Systemic racial issues that have persisted for generations have led to Black STEM workers being the least represented demographic in the workforce, and while there seems to be an awareness that change needs to occur, more action needs to be committed to solving this problem.

With that in mind, we formed Primary Talent Partners with a core mission to increase Black worker representation in the contingent workforce. One of our founding partners, Tinisha Bookhart, knows firsthand the challenges faced by Black STEM workers, which made it very easy to commit ourselves to solving these challenges for future generations.

I am personally driven to act because I recognize that as a white male, I’ve leveraged many advantages throughout my professional career that my Black counterparts have been denied, making any success I’ve achieved seem unfair and hollow.

The systemic issues contributing to low Black worker representation are wide and deep, and we knew that focusing our efforts on a select few of these issues would enable us to effect greater change. Lower graduation rates are one of the most often-cited contributing factors to low workforce representation, so this seemed like the best place to focus our efforts. Our programs provide financial scholarships (often co-branded with our clients) to Black STEM students enrolled at one of our HBCU partner schools. Increasing Black STEM graduation rates will help increase workforce representation.

In addition, we also examined our recruiting processes. From initial introduction emails to new candidates, all the way to exit interviews, we looked at the impact each process would have on our mission to increase Black candidate engagement with our firm.

We made a lot of changes to how we do our work. A few examples:

Trained recruiters. Recruiters joining our company know that candidate diversity is a priority because we require our recruiters to become a Certified Diversity and Inclusion Recruiter. The course curriculum helps new recruiters learn strategies to create and improve diversity talent acquisition practices. The certification also demonstrates to the talent community that we are serious about increasing diversity.

Internal staff. We made internal diversity hiring a priority. We found that increasing diversity on our team of recruiters went a long way toward decreasing submission and hiring bias.

Biased wording. We examine job descriptions for bias. Biased wording in job descriptions can influence how candidates perceive diversity in the workplace and can discourage diverse candidates from applying. Eliminating job-order bias increases diverse applicant flow.

Data tracking. Tracking EEOC data became a very high priority. We wanted to be able to measure the results of our efforts, and we couldn’t do that without knowing the demographics of our candidates. This also became a key measure of candidate engagement; an engaged candidate is much more likely to complete an EEOC survey that one who is not engaged.

Purpose-driven mission. After several years of work in this space, we’ve discovered the best candidate retention and engagement program is to have a culture driven by a purposeful mission to make positive change in the communities we serve. We’ve also discovered that by dedicating resources to and investing real effort in increasing Black worker representation, we are also able to better engage with Gen Z and millennials who see racial equality as the most important issue in the workplace.

Paying a fair wage, providing timely updates on submissions and interviews, and having multiple redeployment options available at the end of assignments are all table stakes for any effective candidate engagement and employee retention program, but while the “Great Resignation” rages around us, we must be innovative and provide value beyond “table stakes.” The Great Resignation will eventually end, and there will be winners and losers in the race for talent. The winners will be those who have figured out how to best engage and support talent from historically excluded communities.