How to Hire and Retain BIPOC Employees

How to Hire and Retain BIPOC Employees
How to Hire and Retain BIPOC Employees

School Leadership//

May 20, 2022

Not all private schools are on the same page with the diversity issues. Some schools have just begun the conversation about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) initiatives, while others are implementing significant shifts in both policy and practice.

JEDI goals directly connect to a school’s willingness to undergo a true transformation. If policies remain status quo, the work is performative—when people or organizations make policy changes that don't get to the root of the issue. Honesty can be scary, and to some it feels threatening.

But remember—keeping our heads in the sand contributed to the system we now face. Conversations may be uncomfortable—and, they should be—but taking that first step leads to progress and a better future for the academic community. One way to support diverse communities is to start with your Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) hiring and retention practices. Here’s how you can get started.

Establish a Search Committee

Hiring great employees is not a one-person job. Involving diverse voices and skill sets is critical to avoiding a single gatekeeper. Start by forming a committee. Ask these questions:

  • Who is invited to join this “search committee”: Is it by invitation or open to everyone?
  • What voices are represented?: Do you want certain skill sets or backgrounds?
  • Are search committee members willing to own their own biases and bring to light biases they see in their colleagues? NEMNET offers training, consulting, and coaching.

Determine Ideal Candidate Characteristics

The committee should meet before reviewing candidates to identify the ideal candidate’s profile. This helps to ensure all agree. Ask questions like, “What is something that would make you reconsider a candidate's resume?”

Create Personas

ISM partner, The Glasgow Group LLC, has created five personas to describe employee value systems, particularly those of BIPOC employees. To leverage these, consider providing the persona descriptions to candidates and asking if they would be comfortable self-identifying, allowing you to tailor the interview to effectively support them thru the hiring process.

Here are the five personas to consider as you hire and retain your BIPOC employees.

Persona 1: A Way to Pay It Forward

“I am a graduate of an independent school. I appreciate my education; I want to pay it forward.”

This independent school alum is a recent college graduate who wants to have a direct impact on the school community because of their own experiences.


  • Use the Alumni Office, especially recruiting alums of color.
  • Leverage universities with which you are affiliated.
  • Introduce alums to the school as it is now.


  • Expose them to the whole picture of the institution.
  • Consult and include their voices in institution shaping.
  • Help them build a personal connection to the institution.

Persona 2: A Place to Be Me

“I want a workplace where I can be my authentic self.”

This persona is likely leaving their current school for a place that is a more inclusive and diverse community where a BIPOC person would be accepted. They are in search of a school that is flexible, agile, and understanding of many different lifestyles.


  • Be honest about what you are/aren’t doing to support BIPOC groups, including affinity groups, cultural norms, and dress code expectations.


  • Support and develop employee affinity groups.
  • Provide visible and ongoing DEI professional development for everyone.
  • Connect the employee with social-emotional resources like a personal coach, someone outside the building who is available for their growth and retention. 


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Persona 3: A Welcoming Community

“I want a place where my whole family will be accepted.”

This persona desires a place to belong and feel immediately at home with others in the school.


  • Be honest with candidates about where the community can/cannot meet their needs by asking questions like, “How would we ideally support you and your family in your role at our school?”
  • Introduce candidates to parents and others in the community who can be candid and helpful.


  • Connect them to resources they’ll need outside work, like a realtor or hairdresser.
  • Build relationships with affinity groups through regional communities and conferences.

Persona 4: A Chance to Impact Students

“I’m looking for a place where I can fully and deeply shape student experiences.”

As the ultimate coach and advisor, they are looking for a place where student voice and leadership are valued and encouraged.


  • Emphasize available opportunities for leading student groups, clubs, and teams.
  • Incorporate students in the interview process, based on the interest and identity of the candidate.


  • Avoid burnout by helping to set boundaries around their heavy cocurricular load.
  • Provide opportunities to learn more about coaching, advising, and working with students beyond classroom content.

Persona 5: Fulfilling Career Experience

“I want a well-resourced school where I can be a creative and collaborative leader.”

The innovator wants to see long-term career growth and opportunity at your school, perhaps in multiple roles. They prioritize mentorship and collaborative colleagues.


  • Show them a curriculum map, noting what’s available for innovation and what’s not, and what has changed recently.
  • Talk about what collaboration looks like at your school.
  • Connect them with employees who have moved into different roles.


  • Clarify the “invisible fence” of innovation.
  • Provide opportunities to be creative within the boundaries of independent schools and with like-minded colleagues, like the Klingenstein Summer Institute.

Mechanisms for Feedback on the Hiring Experience

After your committee hires and onboards great talent, it’s time to review and reflect on the process. Talk to new hires about their experiences, including the time between accepting the offer and starting the job. Don’t forget about those to whom you didn’t extend an offer. Keep those connections for future positions or offer feedback to assist their professional growth elsewhere.


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