Minority Retention Requires Real Change, Group Says

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A study, "Retention Returns," by the Robert Toigo Foundation and executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, makes it clear "new approaches and new thinking are needed" if true diversity is to achieved in the financial workplace, says Foundation President Nancy Sims.

While different people resign for different reasons, the study indicates most departures "fall into a predictable, often avoidable, pattern." A lack of access to key deals and the resulting lack of visibility, rewards and recognition often begins the cycle. In other words, people feel disconnected from their path toward success, and they go off looking for more promising ground.

'The Informal Circle of Exchange'

Staffers consider mentoring and performance reviews to be critical avenues of communication between themselves and their managers. So, firms should ensure their mentoring, networking and performance evaluation efforts are effective for all employees - minority and non-minority alike. "Too often, young professionals of color are outside the informal circle of exchange and, as a result, feel disconnected from their workplace," the foundation says.

In the long term, improving retention will require confronting cultural and structural impediments that exist within each firm. More than a third of survey participants recognize their firms have a diversity mandate from senior executives, but as many say there are no institutional efforts to address minority retention. "To make diversity an integral part of the culture will require a wholesale shift in the way many aspects of performance assessment and rewards compensation and bonuses are awarded," the foundation says.

"Linking retention goals and practices to a manager's compensation sends a clear critical message that retaining a diverse workforce is a critical part of a firm's success, and those who contribute to the effort will be rewarded," says Sims.

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