Kai Lawson

#MyTenAdCommandments | 10 Things Agencies Can Do to Retain Talent... of Color

Kai Lawson
#MyTenAdCommandments | 10 Things Agencies Can Do to Retain Talent... of Color

About two weeks ago, I decided I was going to list 10 things agencies can do to retain talent of color.

So I made this list… and then I realized these THINGS aren’t specific to just people of color. It’s actually a list of ways to retain any employee.

Then I caught my own shade, because I realized that the way to respect and retain an employee of color is the same way to respect and retain an employee that is not of color, and I shouldn’t have had to make this list, because that’s all we’ve been asking for all this time…The same kind of respect… Insert side eye here…

No worries. It’s here for viewing pleasure if you still think you need it. 

  • Pay Us. Not just enough for us to simply survive, but to thrive. We want to work for more than just rent and the $1 menu. If our leadership can buy a Mercedes, in addition to paying their mortgage/ high ass rent, with their salary, then we should at least have the opportunity to buy the monthly metro card, pay rent AND order at least 1 uber ride a month. 
  • Onboard Us. You have to set us up for success, from day 1. If you hire us, or move us onto a project, do us all a favor to make sure that we have the tools needed, access necessary, and insight required to make the appropriate decisions for the project we’re allocated for. We can’t give you 100% of our best effort, with only 50% of the information and access. Yes, this will take some additional time up front, but it will certainly save us from wasting time hating each other, on the back end. 
  • Mentor Us. Someone within the agency should be setting goals with us and tracking our progress. Careers are a team sport. Every player needs a coach and a team for support. 
  • Work to Create a Path With Us, for promotion. We need to know what the next steps are, what we’re working toward. What does the ladder to success look like? If it doesn’t exist, then the agency needs to work with us to create one. Otherwise we’ll recognize this is a temporary stop on our journey and not a long term home for our career. 
  • Celebrate Our Individuality in a team setting. We know that team work makes the dream work, but every person should be celebrated for the swag they bring to the table and we should be welcomed to the table to contribute Ideas and raise concerns. On the topic of D&I everyone LOVES to talk about diversity of thought. So how about when you have diverse people in your organization, give their diverse thoughts a platform and an opportunity to contribute to your conversations. 
  • Recognize Our Progress and Highlight Areas for Improvement, equally. Don’t just use every status to tell us we’re doing a great job, OR on the contrary use every status to nitpick. Balance it out. Let us know whats working and what’s not working so we are clear on your expectation of our work. 
  • Challenge Us. As we work to improve ourselves, we need opportunities to show progress in ways we may not have had, before. Even when you think work may be too advanced for an individual, it’s not up to you to determine our capabilities. Give us the work you don’t think we can do, so we can either prove you right immediately or prove you right eventually. 
  • Teach us. Teach us about the history of your agency, the current state of the industry and the future of culture. If you make us the subject matter experts for things that are important to your organization, we’ll happily represent you well. 
  • Listen to Us. We need a safe space to bring our concerns and discuss solutions. Many of us feel that HR and agency leadership are more concerned with protecting the agency instead of protecting the people. This is why platforms such as fishbowl and @dietmadisonave have become so popular. If you can be the ear and the safe space we need, we’ll be loyal. 
  • Give us Space. Work life balance is huge. After we bust our ass during the work week, we need a break. Everyone does, quite frankly. If the agency culture ONLY praises consistent weekend work, and never taking PTO, your workers will get burned out, and will eventually leave or worse…under perform. Encourage us to take time for ourselves, and work with your internal project teams to ensure as much work can get done during the work week to avoid taking time away from a resources.