be adept at understanding their employees and making sure they didn’t lose any through neglect or ignorance. In the real world, however, most aren’t tuned into the factors that can get in the way of knowing what’s important to employees both individually and collectively. Tools such as segmented engagement surveys, focus groups, and personal conversations can guide management in taking the actions that will help keep their talent engaged and committed to the organization. The first step in retaining more employees is to use these tools.

My Final Words:


Keep having uncomfortable conversations, and get more educated about Diversity and Inclusion.


Join communities and share your authentic views.

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Master Your Customer Experience and Service Skills with Stacy Sherman

*All views expressed are Stacys and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.


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