Advice & insights: masterclasses from industry leaders

Creating Inclusive Workplaces: Strategies from Rhona Barnett-Pierce

Rhona Barnett-Pierce

Rhona Barnett-Pierce

Leadership & Talent Management Specialist

Key Takeaways

  • Leadership Empathy and Self-Awareness: Essential qualities for leading diverse teams include empathy to understand team members’ backgrounds and self-awareness to acknowledge personal biases and strengths.
  • Authentic Recruitment Strategies: Authenticity and transparency are crucial in attracting top talent. Candidates value real insights into company culture over polished marketing, and video can be an effective tool in recruitment efforts.
  • Personal Branding in Talent Management: Personal branding, when done authentically, can address challenges in attracting and retaining qualified talent, building trust with both potential and current team members.
  • Overcoming Personal Branding Challenges: Women, gender queer, and nonbinary individuals can face visibility and discrimination issues in personal branding. Overcoming these involves seeking mentorship, building support networks, and embracing authenticity.
  • Inclusive Career Development: Organizations should create supportive environments for underrepresented groups by ensuring inclusive policies, practices, and programs, and considering diverse needs in all aspects of the organization.
  • Adapting Talent Strategies for Diversity: Companies need to adapt to changing societal needs and employee expectations. Flexibility, listening to employees, and focusing on employee-centric talent management are key to successful talent acquisition and retention.

Effective Leadership and Talent Management Strategies in Today’s Workplace


How can empathy and self-awareness in leadership transform the way we work and lead? Join us in a conversation with Rhona Barnett-Pierce, a distinguished expert in Leadership and Talent Management. In this Q&A, Rhona shares her valuable insights on fostering empathy and self-awareness in leadership, innovating recruitment strategies, and the importance of personal branding in the modern workplace. She delves into the unique challenges and strategies for career advancement among women, gender queer, and nonbinary individuals, and offers practical advice for organizations striving to create truly inclusive environments. Her expertise illuminates the evolving landscape of talent management, providing a guide for nurturing diverse and dynamic teams in today’s competitive job market.

What key qualities do you believe are essential for effective leadership in today’s diverse workplace?

Rhona standing behind a desk
  • Empathy for sure. It’s one of the most important skills a leader should have if they want to successfully lead a diverse team. You must be able to understand and genuinely care about your team member’s backgrounds and lived experiences and how that impacts how they show up at work. Empathy will guide how you communicate with and about your team and will help you be an advocate for them.
  • Self-Awareness. This helps you understand what you’re good at and where you might need help. It helps you make better decisions, when you understand your own biases you can make better choices. Self-awareness also helps you have better relationships. You understand that you’re not perfect and haven’t had the same experiences others within your organization might have, so you’ll be more open to feedback.”
  • Being authentic and transparent. Candidates aren’t interested in carefully curated overly positive recruitment marketing. Know who you are as a company and as a team and focus on making sure your Employer Brand reflects that. Candidates will pick up on inauthentic marketing pretty quickly, as a society we are craving authenticity; and where we chose to work at isn’t excluded from that.
  • Using video. The easiest way to get a candidate to know, like, and trust your organization is to incorporate video into your Recruitment Marketing efforts. But not the overly-produced videos most companies use, but videos of the humans behind the corporate brand. Candidates want to know who they will be working with and what type of impact they can make.
  • “The biggest challenges leaders are facing when it comes to Talent Management are: attracting qualified talent and employee retention. Personal branding helps solve both of those problems. But it has to be done right. Lack of trust is at the core of these challenges. An authentic personal brand helps build trust. Candidates want to know their future leader and current employees want to engage with and learn from their leader. When leaders take the intentional steps to work on their personal brand, they will gain the trust of both strangers and current team members. It’s the natural result of building your personal brand.”

Career Development for Women, Gender Queer, and Nonbinary Professionals


“Women, Gender Queer, and nonbinary individuals face challenges in personal branding due to societal biases and stereotypes. These challenges are shared by members of other underrepresented groups like BIPOC professionals.

Some of the most common challenges faced are:

  • Visibility and representation. There’s often a lack of role models in leadership for these groups of individuals; people don’t expect us to be out there promoting ourselves, so branding efforts are not always well received. To overcome this, they can seek mentorship and network with other individuals who have successfully branded themselves, this will help increase visibility and build a support system.
  • Dealing with Discrimination and Microaggressions. The discrimination and microaggressions we face in the workplace are very present online and at professional events as well. There’s an unspoken pressure to confirm to mainstream ideas of what “professionalism” looks and acts like. Knowing that this exists and having a strong support system of allies within your industry is how you can push forward with being authentic and allowing your personal brand to reflect that.
  • Self-Doubt and Imposter Syndrome are very common in women, gender queer, and nonbinary individuals. We often made to feel like outsiders and like we don’t deserve to be in the rooms that we are in. Focusing on your achievements, strengths, and seeking feedback and validation from trusted colleagues and mentors is how you can overcome this.”

“Organizations must be intentional about creating an environment that is supportive and enhances career development. Hiring individuals from historically underrepresented groups is not enough, you have to look at ALL of your policies, practices, and programs and make sure that they are inclusive. Everything from how you design your workspace to how you evaluate and promote employees. Do you have gender neutral bathrooms, do you have a way for employees to share their pronouns and does your culture support honoring those pronouns. Is there representation in your leadership? How are employees treated when they report harassment and discrimination? Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion must be at the forefront of every single part of your organization.”

“Embrace your identity and stay true to your values. The challenges you face at school and in the world, are very present in the workplace. You get to choose where you work, make a list of your deal breakers and be sure to evaluate them during the job search. Seek out inclusive workplaces. Utilize the resources available to you like company reviews, networking with current employees, etc. Some companies even allow their ERG members to be part of the interview process, when this is offered to you, take advantage of this and make sure to speak to ERG members and current employees to understand what it really means to be part of that organization.”


Integrating Metrics and Humanity in Talent Strategy for Diverse Workforces


“In addition to what I mentioned above about being intentional and ensuring DEI is a crucial part of every aspect of your organization, it’s important to talk to your employees. And I don’t mean just sending a survey. I mean, have these conversations be part of regular 1:1s, ensure your DEI and/or HR teams have facetime with employees and listen to what their needs are. An organization that is truly committed to diversity, will empower every single employee to advocate for their needs. But you will never know if you don’t ask. Surveys and metrics and software will never replace actual conversations with the humans impacted by your policies. Talk to your candidates as well, don’t limit it to employees only.”

What are some common pitfalls in talent acquisition and retention, and how can they be avoided?

Rhona infront of ipad

“Lack of flexibility is perhaps the biggest pitfall. The world is changing rapidly, and if organizations aren’t adapting to the needs, wants, and demands of society, they will not be able to attract or retain talent. Most Recruiting teams focus solely on talent acquisition and neglect retention. Retention is an all company metric (it should be). If you’re ignoring employee and candidate feedback and aren’t adapting to things like: need for salary transparency, clearly outlined paths for development, flexible working arrangements, lack of overall transparency and communication, etc.; you will lose the “war” on talent.”

In your opinion, how has the approach to talent management evolved in recent years, especially considering remote work trends and technological advancements?

“In my opinion the biggest change has been that companies now are forced to listen to what employees need. Remote work has opened up choices for employees in most industries. The internet has opened the eyes of employees and has shown them what is happening at other companies and their expectations have evolved; so companies have had to adapt to this and we’ve moved from company-focused talent management to employee-focused talent management. And that’s a great thing!”


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