Why are Diverse Employees Leaving?

Dionna Johnson Sallis, Ferguson Partners' Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), shares her thoughts on challenges of retention, the need for effective sponsors and how organizations can improve their commitments to diverse, inclusive cultures.

Fourteen percent—that's the percentage of departure for women of color at the senior level according to the Global Real Estate DEI Survey 2022, led by Ferguson Partners and seven associations in the commercial real estate industry. Not too bad, right? Seven percent is the hiring percentage of the same demographic. What does that mean? That means that women of color at senior levels are leaving at twice the rate in which they are hired.

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Let's talk about three reasons why these retention issues exist:

  • Lack of sponsorship and mentorship in the workplace; there is a difference between them. Sponsorship is about influence. A recent Harvard Business Review article focused on the A-B-C-D of sponsorship: amplify, boost, connect and defend. Those are the strong characteristics of an amazing sponsor.
  • Values disconnect. Another reason could be that individuals have joined a work culture that does not match the values that were marketed. It is very important for organizations to ensure that what is promoted on their websites and what they talk about in their interview processes are what they display once an individual joins the company—if not, they will leave.
  • Safe environments. A third reason could be that the work environment does not foster psychological safety. This allows people to feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work—having photos of their families on display regardless of what the family makeup may be or being able to talk freely about their weekend plans, regardless of what those plans may be.

There is much effort on recruiting; not as much on retention. The good news is that these issues can be resolved through a comprehensive approach to building a DEI strategy grounded in intentionality. And the strengthening of retention strategies will pay in dividends.

To learn more, contact Dionna Johnson Sallis.

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