Team Building: How to Develop a Diverse Workforce - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Team Building: How to Develop a Diverse Workforce

This information came from a session during the 2022 ELEVATE conference and expo. Don’t miss the 2023 ELEVATE in Dallas on Sept. 10-13.

Having a diverse workforce has many benefits, including having higher rates of productivity and performance and increased creativity and innovation. However, you might not know how to go about increasing the diversity at your own company.

Below are some of the different recruiting and retention strategies that are outlined in the Building a Diverse Workforce Toolkit and Retaining a Diverse Workforce Toolkit produced by the NALP Foundation. Erin Barr, with Erin Barr Consulting, suggests not trying to implement all of these strategies at the same time. It will take time to build a diverse workforce, but you need to be intentional with your efforts.

Recruiting Strategies

The first step to creating a diverse team is identifying and eliminating barriers to entry. Some common barriers to minorities include seasonal work with inconsistent pay, a perception of the demographics based on the company’s marketing, or lack of family leave.

Interview your current employees, review your marketing materials and compare your pay and benefits offerings to your competitors. All of these methods will help bring these barriers to light. Once completing this assessment, create a plan of action with measurable statements so you can track your progress.

Some areas to change could be instituting blind applications, removing gender wage gaps or re-evaluating your family leave policy.

Once you have made sure your company is attractive to diverse employees, partner with other organizations in your community that serve minority populations. Barr suggests targeting areas with diverse populations, such as high schools, colleges and military bases.

Barr says you will typically want to hire people who are like yourself, so using a panel of diverse interviewers can help eliminate personal biases. Each interviewee should be asked the same questions and use a standard assessment scorecard to rate each applicant.

An example of putting these steps into practice is trying to increase your female hires. In a workforce demographics study conducted by the NALP Foundation released in 2021, while females make up 47 percent of the civilian labor force, they only make up eight percent of the workforce of respondents.

First, consider what barriers are preventing females from wanting to join your company. Do you offer uniform sizes for women, a workplace free from discrimination and a flexible schedule that allows them to take care of family matters?

Make a point to provide consistent and fair pay to both your male and female employees. When writing job descriptions, use gender-neutral language. Work with women-specific organizations to get the word out about new positions.

During the interview process, don’t ask questions you wouldn’t ask your male candidates, such as their marital status or their plans to become pregnant. Utilize the scorecard to rate their interview performance as you can’t interview people fairly if you aren’t asking them all the same questions.

Retention Strategies

Once adding more diverse employees to your team, you want to make sure they stay with you long-term. One of the main methods is making sure you have a workplace culture that is truly inclusive.

Creating a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program can help you improve your culture in this area. This includes creating inclusive policies and providing communication channels for employee complaints and criticisms. Establishing a series of “stay interviews” help you keep track of employee satisfaction and understand why people want to work for you.

Keep in mind that inclusivity is not a one-size fits all approach. Work to fit individuals’ needs as employees want to continue to work for someone who appreciates them. Recognition programs also play a vital role in retaining employees. Companies with recognition programs have 30 percent lower voluntary turnover.  

Another major element that gets employees to stay is by providing career progression. Take the time to understand each employee’s career goals and offer training to help them progress. Have and communicate a clear training program and career progression paths, so new hires understand this is more than just a job.

For more content like this, register for next year’s ELEVATE in Dallas, Texas, on Sept. 10-13.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.