Before You Hire Your First Person of Color

Some foundational preparation before hiring people of color into your all-white (or mostly white) organization

Get clear about why you want a more racially diverse workplace

Write a “why” statement. Knowing why help you stay focused when things get hard and helps you identify the outcomes you want from a multi-racial workplace. There are lots and lots of good reasons to have a racially diverse workplace, have a thoughtful honest discussion about what your “why” is.

Think about what this person’s experience will be

When possible hire more than one person of color especially for that first foray into racially diversifying your organization. This helps you focus on broad themes when problems pop us and helps you avoid attaching problems to a person. Assume there is a racial component to every problem that comes up as you grow into a multi-racial workplace.

Resist the impulse to be “color blind” Again, assume everything is about race and you will be right most of the time. This doesn’t mean other problems don’t exist, it means racial ones do.

Make sure your job posting and your employee orientation includes your commitment (and how that commitment shows up) to racial equity.

Open yourself to critique and get ready to make many mistakes

Prepare a concrete plan for when you will need to respond to your new employee’s concerns about your racism and/or the racism embedded in your organization. Invite your employees to provide feedback to you, provide specific anonymous and scheduled times for them to do so. (don’t single out your employees of color, do this with everyone).

Focus your initial efforts on demonstrating respect vs working on being liked by the new employee. There is some great research out there about racial differences in what we want and expect when we first meet someone. Google it.

Come to grips with your white fragility

Remember, White Fragility thrives on perfectionism and fear of making mistakes. Expecting mistakes is crucial and remember that Humility is your best friend.