Empower Black employees by investing in their growth

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5 mins, 16 secs read time

If you’re at a people-first company that prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), you most likely try your best to ensure that everyone in your company feels a sense of belonging. Every year when months like Black History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and others come around, you try to think creatively about how to best celebrate – beyond hosting a virtual Zoom party – and help your org dig deeper to drive change in a meaningful, impactful way.

Some ideas to get started

For Black History Month this year at Greenhouse, our Black employee resource group (ERG) Blackhouse aligned with our employee experience team to create a program that engages, educates and inspires. As the theme for Black History Month this year is dedicated to Black health and wellness, we’re focused on experiences that speak to the unique, intersecting dimensions of health and wellness for our minds, bodies and financial futures. This year’s activities include:

  • Learning to sense, recognize and identify feelings in order to mindfully navigate our days in a meditation with HealHaus

  • Wellness and mental health resources like coaching, therapy and meditation offerings through Modern Health

  • Insights, tools and resources for financial preparedness and strategies for using homeownership as a wealth-building tool in a workshop with Nikki Merkerson, founder of PairGap

Impact of investing in Black employee growth with management programs

Of course, being a truly inclusive organization that strives for equity goes beyond celebrating for a month, and beyond performative allyship. A harsh reality is that Black people are promoted at a lower rate than their white peers and they are paid less than their white colleagues too. Black employees need tangible actions that generate real change.

According to Aiko Bethea, principal and founder of RARE Coaching & Consulting, in Harvard Business Review, “Failure to groom internal Black talent for leadership will result in Black employees leaving or becoming disengaged, and lead to a never-ending hiring spree to recruit new Black employees. A lack of promotions for Black employees will also present a red flag for potential Black candidates the organization seeks to hire.”

If the past two years have taught companies anything, it’s that an intentional diversity, equity and inclusion strategy is one of the most essential weapons in the battle for talent.
–Nia Darville, DE&I Program Manager at Greenhouse, in Forbes

As Greenhouse strives to be a great people-first company, one of our goals is to increase mentorship, sponsorship and employee growth opportunities for underrepresented employees. In partnership with TPG and The Rise Fund, our Director of DE&I Jamie Adasi organized for up to 10 Black employees to participate in the McKinsey Black Leadership Academy Management Accelerator program, designed to enhance the capabilities of existing Black leaders and support their ongoing career progression. We caught up with two participants – Mid-Market II Account Executive Sean Ezeamama and Professional Services Project Manager Ebony Ajiboye – to learn more about why programs like these and investing in employees are so important.

Empowerment driven by representation:
A bleak reality is that company leadership roles are rarely filled by Black leaders. Black professionals hold only 3.2% of all executive or senior leadership roles and less than 1% of all Fortune 500 CEO positions. This is not because of a lack of qualified Black talent, but because companies are not doing their due diligence to find them, or not conducting fair and equitable hiring practices.

Ebony spoke about the power of representation in leadership roles, “Apart from the formal learnings, what I found the most powerful was the network I was able to be part of. There is something really fulfilling in being in the midst of these leaders – no matter their industry – who can understand the experience of being Black in the workplace and the joys and struggles that come with that.”

Actionable guidance to elevate business results:
Sean explained how the program created an incredibly productive environment for him to identify his career challenges and develop actionable steps to overcome them. “Having a group of peers outside of my company and role who helped me strategize and plan around my biggest problems was invaluable as a new hire – I know for a fact that it played into the success I had, because it was clear in the data.” Sean candidly shared, “Shortly after the program, I hit ~150% of my annual quota, contributed to a high-performing team right away and gained valuable knowledge and resources that I will pass along to our next new hire.”

Enhancing leadership mindsets to elevate personal growth:
Ebony also shared that she was able to build on her functional knowledge on topics like business strategy, talent, pricing and operations.

The experience also allowed her to develop her leadership mindset and therefore be more effective with collaborating cross-functionally at Greenhouse. She explained, “I realized that though I struggled from Imposter Syndrome, I innately had the foundations of being a good leader: empathy and the ability to listen, advocate and be there for those I was representing.”

She added, “The greatest lesson that I took away is that leadership is a skill set that anyone can build and improve on – none of us are born perfect leaders. Therefore I know that I will make mistakes along the way and, when I do, I will give myself grace and use those mistakes as learning opportunities.”

Companies have to do better – the lack of Black representation in leadership is not a candidate pool issue, it’s a weak sourcing and DE&I strategy issue. And it’s clear that when steps are taken to rectify it, the results are powerful. No more posting Black squares on Instagram. No more joining in on the trending hashtags. If organizations are serious about achieving racial equity, they have to treat this issue like any other business metric. There’s a problem – and a clear data-driven solution. It’s time to get started.

Looking for hands on advice to help you evaluate your inclusive hiring practices? Download our new eBook – The Talent Maker’s guide to inclusive hiring.

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Micah Gebreyes

Micah Gebreyes

is a Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Greenhouse where she develops and leads the content strategy for Greenhouse blogs, social media and thought leadership newsletter, Modern Recruiter. When she's not working to bring the brand story to life, she enjoys spending time with her Pomeranian, Cashew. Keep the conversation growing with Micah on LinkedIn or through the Greenhouse LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.