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Delivering diversity: Developing a plan for recruitment, retention

(rmarmion /

(rmarmion /

Companies today need to have a diverse workforce to connect with their clients and communities. Recruiting a diverse workforce and then retaining that talent are critical to success.

But how to get started?

Veronica Cool, founder and managing director of Cool & Associates, a Westminster-based diversity consulting firm, said businesses need to first make sure they are recruiting from an authentically diverse pool of candidates – it may be from a church or from community or social organizations.


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Second, Cool said, make sure there’s an adequate commitment of money to advertise and that it’s targeted to outlets that attract diverse candidates. Hispanics, for example, have high engagement with their local newspaper.

Finally, “Ensure that your hiring managers and decision-makers are culturally competent. If you don’t have a team that understands the nuance of culture, then everything you’ve done to recruit successfully is a waste,” said Cool, who also writes a monthly column on engagement and inclusion for The Daily Record.

Risha Grant, founder and CEO of Risha Grant LLC, a diversity consulting and communications firm based in Oklahoma City, agreed with Cool about the importance of where companies recruit.

“First, develop a plan that includes goals about diverse recruitment – it should include reaching out to historically black colleges and universities, diverse organizations at colleges and universities such as Hispanic, LGBT, African-American and Asian-American groups,” Grant said. “There will also be organizations for women, black fraternities and sororities, among others. The idea here is to intentionally go outside of your usual recruitment efforts.”


Recruiting is only part of the battle.

“The retention is a huge piece,” said Josefina Bonilla, founder and president of Color Magazine and chief diversity officer for BridgeTower Media, owner of The Daily Record. “You can spend lots of money on recruiting; you can get top talent. But if you bring them in the door, and then you don’t help provide an inclusive environment for them to be able to thrive in, then no one is going to want to stay.”

Veronica Cool

‘Diverse talent is retained by proper onboarding and effective engagement,’ says diversity and engagement consultant Veronica Cool. (File Photo)

Cool said that smart retention efforts start right away.

“Diverse talent is retained by proper onboarding and effective engagement,” Cool said. “When you onboard me, tell me how much I am valued, tell me about how much I contribute to the company’s success. Connect me tightly with a mentor or a partner. Keep me engaged. There should be frequent touch points. Manage me the way that’s appropriate for me as an individual. What’s my career path? Are you blunt and open and strategic on what I need to work on, what professional development I need?”

To retain employees, companies are encouraged to focus on areas such as growth and development,

engagement, and fostering a feeling of acceptance.

“Everyone needs to feel they are a part of the process for the company’s success strategy,” Grant said.

To build engagement, Grant said, companies can build a mentorship program, promote internally and provide professional development opportunities.

“Retention ultimately comes down to engagement,” said Sheena Karami, director of corporate communications and public relations for Express Employment Professionals said. “Companies make an investment recruiting their internal talent, and the cost of turnover or vacancies when talent chooses to leave can have a negative impact on a company’s internal morale, internal culture, and, ultimately, their bottom line.”

Attracting young talent

The J.R. Simplot Co. has about 2,600 employees at its headquarters in Boise, Idaho, and employs more than 10,000 globally. Raquel Sheil, director of global talent and culture, said the company has built a recruitment strategy that attempts to engage talented potential employees while they are in high school or college.

“We have a university relations strategy, which is about engaging early talent, such as college students and high school students, and building brand awareness for Simplot,” Sheil said. “We have intern programs and development programs. From a diversity perspective, it’s understanding what universities and colleges have the disciplines that are important to us at Simplot, with the functional areas and the skill sets, and then trying to understand how to reach those college students.”

The worse thing an employer who struggles to maintain a diverse workforce can do is to give up, Cool said.

“You need to assess why (employees) are leaving you. Are you rushing them through the hiring process? Are you rushing them through the onboarding process? Are you rushing them through the engagement process? Evaluate your processes – but you can’t give up.

“If you don’t address it, you’re going to miss a potential client or patient or customer.”