Inclusive Hiring Kit

Microlearning Unit 4: Retention, & Belonging

Illustration of two stick figures assembling a puzzle

Unit Introduction

This unit focuses on inclusive practices and processes related to retention for professional positions within the higher education IT community. Retaining employees requires sustained attention to the cultural factors surrounding a sense of belonging and opportunities for professional growth and advancement. Ensuring that employees from all backgrounds are valued is a central part of maintaining a focus on retention and belonging.

Unit Goals

Build an Environment Where Employees Feel Valued

The cost of hiring an employee is substantial, from the search process to hiring to retention. Repeating this process is both time-consuming and expensive—according to the Society for Human Resource Management, costs to recruit and fill a vacancy can exceed the salary for the position.

Building an inclusive environment that supports a sense of belonging is important to retaining employees. Three key concepts support inclusion and belonging:

  • Psychological safety describes a condition in which members of a team trust each other and allow everyone to be themselves at work. When employees feel valued, comfortable, and safe in the workplace, they perform better as a team. Google's research on productive teams demonstrates that psychological safety is critical to building a healthy team and is also essential to support a feeling of belonging.

  • Psychological meaningfulness describes a condition in which an individual has a reason to engage. If someone’s job characteristics include challenges, variety, significance, and autonomy, and if the characteristics align well with their interests, values, and strengths, the person tends to find more meaning, which fosters greater engagement.

  • Psychological availability describes a person’s capacity to be engaged. Acknowledging life situations that could impact an individual's psychological availability (child or elder care concerns, for example) and providing flexibility and protection for renewing personal energy helps support each individual’s capacity for engagement.

Institutions that have an organizational culture centered on psychological safety, psychological meaningfulness, and psychological availability have higher rates of retention. Employees feel a stronger sense of inclusion and belonging at these organizations.

Additionally, specific strategies can support a sense of inclusion and belonging and create an environment in which people feel appreciated and valued as individuals. Whether someone works in-person, remote, or hybrid, strategies to support inclusion and belonging include the following:

  • Creating space to engage and learn about each other

  • Providing avenues for all perspectives to be expressed

  • Demonstrating genuine care and concern about individuals

  • Respecting an individual’s preferred name and pronouns

  • Identifying and removing obstacles and barriers

  • Providing flexible work schedules

  • Recognizing the skills and talents of all individuals

  • Celebrating individual achievements as well as team successes

Regardless of which strategies an organization chooses to focus on to foster inclusion and belonging, understanding that specific and focused action is required is a critical component. A strong culture cannot be sustained without effort and intention.

Professional Growth Pathways

Offer Mentorship and Professional Development Opportunities

  • Consider creating a formal mentorship program to support employee retention.

  • Facilitate stretch opportunities, training, and professional development for all employees. Although discipline-specific training might be targeted to a particular team (such as information security or networking) as part of a career pathway, professional development opportunities should be broadly encouraged. Encourage upskilling in areas outside an employee’s current discipline for those wanting to pursue lateral career moves.

  • Do not put an expectation on BIPOC and/or women employees to lead all diversity or gender training; this is known as "invisible work."" Leadership should compensate staff for leading affinity groups to ensure that certain staff are not doing all the work without being recognized.

  • Review onboarding processes. Is a variety of opportunities available for engagement that could lead to a greater sense of belonging?

Leverage Organizational Opportunities to Improve Belonging

  • Provide sufficient time for and encourage employees to create or participate in employee resource groups (ERGs, also known as affinity groups). Institutions should compensate employees for leading ERGs to ensure that certain employees are not doing work without recognition.

  • Be careful not to put an expectation on employees from non-dominant groups to lead all diversity or gender training (this is known as "invisible work”).

  • Develop managers and leaders who identify ways to counteract bias in their own behaviors.

    • Managers and leaders should be responsible for delivering regular and substantive feedback to their teams and to individual employees. Instead of an annual review process, consider a more frequent cadence, such as quarterly or monthly.

    • Without more frequent feedback, employees may not be aware of advancement opportunities and may not understand what to work on to improve or why.

  • Encourage new team members to participate in committees within the first year or two of employment.

Ensure Objective, Feasible Pathways to Promotion

  • Leaders and managers should provide opportunities (including projects) that can lead to promotions.

  • Consistent criteria and language should be used when evaluating employees for promotion. Criteria can include nontraditional experiences and/or training outside the organization. Leaders and managers should ensure that all employees are measured by the same metrics. Developing rubrics for evaluating employees can bring more objectivity to the review process.

Additional Resources