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Resilience &
Retention
Reducing Turnover at Tech
Companies Among Employees
of Color
by Indigo Ocean Dutton, MA
ConsciousPr...
The Current Situation
▪ The tech industry is attempting to address its lack of diversity through recruitment efforts.1 Yet...
And the
Trend…
More and more observers
agree that a talent scarcity
is looming—and that this
shortage will make finding
an...
A recent study3 of significant causes of turnover among women and people of color
included:
• Supervisor bias
• Pay inequi...
The Heavy Toll of the
“Few Bad Apples” in
Work Team Relationships
“Our research indicates that a
deenergizing interaction ...
Psycho-Emotional “Load” and POC
• The extra psycho-emotional and cognitive “load” placed upon POC means they
have a job to...
AND WHEN RACIAL
TENSIONS FLARE…
“… video footage that documents violence and
lower relative safety for members of a group ...
A Confluence of
Factors Leading to
Burnout Isolation
Self-
suppression
Projections
The dominant culture of most tech compa...
Solutions
A two-front approach is most auspicious:
1. Organization-wide initiatives to create a more
inclusive and support...
Action from
the Top Down
• Provide training to all staff to reduce unconscious racial bias. (Facebook offers a free
online program called Managing ...
NUMBERS COUNT…
Feeling welcomed and connected to the
broader team has a lot to do with sheer
numbers. When you are the onl...
Actions
Among
POC
Staff
Developing Resilience
• Reduce exposure to de-energizing relationships and increase exposure to
energizing relationships. ...
With a clear and visible commitment from senior organizational leaders and business owners to fostering
diversity and incl...
Contact us
Want direct support for your efforts to retain people of
color on your staff and help them thrive?
Contact Indi...
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Resilience and Retention of Employees of Color in Tech

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Reducing turnover is a bottom line objective for most companies. The more highly trained the worker, the more it costs to replace them. Talent acquisition costs take the form of both time and money. When it comes to people of color (POC) in the tech industry, these problems are exacerbated. This presentation covers the challenges, costs, and proven solutions to reduce turnover, retain more POC employees, and improve the overall work environment to be more innovative, inclusive, and socially responsible. (Download to view footnote reference sources at bottom of each page.)

Published in: Recruiting & HR

Resilience and Retention of Employees of Color in Tech

  1. 1. Resilience & Retention Reducing Turnover at Tech Companies Among Employees of Color by Indigo Ocean Dutton, MA ConsciousProfessionals.org
  2. 2. The Current Situation ▪ The tech industry is attempting to address its lack of diversity through recruitment efforts.1 Yet recent statistics reveal that tech workplaces remain largely white domains, with Asians the lone non-white population making significant progress. ▪ Talent acquisition costs are high, making turnover a particularly expensive problem. ▪ Research suggests that direct turnover costs are 50 to 60 percent of employee salary. For high- level employees, the figure can top 400% of annual salary.2 ▪ While race is the least relevant direct factor in likelihood of turnover, work experience factors that are strongly affected by race relations at work account for significant turnover predictors: ▪ Sense of Organizational Commitment to Them ▪ Relationship with Supervisor ▪ Job Satisfaction ▪ Stress ▪ The General Quality of Communication within the Organization ▪ Work-Group Cohesion 1 Source: http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/07/facebook-diversity-update-positive-hiring-trends-show-progress - 2 Source: SHRM Foundation
  3. 3. And the Trend… More and more observers agree that a talent scarcity is looming—and that this shortage will make finding and keeping the right people with the right skills increasingly challenging for organizations. (SHRM Foundation)
  4. 4. A recent study3 of significant causes of turnover among women and people of color included: • Supervisor bias • Pay inequity • Less interesting jobs • Performance pressures • Blocked careers • Unsupportive co-workers 3 Source: Personnel Psychology "Racial Differences in Employee Retention"
  5. 5. The Heavy Toll of the “Few Bad Apples” in Work Team Relationships “Our research indicates that a deenergizing interaction with a colleague has between four and seven times the influence of an energizing interaction. While there may be fewer negative influences than positive ones, the effect of de-energizing ties is considerably greater.” 4 In other words, even if most staff support inclusivity, if any degree of ethnic hostility is tolerated by the company, it can undermine all diversity efforts. 4 Source: Organizational Dynamics Volume 42, Issue 2, April–June 2013
  6. 6. Psycho-Emotional “Load” and POC • The extra psycho-emotional and cognitive “load” placed upon POC means they have a job to do on top of their normal job. This increases the need for recovery time between work sessions to prevent burnout. Yet there is no way for companies to accommodate this need with reduced work load. Other measures must therefore ameliorate this extra load condition. • Additionally, when staff suppress who they are to achieve “Culture Fit,” in addition to the psycho-emotional cost to that individual, it also stifles their creativity and ability to contribute to company innovation. The very benefits of diversity that were sought in the effort to create more diversity and inclusiveness within the company are prevented from being realized because actual diversity of self- expression, perspective, and conceptualizing problems and solutions is squelched.
  7. 7. AND WHEN RACIAL TENSIONS FLARE… “… video footage that documents violence and lower relative safety for members of a group to which you belong can be a heavy psychological burden that builds—especially if social injustices against your group continue to escalate.”5 Yet going into work the next day, most co- workers do not share the experience of trauma encountered by the worker who identifies with the ethnic group of the victim. The empathy gap that occurs is often experienced as a secondary trauma. 5 Source: Shabnam Javdani, asst. professor of applied psychology and counseling at NYU Steinhardt
  8. 8. A Confluence of Factors Leading to Burnout Isolation Self- suppression Projections The dominant culture of most tech companies has a different temperament than what is natural to many people of color. To fit in, POC staff suppress their natural way of expressing themselves. Over time, this takes a heavy emotional toll. At the same time, there are negative projections that other staff often carry about POC that cause them to routinely misinterpret behavior or motivations of POC staff. This puts them in the position of needing to justify and explain in situations where others would be given the benefit of the doubt. Having few (if any) other POC staff facing similar challenges to discuss their experience with undermines their ability to rebound. The combination of factors means high levels of stress that accumulate and may even develop into Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
  9. 9. Solutions A two-front approach is most auspicious: 1. Organization-wide initiatives to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for people of color 2. Resilience and self-care development among POC staff (supported by the workplace wherever possible)
  10. 10. Action from the Top Down
  11. 11. • Provide training to all staff to reduce unconscious racial bias. (Facebook offers a free online program called Managing Bias.) • Provide extra resources for resilience and self-care development to acknowledge increased vulnerability to burnout among POC staff. (ConsciousProfessionals.org offers a free on-site training in the SF Bay Area.) • Take a fresh look at what is meant by “culture fit” and whether it is unintentionally serving as a way of filtering out ethnic personality & communication traits. • Create a well-defined and highly visible system of consequences for behavior that undermines an inclusive and welcoming work environment for POC. • Continue or even accelerate efforts to recruit more POC staff, to reduce isolation. • Coordinate a mentoring program matching new POC staff with more senior POC staff • Following high-intensity racial conflict in the news, consider offering informal lunch-time “huddles” for POC staff to seek emotional support. Actions Companies Can Take to Increase Retention Among POC Staff
  12. 12. NUMBERS COUNT… Feeling welcomed and connected to the broader team has a lot to do with sheer numbers. When you are the only one with brown skin in the room, you can’t help but feel like you stand out--and not for anything that relates to your ability or performance. It is stressful to be perceived in a way that is entirely out of your control, because it is unrelated to your actions. Having more people of color around diffuses some of this attention. It also provides a shared experience with other staff that reduces the stress of emotional isolation.
  13. 13. Actions Among POC Staff
  14. 14. Developing Resilience • Reduce exposure to de-energizing relationships and increase exposure to energizing relationships. (Avoid co-workers who drain your energy.) • Use mindfulness and other awareness practices to increase personal agency. • Diligently cultivate your social networks to decrease the effects of the de- energizing relationships you cannot avoid. “We have found that positive informal ties lead to increased individual and group performance, as well as higher thriving, defined as the joint experience of vitality (feeling energized and alive) and learning (feeling that one is continually improving and getting better at one’s work), job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.”6 • Practice good self-care (sleep, diet, exercise) to further reduce stress. • Find a mentor, whether within or outside your company. 6 Source: Organizational Dynamics Volume 42, Issue 2, April–June 2013
  15. 15. With a clear and visible commitment from senior organizational leaders and business owners to fostering diversity and inclusion within the organization, retention of POC talent can be increased. The results will be reduced Human Resources costs and improved work team relations, productivity, creativity, and innovation.7 The investment of time and training resources in such efforts not only pays the company back directly, but is also a part of being a socially responsible workplace that actively supports the psycho-emotional well- being of all its staff. 7 Source: Tiffany McLain, MFT "Inauthenticity In The Workplace: A Dangerous Tightrope For The Underrepresented In Tech"
  16. 16. Contact us Want direct support for your efforts to retain people of color on your staff and help them thrive? Contact Indigo Ocean Dutton, MA at indigo@consciousprofessionals.org or 888-505-9568 x5 to find out about free trainings we offer to San Francisco Bay Area tech companies. Or outside the Bay Area, inquire about other services available remotely.

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