Tips for onboarding underrepresented talent

Onboarding underrepresented talent is essential to an inclusive workplace today

Onboarding underrepresented talent is an integral part of the employee experience and can form their impression of an organisation, including whether it is supportive and inclusive. Here are some tips for successfully onboarding underrepresented talent who may face more obstacles than others.

1. Onboarding underrepresented talent: Give early feedback

Many new hires feel imposter syndrome upon starting a new job, which may increase among new hires who have to overcome self-doubt based on centuries of discrimination. Giving clear, constructive criticism and suggestions can ease some anxieties and provide new hires with a better idea of the type of work you are looking for.

Imposter syndrome, the psychological pattern of convincing oneself of being unqualified or unfit for a job and the fear of being discovered as a fraud, is very common amongst working professionals and will affect at least 70% of people at some point in their lives, according to an article published by the Behavioral Science Research Institute.

Even though imposter syndrome is not unique in the slightest, it is more commonly felt by those who feel like outsiders since it adds to the anxiety and stress that they already feel.

This means that ethnic minorities, women, members of the LGBTQ+, and other underrepresented groups who feel as though they need to overcome extra obstacles may face more internal struggles when working at a new company. While this phenomenon may not initially seem like a problem to management, it should be addressed since it can greatly affect the mental state of employees and therefore affect their quality of work.

Having someone indirect management comment on the areas that employees can improve upon can ease some of the unnecessary worries that employees may harbour. If the feedback is given in the first few weeks of the workers’ employment, they can gain more direction on how they should approach tasks.

Just as beneficial as constructive criticism is rewarding and congratulating employees when they complete a project or reach some other accomplishment. Acknowledging their areas of strength not only makes workers feel valued by their employers but also reminds them that they are qualified for their jobs and that they play an important role in the company’s success. These moments of praise can motivate employees to give their best effort when doing tasks and stay at their job.

2. Have one-on-one sessions between hires and management

In the first few months of their employment, new hires are still deciding whether they want to stay at their job long-term or even make it to the one-year mark, and one of the deciding factors is the time and collaboration they have with their direct managers.

Employees want to know that they matter to their employers, so when no acknowledgement is given, they might feel overlooked by their place of work and begin looking for work elsewhere. Workers who are underrepresented in their field may especially feel unappreciated in their jobs and feel that they are not receiving enough attention from their superiors.

Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings require bosses to give their undivided attention while allowing employees to discuss any questions or issues they may have. Employees who have worked at the company for a while, maintain honest communication with their managers. New hires understand that they will always have the opportunity to directly address their concerns with their management.

3. Assign a mentor who comes from a similar background

Sometimes new hires can still feel out of place after a few weeks on the job, which is why it can be useful for them to have someone who can offer them support and help them catch up to speed. This friend or mentor may not only tell them information about the company and the tools the team uses to complete tasks but, unlike with a superior, they can also advise on best practices for success.

Having an official yet somewhat informal connection with a well-experienced employee can give new hires an idea of the type of job that is possible for them if they stay with the company. If the mentor is from a similar background as a hire, such as from a marginalised group, then that new hire will have the added advantage of being guided by someone who has gone through similar struggles.

These mentorships will also be beneficial for managers because they can train and guide the employees. Because managers have their tasks to complete, they cannot always be available to congratulate employees and have meetings. Still, mentors can share the assigned tasks of supervising subordinates and catch anything the managers may miss.

4. Have one-on-one sessions between hires and management

Give the new hires the chance to ask questions they may not be comfortable asking in meetings. Also, let the new hires know that you care about and respect them enough to want to hear their comments and suggestions directly. New hires, and especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, may need to know this since they may still feel imposter syndrome during the first few weeks on the job.

5. Explain your clear anti-discrimination policies to all staff

These include:

  • Clearly establishing anti-discrimination policies so that all current employees are aware of the type of behavior that is acceptable and so that new diverse hires know that they are protected by these rules
  • Educating yourself
  • Understanding the statistics
  • Understanding statistics on the number of people who leave jobs in the first few months and why
  • Emphasis on the number of people who left and identified as a member of a marginalised group (ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.)
  • Emphasis on the number of marginalised people who left due to feeling discriminated against or unwelcome in the workplace
  • Learning appropriate terminology to avoid offending new hires or making them uncomfortable
  • Learning about the typical stereotypes that are often associated with marginalised groups and how those stereotypes have prevented people from advancing in the workplace

6. Find ways to make the workplace a welcoming environment

It can be daunting to be the new person at work when every other team member seems to have already formed friendships, so encouraging employees to connect can make new hires feel more welcome.

Invite the new hire to sit in on various meetings to better understand everyone’s job description and the way the company operates. These simple actions can answer any unspoken questions that the new hire may have about the company and its employees and can speed up their feeling like part of the community.

During these times of team bonding, it can also be a good time for heads of departments to go over the new hire’s role so that everyone involved is on the same page. The new employee can feel more at ease knowing that their colleagues understand their job description. Existing employees can better understand how having more qualified people on the team will ease individual pressure and increase overall efficiency.

Furthermore, companies have different ways of celebrating holidays and special occasions, and acknowledging the customs of different countries and religions makes the work environment more welcoming and inclusive.

People from Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu backgrounds are probably accustomed to recognising important dates in mainstream society, whether that involves taking a day off of work or attending Christmas parties, but they may not expect their places of work to recognise the cultures of different groups. While it may seem extremely simple, sending company-wide emails that say “Happy Hanukkah” or “Ramadan Mubarak” can make people whose holidays are outside of the mainstream feel included as employees of the company.

Andrea Guendelman is the CEO of Speak, a computer software firm providing interview prep as a service.

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