The Great Resignation: How to Leverage DE&I to Recruit and Retain Top Talent in a Difficult Market

I had the extreme pleasure to host a Facebook Live with Rikka Brandon of Recruit, Retain, Rock, where we held a candid discussion about the hot topic of “The Great Resignation.” We talked about how to leverage DE&I to recruit and retain top talent in these difficult times, and the tips were so powerful, I decided to turn it into a blog to share with you! (Catch the replay here)

Since the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the workforce has seen some major shifts.

When the world shut down, many organizations were forced to close their doors and find a new way of conducting business that didn’t include employees going into the office. Now that the world has somewhat returned to “normal,” businesses are experiencing what has been coined “The Great Resignation.” defines The Great Resignation as “an informal name for the widespread trend of a significant number of workers leaving their jobs during [and after] the COVID-19 pandemic.” People are exiting their jobs left and right, walking away from longtime jobs, and some starting new jobs, getting in there and then immediately walking away. Approximately 4 million people in the US quit their jobs in the month of July, and that number continued the same fashion the following months.

So, how did we get to this point? And if there really is this “Great Resignation” AND a shortage of jobs, how come employers are saying they can’t find talent, and job seekers are saying they aren’t getting any call-backs?

Both these scenarios are accurate. People are making more intentional decisions about where they work and why they choose to work there. Millennials started this shift by being clearer about what they wanted from their jobs, and COVID made the shift actually occur. On the other hand, employers are making some key mistakes when recruiting for new talent, thus making it harder for job seekers to gain the employment they desire.

Let’s start by diving into a few reasons that led us to the Great Resignation, something I like to call “The Perfect Storm.”

  1. The Baby Boomers are at the age of retirement, and industries are having trouble filling these roles that were held by (in many cases) the same person for 30-40 years.

Age discrimination is a real thing, preventing organizations from having the difficult conversations required to create appropriate succession plans.

  1. The pandemic came unexpectedly, causing organizations to reveal many holes in their processes and procedures. Not to mention the stress that this pandemic put on working families. Companies were not prepared to support their employees with the mental health challenges that came with the pandemic. When employees were forced to choose their jobs or their families, their families won, every time.

The pandemic also made many of us face the realities of life and death. People reevaluated what they wanted out of life and started asking themselves, “Is this job really what I want to be doing, or is there something better for me out there?”

  1. During the pandemic, we saw a massive social justice movement. With the murder of George Floyd, many people took a long, hard look at their values and whether or not they wanted to be associated with organizations that weren’t taking a stance on some of the high-profile social justice issues being brought to light.

People are realizing their worth, and they are changing their jobs to go where they are appreciated and where they can be their authentic selves. It’s exhausting when you can’t bring your whole self to work.

  1. More and more people are switching to freelance work. It was anticipated that nearly 50% of the workforce population would be doing freelance work by 2022. The pandemic accelerated this forecast.

One of the main reasons companies are having a hard time recruiting new employees is the straight-up fact that they are not paying a high enough salary. Many of the jobs out there are entry-level, and the pay rate is minimum wage. These jobs have extremely high turnover, and every time an employer needs to hire someone new, they are incurring more recruitment costs. This cycle is one of the highest costs for a business to incur. If you are losing employees as quickly as they come in, you might as well increase your wages to offset that cost.

Now, let’s talk about some strategies to combat some of the hurdles discussed above. Particularly, how to hire diverse talent and use diversity strategies to recruit during this “great resignation.”

  1. Get a pulse on your organization’s culture: Figure out where the issues are and how to correct them. You need to look internally and dig deep—leadership development, coaching, mentoring, succession planning—all of these things that go into the employee lifecycle are vital to people’s satisfaction at work. Take a look at these options and see where you can make changes or start implementing them if you haven’t already.

You can adjust the culture in your organization. It won’t happen overnight, but it is possible. There is a huge push for targeting more diverse candidates and hires because there’s so much science about how helpful it is to the bottom line. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the right business decision. Having diverse perspectives in an organization removes groupthink. It is important to have diverse talent in your organization in order to reach the goal and mission of your business.

  1. Review your recruitment and hiring practices: If you are job-seeking right now and you are not getting any callbacks, nine times out of ten, it is likely the applicant tracking system that is kicking your resume back because of missed keywords or indications that you didn’t check all the boxes in the job description.

As an organization, if you are using an ATS, this is hurting your success in finding the right candidates. Further, if it takes too long to apply to your job posting, people are going to click off it quickly. Using LinkedIn’s Easily Apply Now feature will beat another company whose system is clunky and requires the candidate to upload a resume and also type out everything in their resume. 

Another thing to keep in mind when going through your hiring process is, are you requiring your candidates to complete an assessment? If so, it should take them no longer than 30 minutes to complete, and the assessment should take place after the initial interview.

Further, be cautious with personality assessments. These should never, ever be an exclusionary tool. It’s an informational tool, at best.

  1. Be upfront with the salary range: If you cannot list the salary range in the job posting, be sure to talk about compensation very early in the hiring process.

As a note to job seekers, even when the salary range exists, if you check off all the boxes with your experience and you bring what they need, there is likely flexibility in the salary. Don’t be shy to ask for more. Give them the chance to shoot you down.

  1. Get rid of the BS job requirements: Is a degree really needed for the position? Do you really need to be doing drug testing? When was the last time the job posting was updated?

You must make it simple because the people you want to hire are being very hard on themselves when they look at your job requirements and decide if they are a match. Include a statement at the end of the posting that says, “Even if you don’t check all of these boxes, we would still like for you to apply.” This lets people know that your company is forward-thinking and you’re ready to invite different perspectives; this will give you a higher chance of getting quality applications than a company with many rigid requirements that aren’t necessarily required for the job.

  1. Consider and expand your recruitment resources: If you are solely sourcing your candidates from LinkedIn, Indeed, or some other monster platforms, you’re missing out on top talent because not everyone is on these platforms. Instead (or in addition to), get into your communities. Foster relationships with your Chamber of Commerce, the YWCA, places where people might be displaced, such as churches. And go into churches and organizations that are different from you. Learn and meet new people. Create these relationships and put people in places they might not have been. Once you make it crystal clear that you are looking for diverse talent, people are going to respond.

Justice-involved hiring is a huge opportunity, especially in those jobs that maybe aren’t super desirable to everybody. When you’re willing to take a chance on people that are coming back from having made a mistake, you engender a tremendous about of loyalty. This is really important to do, and it’s an untapped resource.

  1. Develop diverse talent from within: When you have diverse talent in your organization and are not developing that talent to move up, you fail to create a proper plan. When people can see themselves in management or climbing the ladder, representation absolutely matters. If all the leaders and board members of your organization are white and your idea of diversity is adding a white female, then we have a problem. If people cannot see themselves at the top, they are not going to stay long. They will get their experience and then move somewhere else. Somewhere they will be appreciated and celebrated.

It’s not about taking away from someone who is qualified and putting someone else in that position. It is having these tough conversations on how we can change who gets to the top. It’s creating a mentorship program that allows your talent to thrive.

We want to get people back in the workforce. And leveraging diversity, equity, and inclusion to create awesome environments for people to thrive in and meet future needs is the way to do it. It’s an amazing opportunity for companies and people that are willing to listen to the advice and follow it to really make a massive change that will affect the trajectory of their company for years, if not decades to come. It’s an exciting time to make powerful shifts.

The pandemic may have turned our world upside down, but it is with these massive upheavals that we often see our desired change become a reality.

Change is not always easy, but it is always worth it. Every small step counts.

Starting today is better than not starting at all. Click here for details on how Lekeshia Angelique Consulting can help! Or join my Facebook group, The DE&I Lounge – a safe space to explore all things diversity, equity, and inclusion for entrepreneurs and businesses. Ready to jump right in?  Let’s hop on a call to map out a plan!



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