As employers strive to welcome and recruit a diverse class of new hires this summer, one of the most powerful steps they can take is also the simplest: listen. Young people of color say organizations need to do more to build inclusion and support mental health – two closely connected areas – as they face disproportionate impacts from an ongoing youth mental health crisis.
In other words, the challenge is not just recruitment. It’s building the commitments, strategies, and investments to support and sustain young people of color’s success for the long-term.
This message is clear in a recent survey from the Steve Fund, a leading U.S. organization focused on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people of color and partner of One Mind at Work. Fully half of respondents said their employer was out-of-touch with a diverse workforce’s needs, and 39 percent said their workplace lacked professionals dedicated to the specific needs of their communities. This lack of support takes a toll: 30 percent said work stress influenced their emotional wellness. These challenges can ultimately lead to turnover, as young employees of color have been more likely to quit their jobs in recent years.
These challenges are only growing more pressing for businesses. Gen Z will account for more than a quarter (27%) of the workforce by 2025, and it’s the most diverse generation in history, with almost half (47%) of Gen Z employees identifying as people of color. Prioritizing mental health for these employees is not only the right thing to do; it’s critical for an effective, forward-looking talent strategy.
Companies that get it right will achieve important advantages. Diverse teams with inclusive cultures are associated with improved creativity and are thought to be 6x more innovative. They boast a competitive advantage in problem-solving and generate notable engagement among all employees. Overall, companies in the top quartile for both gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to outperform all other companies.
These solutions must be grounded in the needs of the people they serve. To help design effective strategies, the Steve Fund asked young employees of color at public- and private-sector organizations about the best way to move forward. The Steve Fund promotes programs and strategies that build understanding and assistance for the mental and emotional health of young people of color by working with colleges, universities, non-profits, researchers, mental health experts, families, and young people. Five important steps emerged from the Steve Fund Survey:
· Center mental health and DEI. These values must be ingrained into mission, values, and goals and reinforced with a firm-wide definition of employee wellbeing. This definition should recognize racial trauma and the relationship between mental health, job satisfaction, and productivity.
· Invest in a safe landing for young employees of color. Focus on student transitions from higher education and launch programs that support wellbeing, with special attention to the recruiting and onboarding period. Embed culturally affirming resources into the workplace and invest in safe and inclusive spaces for young employees of color, including employee resource groups (ERGs).
· Empower leadership to support healthy workplaces. Create platforms for multicultural leaders to share personal experiences that foster an inclusive environment. It’s also important to educate all leaders on psychological safety.
· Conduct surveys to collect feedback on diversity, inclusion, and mental health. Data-driven insights can inform an organization’s current status and where it needs to improve, as well as offer a method of comparison against industry standards.
· Invest in programs that build belonging. Launch programming that educates and empowers employees to be advocates and allies. Amplify resources with communications campaigns and make them accessible through digital platforms.
Businesses that prioritize mental health and wellbeing for their young employees of color can better recruit, support, and advance top talent within a successful and thriving workforce. That means stronger business results, more engaged employees, and a better workplace culture for all. It’s the right thing to do…and it’s good for business!