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Why Black Workers Are Seeking New Opportunities

A group of business people clapping at a meeting.

​The Great Resignation has rocked the economy.

Many workers are quitting to pursue new jobs, to care for children or because unemployment benefits eclipse their own pay. This mass exodus has caused employers nationwide to reconsider their recruitment and retention efforts.

One group that employers may struggle to retain is Black workers, who are more likely than white workers to eye better employment opportunities, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) called The Great Resignation: An Analysis of the Employee Experience.

The survey of about 2,000 U.S. workers showed that Black workers were more likely than white workers to actively search for a new job or plan to search in the next few months. Among this group, nearly 6 in 10 workers said they are waiting to receive their annual bonus before leaving their job.

"In the coming months, we may continue to witness high levels of voluntary turnover as employees who have been planning to leave act on their intentions with their year-end bonus in hand," said Ragan Decker, senior researcher of strategic research initiatives for SHRM.

Black workers who quit their last job were also more likely to say they have considered going back to that job (37 percent) as compared to white workers (20 percent). Nearly half of Black workers who quit their last job said they would accept their former job with a previous employer if offered to them.

The survey results also showed that Black workers who quit their last job were more likely than white workers to say the following actions influenced their decision to quit:

  • A colleague quit.
  • A supervisor quit.
  • Acquaintances posted about quitting on social media.
  • Family and friends quit their jobs.

"I'm saddened [by the statistics] but not surprised," said Octavia Goredema, a Los Angeles-based author and career coach. "Companies need to do more to retain the Black talent they've worked hard to recruit in the first place."

Why Are Black Workers Looking to Leave?

Miraque Hicks is the senior vice president of people operations, talent acquisition and DEI at One Drop, a health and wellness app. She said the survey results show that organizations have ample room to enhance their diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) programs.

Hicks believes organizations still have a long way to go to be truly diverse. And Black workers are paying attention.

"Diversity should be evident across all levels of an organization, particularly among leadership positions," she said. "Potential new hires will browse your company's public-facing platforms and marketing materials, which should feel authentic and include inclusive imagery and culturally competent language."

Goredema explained that the upheaval and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the heightened trauma of racial injustice have affected minority workers' physical and mental health, leading people of color to leave or consider quitting their jobs.

"All this turmoil is in addition to the systemic inequities Black workers have been dealing with for far too long," Goredema said. "Not everyone is having the same experience, but fatigue, exhaustion, frustration and isolation are taking their toll and [SHRM] research data shows that."

Black workers are also leaving their jobs to start their own businesses. The percentage of Black adults starting their own business has increased each year since 2018, according to the research organization Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Goredema isn't surprised that Black workers are pursuing success on their own terms.

"I believe the opportunity gap that persists in corporate America is a key driving factor," she said. "There are currently only five Black CEOs in the Fortune 500. That statistic alone underscores how hard it is for Black leaders to advance."

'Listen to Your Black Employees'

Goredema believes that employers have a unique opportunity to retain Black employees and accelerate their career trajectories. They want to feel appreciated by their leaders at work, and employers' investment in their professional development is pivotal.

"Unfortunately, career coaching is often reserved for the most senior employees at a company," Goredema said. "This is an opportunity gap that holds underrepresented professionals back. It needs to change."

Black employees dealing with negative work experiences are often less likely to advocate for their professional growth. Employers can support Black employees by providing career advancement opportunities and coaching, she said.

This level of support can help maximize potential, boost morale and demonstrate a tangible commitment to Black employees. It can also create a space where individuals feel acknowledged for their contributions, increasing the desire to perform well.

Hicks implored companies to create safe spaces to elicit feedback from Black employees to help identify gaps and areas for growth. Doing so also creates an environment where employees are not afraid to voice their opinions, which can support retention efforts.

"Listen to your Black employees," she said. "They need to know you genuinely care about their needs, acknowledge their unique experiences and that you are ready to take meaningful action when necessary."


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