Good employee engagement and retention strategies foster inclusion and open communication

People want to work where they feel like they can succeed and contribute in valuable ways. Surprisingly to some, pay is less important than factors such as opportunities for advancement, development, and recognition.

So, what do we do?

Taking a step beyond interviewing a diverse slate of candidates to retaining talent, you must build up a culture of inclusiveness and foster open communication and collaboration amongst your team. Spend time with your employees not only to ask them about their goals, but also to support their personal growth. Do they need time to obtain a certification or new degree? Would they like to learn about other areas of the business? Do they have a mentor? Then, take action to help fulfill those goals.

In the audit world, we have a unique opportunity to afford our people chances to learn about all areas of the business simply by scheduling staff to projects in new or challenging areas. It might require us to be more hands-on in coaching, but this is what will keep great people. Create formal and informal lines of communication to afford junior staff chances to meet with more senior staff and provide feedback. Take time to host team-building events or simple opportunities to mingle after work. People like working with people they like!

Engagement doesn't have to cost the company money, either. Simple acts such as holding regular team meetings to update everyone, can go a long way and help break down hierarchy. Open and clear communication is critical to engaging your people. Well informed employees are better equipped to make good decisions and will feel more connected to the strategy and mission of the company.

Another idea is to set up a team coffee break where everyone is encouraged to step away for a few minutes together in the afternoon. You can share a bit of culture at the same time by encouraging the team to bring a snack that represents them or comes from their home country or ethnicity. What about simply encouraging people to use vacation days and affording them the ability to disconnect when they do take the time off?

Empowering Future Leaders

I've had the distinct privilege of serving for five years as the president of the Connecticut Chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) from 2008-2013. The mission for the organization is to empower and develop Latinos to become leaders of character in every sector of the global economy. It's a powerful statement, and at its core it speaks to what all industries need to be thinking about when recruiting, training, and strategically planning to stay relevant.

We need to empower people. Imagine if your company empowered you to contribute in meaningful ways. Imagine if you felt empowered to speak with leaders about topics that were really relevant, not just to your work, but to the business as a whole. Imagine your children entering a workforce where they were empowered by mentors, regardless of gender, race, career path, or any other various identifier that makes us all diverse.

Diversity of Thought

The subject of "diversity and inclusion," a term many of us may have heard within our organizations, spans far beyond race and ethnicity. It is a business imperative to leverage diversity of thought. As just one example, in the United States people of Asian and Hispanic ethnicity are the fastest growing populations in the country, according to the Census Bureau. If those populations continue to grow at the same rate, in the next 30 years they will represent majority populations, rather than minorities. It stands to reason, then, that if we recruit diversely now and seek to retain that talent, we put ourselves in a position to remain relevant and build a pipeline to continue recruiting top talent when the face of the population shifts.

Further, harnessing the value of a variety of backgrounds in our work and demonstrating to employees that their diverse ways of thinking and working add value to the process, will offer a competitive advantage for the business as a whole.

Idealistic? Perhaps. But if we don't think this way, we will continue to lose talented people to those who do.


Stefanie Diaz Thibeault, CPA, CIA, is director of internal audit at insurance company XL Catlin. The opinions and ideas expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the opinions, positions, or policies of XL Catlin, MISTI, or any other organization.