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Elevating Black Talent in Your Workplace

Mary Rechtoris

Many organizations are strategically working to recruit, retain, and promote Black talent. This entails a multifaceted approach that requires input from both company leaders and employees.

On Thursday, June 17, we will launch the second program in our Inclusion in Action webinar series. Lamar Jordan, infrastructure engineer and co-chair of Relativity’s community resource group, Blacks at Relativity (BREL), will moderate the webinar, which is titled “Elevating Black Talent.”

Speakers include:

  • Rhonda Bentham, VP of service delivery and operations, Innov-8 Legal Inc.
  • Marlon Hylton, CEO, Innov-8 Data Counsel and Innov-8 Legal Inc. 
  • Chris Brown, chief product officer, Relativity; executive sponsor of BREL

Rhonda, Marlon, Lamar, and Chris will share how Innov-8 and Relativity have worked to elevate Black talent and create a more inclusive culture. The panel will share not only why elevating Black talent makes good business sense, but why it is the right thing to do as leaders in this space.

Everyone is invited to register to learn with us. Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect from Thursday’s programming.

Acknowledging System Biases

There are systemic biases that often hinder individuals’ ability to get their feet into any industry, particularly technology. System biases involve discriminatory practices that occur at the institutional level of analysis, operating on mechanisms that go beyond individual-level prejudice and discrimination.

Systemic biases can have dire consequences. A National Academy of Medicine report found that “racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people—even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable.” This lower quality of care increases both morbidity and mortality rates among Black individuals.

In the workplace, bias may take form in passing Black employees over for promotions or job opportunities. Recent statistics show that Black individuals comprise 13 percent of the US population but comprise only 8 percent of employees in professional roles. Further, Black professionals comprise 3.2 percent of all executive or senior leadership roles and less than 1 percent of all Fortune 500 CEO positions.

The first step to chip away at these biases is to understand that they exist. Then, you can create an environment in which employees feel safe to talk about them and implement strategies and programs that work to eliminate these biases. During the webinar, speakers will share how Innov-8 and Relativity worked to identify and address these biases through community resource groups (CRGs), recruiting practices, how they organized their companies, and more.

Bringing in Diverse Talent

According to Marlon, leaders in the space have a responsibility to diversify their company and represent the markets they operate in. Identifying motivated, diverse talent is critical to an organization’s success. But using traditional recruiting methods may not lead to a diverse candidate pool. You may recruit from the same universities, instead of working with historically black colleges. For Innov-8, they take a forward-looking approach for incoming talent. They seek opportunities to partner with high schools to educate students about legal tech opportunities. When students get excited about the tech field, they may consider this career path down the road.

Another tactic that may be hindering your ability to bring in diverse talent is relying heavily on employee referrals. A PayScale study showed white men are 12 percent more likely to be hired through a referral than any other group. Consider partnering with groups like the Black Young Professional Network and Diversity Jobs. This may expand your networks and start building your talent pipeline.

One way to find qualified and motivated talent is rethinking your criteria for a role. Some requirements may limit your talent pool. This may be requiring a four-year degree or specific training. Relativity is bringing in diverse talent through our Relativity Fellows program, which welcomes individuals from overlooked communities. Entering its second rotation, the Fellows, of whom nearly 50 percent are Black, learn about our product and industry through the program and ultimately secure a job in the industry.

Retaining Talent through Inclusivity

Having diverse teams allows a company to thrive. Teams have fresh ideas stemming from individuals’ varying life experiences. It is one thing to bring in diverse talent, but another to retain that talent. 

Organizations should therefore create an environment where all employees feel like they belong. Joni Davis, vice president and chief diversity officer for Duke Energy, defined the difference between diversity and inclusivity as the following: “Diversity speaks to who is on the team, but inclusion focuses on who is really in the game.”

While companies are making strides with diversity, many are shifting their focus to inclusivity—and with good reason. One research report found 40 percent of Black employees felt like outsiders in their corporate culture, compared with 26 of white employees.

One way to build that inclusive culture is by activating leaders within your company and creating an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing. Often, a person who is hesitant to speak up may feel powerless, excluded, or uncertain in their environment. During the program, Rhonda will share a time where she reached out to a leader within Innov-8 about a lack of action from leadership, and how that conversation led to leadership acknowledging Black History Month.

Another way to increase inclusivity is via CRGs, also known as employee resource groups. Organizations see the value in these groups, which is why almost 90 percent of all Fortune 500 companies have them. CRGs provide a place for various marginalized communities and their allies to connect and strategize on ways to create a more equitable workforce. During the webinar, Chris will discuss his role as the executive sponsor for BREL. Executive sponsors help members ensure they align their goals to the company's strategy. And they can advocate for the group's goals with other stakeholders. This in turn helps groups like BREL and other CRGs gain traction at an enterprise level. 

Every organization is at a different point in their inclusivity and diversity journeys. One consistency among all inclusion and diversity advocates is dedication and passion. Elevating Black talent is imperative. As the panel will share, it makes good business sense. But more importantly: It’s the human thing to do.

Register for the Elevating Black Talent Inclusion in Action Webinar

Mary Rechtoris is a senior producer on the brand team at Relativity, where she's always collaborating and looking for new ways to develop and socialize stories.