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April 25, 2007
10 Ways to Retain Minority Employees

Recruiting and retaining minorities in the advertising industry has generated much interest over the last year. New York City’s Human Rights Commission has mandated the city’s advertising agencies to make a more concerted effort to hire more underrepresented ethnic groups, which could bring more minorities than ever into the industry.

The impetus to give everyone an equal employment opportunity shouldn’t have been a mandate from a governmental agency because everyone benefits from a diverse workforce. Agency execs who specialize in creating campaigns should know they have a better chance of generating cutting-edge and innovative ideas from a talent pool of employees with diverse experiences that can easily tap into the zeitgeist of a variety of groups.

These new recruits will be just as qualified and possess the same skills as their counterparts. The paramount difference is they will not be hired in the conventional manner (knowing someone who knows someone who has the power to hire)—instead they will be hired based upon their ability and the likelihood they will bring value to the hiring organization.

As these hiring barriers are removed, retention becomes paramount. Here are my recommendations as to how the advertising industry and any other industry can better retain minority employees.

10 Ways to Retain Minority Employees

    • The commitment to ensuring a diverse workforce starts at the top with the CEO, and manager’s performance appraisals have to be linked to their performance on diversity issues.
    • Be fair. Treat all employees the same. Make sure all rules and regulations are meted out equally.
    • Appreciate cultural differences and realize that our experiences shape how we view things.
    • Don’t just hire minority employees: involve them in every level of the company’s activities. Invite minority representation on the board and make sure the company is active in minority organizations and communities. This will show you are sincere about implementing diversity at every level of the company. Consider the styles, tastes and interests of all of your employees when planning extracurricular events and social gatherings.
    • Value everyone’s opinion and realize that everyone has something to contribute. We are all a compilation of our experiences and see life through our own unique perspective.
    • Create an environment where employees feel free to contribute their ideas and opinions. Encourage minority employees to create affinity groups, so they can educate other employees about their cultures.
    • Provide minority employees with mentors who are truly interested in their career growth and not someone who will simply keep an eye on them.
    • Learn about the experiences of your new minority colleagues gradually. During an initial conversation, forgo the urge to “grill” by asking a series of personal questions all at once, including where they live, if they own a home, their marital status and the number of children they have. None of those things are truly relevant to their ability to perform the job for which they have been hired.
    • Start practicing the golden rule now. If you don’t like it when people say stereotypical things about you, why should someone else? No one’s asking you to monitor everything you say, just to ask yourself "how would I feel…"
    • Encourage and assign minority employees to projects based on skills, experience and interests, rather than automatically assigning minorities to “urban” projects.

Finally, JUST BE YOURSELF. Don’t patronize minority employees by trying to show them how “hip” you can be or telling them how many “Black” or “Hispanic” friends you have. They can spot a phony a mile away.

Demonstrating that you are sincerely interested in them as people will go a long way toward creating a comfortable environment where everyone is valued and feels they are a part of the team.

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Eugene “Gene” Morris, chairman, CEO, and founder of E. Morris Communications, Inc. (EMC), manages the agency’s 45-member staff. As one of the most respected integrated marketing communications agencies in the industry, EMC has created award-winning campaigns for a number of Fortune 500 companies.
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