Hiring and Retaining Diverse Talent: Five Questions With Marisa Gray

Marisa Crawford Gray, EdD, leads the upcoming course Hiring and Retaining Diverse Talent, which runs June 23, 1-3 PM. Her depth of knowledge and experience adds value for participants in her course. Below, Gray shares some insights on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in a workplace environment.

Learn more about the course, Hiring and Retaining Diverse Talent.

Gray’s hard-earned knowledge comes from decades of work in the field. Her firm, Intentionally Designed Solutions (IDS), focuses on diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) for workplace empowerment. She has extensive experience in higher education, at nonprofits, and working with firms in training, development, and DEI. That expertise is bolstered by her community and business work on regional boards and committees focused on education, workplace development, and economic development.

What are some common misperceptions about hiring and retaining diverse talent?

A common misperception about hiring and retaining diverse talent is that one-size-fits-all. Diversity, engagement, and inclusion in the workplace is a journey that requires commitment and strategy. It begins with your hiring style and continues through your implementation. It starts from the top. DEI is not limited to gender or race but extends to sexuality, socioeconomic status, culture, and language, among other factors when it comes to background.

If the leadership team isn’t modeling and promoting diversity, engagement, and inclusion from the beginning, it’ll be impossible for this quality to trickle down to every employee. Leadership needs to clearly understand what diversity means for their company and how it’s reflected in the organization’s behavior, attitude, and outlook.

Do you see the mix of employees at businesses steadily changing or growing more age-diverse and complex due to workers retiring, working longer careers, and other factors?

A diverse workforce means spending time with people who aren’t identical in morals, religion, race, gender, or other factors. When team members get to know each other on a human level, rather than maintaining an opinion based on preconceived notions, they learn from each other, encourage each other, and create a more productive environment.

Before COVID, employees at businesses were operating with a greater sense of perceived loyalty. After COVID, individuals realized that their lives had additional value beyond work. This recent shift in mindset has caused businesses also to re-evaluate the value placed on their employees and the impact of the bottom line.

Does this heighten the need to understand how to manage better and hire people?

Yes, it is essential to consider several factors about managing individuals better and first ask what kind of people a diverse hire for your organization would be. Are there patterns in the type of people you hire? Do you notice that some departments share apparent personality, gender, or ethnicity characteristics? Once you are aware of your organizational trends, you might be able to begin to identify what individual diversity hires might look like for your organization. This will help you make actionable recruitment strategies to encourage diversity in your workplace.

What’s an example of unconscious bias that’s commonplace?

Unconscious biases are learned assumptions, beliefs, or attitudes that we aren’t necessarily aware of. While bias is a normal part of human brain function, it can often reinforce stereotypes. To combat unconscious bias, learn about different types of biases, how they might surface at work, and how to avoid them so you can build a more inclusive and diverse workplace.

A widespread bias is gender bias, where you favor one gender over another. It is also often referred to as sexism. This bias occurs when someone unconsciously associates certain stereotypes with different genders. It may affect recruitment practices and relationship dynamics with the organization. A prime example of this is during the hiring. Suppose a hiring panel favors male candidates over female candidates despite having similar skills and job experiences. This ultimately results in the gender pay gap, reducing specific populations’ job and career advancement opportunities.

Does the responsibility of retaining a diverse workforce remain solely with Human Resources, or do others in an organization also play a role? In other words, who might benefit from taking this workshop?

It’s HR’s responsibility to be the ‘catalyst for change’ for DEI and at the forefront of this work – asking the hard questions and making the tough decision. However, every single hire can impact the company culture in some shape or form. Every employee should be more attuned than ever to building and retaining a diverse workforce to lay the foundation for long-term recovery and success. The burden of DEI work should not fall disproportionately on women and minorities. HR departments drive the initiatives, supported by the executive team that leads by example.

Please share a favorite piece of career advice from a leader or mentor.

Early in my career, I had a leader who would ask the question, “Who’s missing at the table?” The context behind the question was to create awareness of what voice was not included at the table while the decision was being made. Without the missing voice, we would not know the impact, how someone would interpret the decision, and what long-term challenges it would create.

Diversity, engagement, and inclusion make sense when different perspectives and backgrounds on your team contribute to help solve problems and drive innovation. It’s more than a noble cause for any company to strive for. It is about true equality and equity in the workplace.

Hiring and Retaining Diverse Talent

June 23, 1-3 PM
Learn how to create an inclusive work culture, prioritize diversity, recruit multi-generational employees, and build an inclusive workspace, both in person and in remote work settings. This course includes discussion and interactive practice techniques that will explore various considerations for attracting, recruiting, and retaining an age-diverse workforce.