UP FRONT: Diverse talent

Posted on Jun 1, 2014 :: Up Front
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Companies in the New North know they can attract talent to the region by offering a good job, excellent benefits and a great lifestyle. But prospective employees also need a sense of belonging, and members of minority communities might wonder if they’ll find it in the predominately white region.

That’s why the New North Attract, Retain and Develop Talent Committee, along with the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Appleton, developed a comprehensive diversity guide to help companies recruit talent and to help minority residents easily locate businesses and services that meet their needs. It’s easy for businesses to just send the link to prospective employees, says Celestine Jeffreys, diversity manager at the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s very nice to have something you can open up and plug in to, especially if you’re coming for a job and you don’t have an established social network already,” Jeffreys says.

But the guide is really for everyone, offering community residents a way to learn about and explore multicultural resources in the region, she says. “One should not assume that just because one is from India that someone’s not interested in country music, for instance.”

Currently, the guide features resources for African-American, Hmong, Indian and Latino residents. The committee plans to expand the guide to include others, such as the LGBT community.

The guide is important particularly for companies seeking to recruit minority candidates to help accurately identify the services available to them in the area, such as barber shops and beauty shops that specialize in cutting African-American hair, says Kathy Flores, Appleton diversity coordinator. Those services might not be readily apparent or information might be inaccurate. A previous Green Bay guide, for example, included hair salons that didn’t actually work on African-American hair, Jeffreys says.

Companies were chosen for inclusion in the New North Diversity Guide partially by word of mouth – asking people who belong to those communities where they shopped and obtained their services, Jeffreys says. The guide lists not only minority-owned businesses but businesses that cater to specific needs that particular communities might have, such as spaces for large gatherings.

“There are several communities in our country – Hmong people, Somali people, people from Eritrea, and also some people from India – who, when there’s a celebration, everyone in the community attends,” Jeffreys says. “So that’s why there’s a banquet hall section to give a kind of quick view of which halls take ‘x’ number of people.”

The committee contacted several large employers early in the guide’s development, letting human resource departments know the guide was available to them during the recruitment process, Flores says.

“In Appleton we want to make sure that we are viewed as a welcoming and inclusive community,” Flores says. “And the more that we can do to provide resources and networking opportunities for individuals, the more we’re going to be able to make sure people choose to live in and stay in Appleton.”

The City of Appleton Assessor’s Office recently added an option for new businesses to self-identify as minority-owned. When that happens, Flores is alerted so she can help with retention and provide the owners with a resource who has a diversity perspective, often a key to the business’s survival and vibrancy, she says.

“I think the New North region could go a long way in attracting a diverse talent set by making sure that we’re looking at our hiring and recruiting practices, that we’re looking at all of our policies to make sure that they are addressing things in an equitable way,” Flores says. “We can also engage the leadership in the minority community in helping us with recruitment and retention issues.”

But both Flores and Jeffreys say growing diverse talent in the New North isn’t just about bringing people in from elsewhere.

“There are quite a few people in these communities who are from here – people of color who are from here, and this is a tremendous resource that I’m not sure that we’re always really tapping into,” Jeffreys says. “The way we keep people here is by showing that our community is actually diverse and interesting. Even in polka and beer and brats – that’s part of what’s diverse and interesting about the area, but there’s a lot more to it than just that.”

Access the guides

New North’s Regional Guide: Resources for Multicultural Residents can be found at www.thenewnorth.com/living-here/diversity-resources. There is a general guide and those specific to Green Bay-Appleton or Oshkosh-Fond du Lac. To suggest additional resources for inclusion in the guide, contact Celestine Jeffreys at [email protected] or Kathy Flores at [email protected]