Use New Hire Surveys to Retain Diverse Employees

While many companies have become adept at hiring diverse employees, they do not always have solid strategies for retaining them. Some choose to develop diversity initiatives and programs designed to promote equal professional experiences and opportunities for all employees to improve retention of their high-potential diverse employees. But even companies with comprehensive diversity programs continue to have attrition, particularly among employees in their first year of employment.

The greatest challenge is identifying what causes an employee to transform from an enthusiastic newcomer to a disengaged job seeker. The difficulties that new employees face vary among organizations and even within different divisions of the same company. The key to retaining high-potential diverse employees is first understanding the challenges they face as they maneuver around the workplace.

One way to achieve this is through new hire surveys, which are designed to quickly detect potential problem areas within an organization. Diversity executives can use the insights found in new hire survey results to see how employees experience the workplace and then make changes to improve employee engagement and retention.

Corporate culture determines how employees experience the workplace. A corporate culture is usually formed by unconscious and unspoken beliefs that get adopted as the norm by the dominant or majority employee group. When newcomers enter the organization, they must learn these rules and adapt to them to fit in.

The main issue for many newcomers, especially those of diverse backgrounds, is that most of these rules are unspoken. Without coaching, mentoring or sponsorship, new employees from different backgrounds may be excluded or ostracized because the insider information is withheld.

The most effective way to ensure all employees participate in and feel connected to the company culture is to simply include them. However, many organizations continue to utilize the same people, resources and decision-making processes. This only reinforces a culture of exclusion, rather than one of inclusion.

It is difficult for HR and senior management to know if all new hires are experiencing a workplace similarly because they cannot be in all places at all times. New hire surveys can act as a thermometer to measure where things are healthy or not in terms of diversity initiatives. One of the most effective ways to use them is to survey new hires and then compile the information by various demographics that can easily pinpoint if minority employees, such as women or people of color, are experiencing things differently than the majority population.

New hire surveys can also be used to assess new employee skill sets, identify target areas for growth and development, benchmark baseline assumptions to measure against future assessments, forecast employee turnover, highlight coaching and mentoring opportunities, assess orientation and training programs, evaluate the work environment culture and highlight potential candidates for succession planning.

Timing: The timing of new hire surveys will depend on the company’s objectives, such as measuring new employees’ expectations compared to the reality of the job, the recruitment process and training and orientation programs. Most should occur within the new employee’s first 60 to 90 days. Surveys that audit the recruitment process should occur sooner — perhaps around the new employee’s 30-day mark.

Questions: Survey questions should be consistent across all employee groups. HR can gauge if the workplace is different for diverse employees by comparing the results over time, once enough data is aggregated. Questions should detect barriers for women and people of color in areas such as initial placement in a career track position, feelings of welcome from co-workers, and mentoring opportunities. When results are tabulated and compared, they will show if white males are rating these areas significantly higher than others.

Technology: A new hire survey software solution is a comprehensive online employee survey system that comes with preconfigured questionnaires, as well as data and reporting systems, which helps HR get to the root of diversity issues. It allows HR practitioners to cut the aggregated data into customizable slices, such as race, gender and age range. Some systems also have scheduling capabilities that send out the surveys at the prescribed times and can keep track of multiple surveys along the lifecycle of the employee, which eases the administration of the program.

New hire surveys give organizations a snapshot of the symptoms of their cultural issues and allow diversity executives to identify specific problem areas in which to improve. New hire surveys often identify things that are easily solvable, such as providing more information on where resources are located. Diversity executives can use them to measure their diversity initiatives and then work with individual departments and divisions to ensure that all employees, regardless of gender, race or age, are working in an inclusive environment that sets the stage for everyone’s success.

Beth N. Carvin is president and CEO at Nobscot Corp., an HR technology company that specializes in employee retention and development. Shaunice Hawkins is CEO of social branding management and marketing company Evolutions Consulting. They can be reached at