JULY 12, 2022

Hiring Your Team’s First Person of Color?

Believe it or not, we’re still being asked for advice from companies or teams who have just hired their first Person of Color. It usually comes from small organizations who thankfully come at it with an open mind. Still, this can be a tricky situation for both leadership and the new hire.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re bringing on your first Person of Color to your team.

Prepare the leaders and organization by providing DEIB training that will allow them to identify their blindspots and raise awareness of their biases so that as People of Color enter the organization some foundational work has been done to be inclusive.

Always remember that if you want to be a truly inclusive organization or team, then there shouldn’t be any difference between the way you interact with your new hire than you do with anyone else on your team.

You may need to work a little harder to connect with the new hire intellectually, morally, or professionally, but do take the time to get to know them as an individual.

Let’s also recognize that the support system you built for your White employees may not be the support system needed by a Person of Color.

(Read our posts on Tokenism, When it Feels Like Hazing, and Being the “Only” in the Room to learn more about what the experience of joining an all-White team may be like for a Person of Color.)

Because your new hire won’t have teammates that look like them or the same cultural experiences as you or your other employees, consider assigning them a mentor and a sponsor. These aren’t necessarily the same person.

A mentor is someone that they can go to, to coach them, to help them navigate not just the work, but your organization’s White culture.

A sponsor is someone who uses their network and influence to advocate for the Person of Color. This could be helping them ask for or take on a new assignment, helping them prepare for a promotion, helping them get exposure to executive leadership, etc. A sponsor is someone who is “in the room” proactively advocating for them.

Always ask rather than presume what the Person of Color wants or needs. What does support look like to them?

Also, having a solid onboarding plan can help set up your new hire for success. You may not have thought of this, because you’re inside your own culture, but apart from the technical aspects, explanation, or training needed to do the job, cultural onboarding may be needed as well.

Take the time to discuss your organization’s culture with your new hire, including how decisions are made, how feedback is given and received, how to ask for help, who has an open-door policy, and where they can go to share their experience with leadership in a way that’s not seen as taboo.

As with most other aspects of organizational management, the more time you invest upfront in preparing your new hire for success, the less time you have to spend later on.

And if you have challenges, we offer the full range of HR Support Services, all through the lens of equity.