I have some concrete suggestions for any organizational leader whose company is “unable to find qualified BIPOC workers,” as the Wells Fargo CEO recently said.  The first thing you need to do is to find out whether your company is perceived as a place where BIPOC individuals are known to experience the same level of career success as do the whites who work there.  The good news is that there is already data available within the company that will enable any leader to answer that question.  A CEO can begin by tasking the HR department to analyze three sets of data.  The first is the voluntary turnover rate of BIPOC employees as compared to white employees.  The second is the average performance rating for BIPOC employees, compared to white employees.  The final data set is the respective rates of promotion for BIPOC employees, compared to white employees in the same job positions.  These data will reveal whether BIPOC employees experience your company as a good place to work.  If the data indicate that white employees fare better in terms of job promotions and performance ratings, you can assume that your company’s reputation is one reason why you do not have BIPOC professionals seeking to work there.   

Some white CEOs may assume that BIPOC people are just waiting to be granted admission to their company.  This is not the case.   BIPOC professionals know that many companies only want them for ‘window dressing’ – for creating the appearance that the company is a ‘diverse’ company.   The first thing potential BIPOC candidates want to know is whether BIPOC employees have good career tracks within the company.  Specifically, they want to know how well the career track of BIPOC employees compares to the career track of white employees.  BIPOC are not waiting around, either.  They seek to work in companies that other BIPOC people recommend, based on their own experiences.  The better reputation a company has, the more BIPOC want to work there.  Whether white leaders know it or not, every white company is viewed on a scale ranging from being an oppressive place to work to being a place where a BIPOC person can experience career success.

You can also corroborate your company’s reputation by contacting a search firm that specializes in sourcing BIPOC professionals.  The search firm will likely know if your firm has a positive image among BIPOC professionals.  If it does not, that means that BIPOC professionals are looking elsewhere.

If you find out that your company has a negative reputation among BIPOC professionals as a place to work, know that this can be changed, but it will definitely take time.

Begin by establishing a relationship with BIPOC professional associations (by this I mean black engineers, black accountants, etc).  Be aware that a company representative who shows up at a conference of black engineers will not be a magnet for job seekers.  These job seekers will be looking for representatives from those companies that have already established solid relationships with the professional association.  Such companies support professional growth of the BIPOC community by giving money for events or providing internships.  They give before they ask to receive.  The same is true for Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBUCs).  There are companies that have nurtured long-term relationships with these colleges.  This website lists the top 50 companies that hire from HBUCs: https://hbcuconnect.com/top50employers.shtml.

A recent article describes how companies increasingly rely on current employees to recommend potential hires:  For instance, at Ernst & Young, “employee recommendations now account for 45 percent of nonentry-level placements at the firm, up from 28 percent in 2010,” while at Enterprise Car Rental, “the proportion of workers hired through employee referrals has risen from 33 percent to just under 40 percent in the last two years.” [1]

If you expect your current BIPOC employees to recommend your company to their friends and associates, you must make sure they have the same chances for career success as their white coworkers.  To find this out, you don’t need to ask they how they feel.  Once again, you need only look at your HR data on hires, promotion rates, salaries, performance ratings and terminations to determine whether BIPOC individuals fare as well as white employees.  If the data indicates they do not fare as well as whites, make the changes necessary so that they do. If the data indicates they do not fare as well as whites, you will have to make the changes necessary so that they do.  Until then, BIPOC talent will not be interested in working for your company.

[1] https://www.nytimes.come/2013/01/28/business/employers-increasingly-rely-on-i eternal-referrals-in-hiring.html, “In Hiring, a Friend in Need is a Prospect, Indeed.”