4 Strategies to Develop & Retain Diverse Early Career Professionals

Written By: Chelsea C. WilliamsFounder & CEO, Reimagine Talent Co.

To build and maintain a diverse workforce employers must consciously intentionally engage underrepresented talent throughout the employee life cycle. 

This article will explore practical strategies organizations can take to empower the next generation.

Strategy #1: Help college students build occupational identity.

According to the American Psychological Association, occupational identity is “the conscious awareness of oneself as a worker.” In other words, this refers to whether or not a student can see him or herself in a certain role or industry: does their identity fit this occupation? A student’s own perception of their identity and limitations can be affected by many factors, including family, friends, education, the media, etc. 

Some barriers that may prevent a student from pursuing a job role or career they are interested in are:

  • Experiences of being an “only” (when students are the only employee in their identity group, i.e. the only Black employee, the only woman, or the only LGBTQ+ worker)
  • Bias and stereotypes
  • Impostor feelings (when students believe they are inadequate or incompetent for the job)
  • Economic realities

Strategy #2: Commit to foster an environment of belonging.

Creating processes to recruit diverse talent is a great first step, but focusing only on recruitment is not enough. Organizations must also focus on building an inclusive environment in order to retain talent.

Ideally, organizations would have an early-career talent strategy that supports key performance indicators around people and culture. Some KPIs that promote inclusion and belonging include:

  • The number of internal resource groups and affinity groups and their overall level of satisfaction.
  • Retention figures (i.e. length of service).
  • Employee satisfaction survey results (make sure there is a category for inclusion and belonging).
  • Whether or not there is an increase in referrals (particularly from underrepresented populations).

It is also critical for employers to know how early-career professionals experience the organization. This information can be gathered in an employee pulse survey. Some insights to measure in this survey are:

  • Value for unique identity and experiences
  • Impression of manager-employee relationship
  • Access to resources and training
  • Support around career growth
  • Satisfaction around reward (compensation)
  • Clarity around how to advance and get promoted
  • Perception of employer’s commitment to DEI
  • Perception of actions taken against the communicated goals

Strategy #3: Place values at the center of your organization.

Values are very important to Gen Z workers. Research has shown that these employees:

  • Want to make a positive impact on the world through their work.
  • Prefer organizations that prioritize a healthy work-life balance.
  • Seek employers who value causes such as sustainability, climate change, social justice, and wellness.

Consider authenticity a key factor when deciding whether or not to join an organization. 

Strategy #4: Provide talent development for emerging professionals.

Gen Z workers highly value advancement opportunities in their place of work. They want to be challenged and want to find success through opportunities to broaden their skill sets and be more entrepreneurial. 

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