An Early Warning Strategy for At-Risk Diversity Hires
By Beth N. Carvin and Karrie Main
It has been almost 50 years since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in the workplace, yet women and people of color continue to face challenges in receiving equal treatment on the job. Discrepancies can start at day one or even before. Common problems range from hostile co-workers to inequities in initial job placements that may block career paths. Other barriers may be encountered in areas such as training, mentoring, task force appointments, and other opportunities for advancement.
One way to identify and eliminate this kind of treatment before it creates employee turnover, litigation, or corporate reputation damage is to measure new employees’ work experience in their first few days, weeks, and months on the job. New hire surveys that are delivered and analyzed electronically can simplify the process.
While these surveys are designed to be given to all new employees, primarily to uncover weaknesses in recruitment and onboarding practices, they are also a valuable tool for detecting problems that will undermine efforts to retain high-potential women and minority employees.
Survey Early; Survey Often
New hire surveys are designed to identify systemic problems and successes around recruitment, new hire orientation, onboarding, and early training. Conducted at one or more intervals after the employee’s start date, they can assess whether or not new hires are being welcomed and assimilated appropriately into the organization.
The goal is to take the guesswork out of why new employees do or do not feel comfortable in their new work environment and ensure that all employees—including women and minorities—are on a path toward long-term success with the organization. Surveys administered at different times will yield different insights.
For example, companies looking for feedback on their recruitment practices should administer the new hire survey 20 or 30 days after hire, when the interview and job offer processes are still fresh in the employee’s mind. This can help identify issues such as discriminatory interview questions or incorrect job descriptions.
Surveys conducted at the employee’s 30- to 45-day point can help HR and diversity managers learn if the corporate culture is welcoming to all new employees regardless of their gender, age, or race. Are minority new hires being invited to group colleague lunches? Are they shown where important resources are located? Are they being introduced to the people they need to know in order to be successful?
Conducting new hire surveys at 60 to 75 days helps expose training problems. Are minority new hires receiving the same level of training as their non-minority peers? Are they assigned challenging projects or being ignored?
Similar information can be gathered at the 90-day mark, but by that time many new hires will have forgotten their early experiences or already be planning their exits. The first survey, therefore, should be conducted much earlier, but multiple surveys can help paint a complete picture of the overall success of the hire experience.
Asking the Right Questions
Employers, HR managers, and diversity managers will want to ask a wide variety of questions on a new hire survey to get the full picture of an employee’s experience. Most questions should be positioned as flexible statements in which employees agree or disagree on a sliding scale.
In the area of diversity specifically, special attention should be paid to questions that will help detect barriers for women and minorities related to the environment, supervisor, opportunity, and corporate culture. Sample questions might include:
Environment: When I first started, I felt welcome by co-workers, supervisor, and other management.
Supervisor: My manager has done a good job at helping me get started in my position.
Opportunity: I believe I will have the opportunity for professional growth and advancement with this company.
General company culture: I am beginning to feel like part of the team.
The key is to administer new hire surveys to all employees (not just diverse employees) and then compare the results. If a company’s white males are rating every statement with a highly satisfied rating, but women and minorities are rating the same statements with highly unsatisfied ratings, there most likely is a problem that needs to be explored.
By being able to directly compare the responses of all new hires, organizations can see which groups of employees are assimilating into the culture quickly and which are not. In some cases, analyzing the data by department, division, and job type can expose the source of the problem. All of these capabilities are available with a click with electronic new hire surveys.
Fixing the Problem
While every company has different diversity issues and concerns, getting to the root of the problem makes it possible to create solutions. If new hire surveys reveal that minority employees feel shut out from leadership or management training, for example, one popular solution is to set up a mentoring program that pairs high-potential junior employees with company managers and leaders inside or outside of their departments or divisions. Some companies choose to create mentoring pairs of the same gender or race, while others set up cross-cultural mentorships.
But you can’t prescribe a solution until you know the problem. Using surveys to ask new employees what’s right and what’s wrong is a simple way to bring issues to light at an early stage when they can be addressed. With all the effort that goes into diversity hiring, a new hire survey strategy can help preserve the investment while also combating early attrition for new employees overall.
As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. The sooner you are aware of new hire dissatisfaction, the faster you can respond to keep that employee from walking out the door.
About the Authors:
Beth N. Carvin is president and CEO of Nobscot Corporation (www.nobscot.com), a provider of online HR tools and associated services designed to generate actionable information that can assist companies in combating turnover, improving hiring practices, and recovering from downsizing. Kerrie Main is Nobscot’s in-house journalist.