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Study: Businesses Can Do More to Attract, Retain Black Employees

Study: Businesses Can Do More to Attract, Retain Black Employees


More minorities than ever are joining the U.S. work force and American businesses can do more to accommodate them — especially African Americans, say researchers at the University of Michigan Business School and Florida A&M University.

Compared with their White counterparts, African American workers have lower levels of job satisfaction and commitment to their employers, the researchers say. Despite demographic changes in the work force and intense competition for recruiting and retaining the best workers, companies have little understanding of workplace practices valued by minority employees, they say.

“Managing an ethnically diverse work force effectively is a necessity today,” says Dr. Lynn Perry Wooten, assistant professor of corporate strategy at the University of Michigan Business School. “Understanding the human resource management preferences of African American employees and their relationship to job satisfaction and commitment can help with this challenge.”

In a new report appearing in an upcoming issue of “African American Research Perspectives,” Wooten and colleague Dr. Joycelyn Finley-Hervey of Florida A&M analyzed data on more than 3,500 employed adults (minorities and Whites) in the National Study of the Changing Workforce. Sponsored by the Family and Work Institute and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the study includes data on employee demographics, personal well-being, workplace characteristics, job traits and employee outcomes on the job.

The researchers found that in addition to economic incentives — income and benefits — the most important reasons for African Americans in choosing and remaining on a job include learning opportunities, meaningful work and family-friendly workplace policies. Other factors include convenient work location, supportive culture and job security.

The study also shows a significant difference between African Americans and Whites in job satisfaction and organizational commitment, with African Americans reporting lower levels of both.

African Americans place a high value on interpersonal relationships with supervisors and co-workers, which greatly impact both job satisfaction and employee commitment, the researchers say. This is consistent with prior research that shows that African Americans take a collectivism approach to work, valuing intimacy, agreeableness and teamwork.

In addition, the study found that African Americans are more satisfied with their jobs when workplace policies allow them to balance competing demands of work and family — because of strong kinship values — by providing flexible work schedules, child care services and an organizational culture that does not penalize employees with family obligations.

Finally, African Americans are happier with their jobs and more committed to their employers when training and development opportunities are available to them, the researchers say.

“Organizations should invest in these practices not only because of institutional pressures, but also because organizations that make the best employers for a diverse work force are good employers for everyone,” Wooten says. “With the right human resource management investments, firms are better able to recruit, develop and retain talented human capital committed to the goals of the organization. The spillover effects of good human resource management practices create a win-win situation for all employees and the organization.”

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