Valence unveils training program to help build pipeline of Black execs

Diversity has been linked with equity and inclusion because diversity is just one part of the equation when it comes to hiring Black employees. How do the companies they work for make people feel welcome and included, rather than isolated? How do Black employees find their way into management, up the corporate ladder to the C Suite and into the boardroom?

Today Valence, a startup dedicated to empowering Black professionals, announced a new program called BONDS, which is designed to help companies train, retain and promote Black employees.

Valence CEO Guy Primus says that the organization has almost 16,000 community members and recognizing that getting hired was just the first step in a long journey, the company wanted to find a more concrete way to help its members. He says that companies tend to focus too much on the hiring pipeline and don’t give enough attention to what happens after Black employees get hired.

“People want the numbers to go up, and there’s [this notion of] recruit, retain, and promote. The problem is that everyone is focussed on the recruiting pipeline, but they’re not focused on retention and promotion, which ultimately affects recruiting. So it’s an ecosystem problem, not a pipeline issue,” Primus explained.

Primus knew that the company needed to do more, and he hired Tracy Williams as vice president of learning and development to build a curriculum specifically designed to help Black professionals thrive.

Williams points out that Black professionals often find themselves isolated at companies without a lot of peers whom they can talk to. She wanted to create a program that could give people that sense of community where they could commiserate over the issues they face with people who understood their experiences.

“Where an organization may not be able to provide that sense of community for their Black professionals, we’re able to do that for them and the benefit for those corporations and organizations is that they’re able to now invest in their Black employees’ development and opportunities, while connecting with their peers on a more personal level and still being trained and developed as potential senior level leaders,” Williams told me.

She says that this also gives the company a way to hold organizations accountable when it comes to promoting Black employees into management and executive positions.

“I think we have this opportunity not only to provide the community for emerging Black executives, but also on the other side of the marketplace, create a tool of accountability for these organizations who are investing in their employees and ensuring that they are acknowledging their employees’ readiness, and recognizing and promoting them based on their leadership readiness as well,” she said.

Among the organizations participating at the launch of this program are Accel, Electrolux, GGV Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, Providence Strategic Growth, Roblox, Silicon Valley Bank and Upfront Ventures.

The program itself includes a couple of key components including a curriculum designed around three modules: leading self, leading others and leading within your organization.

“Each of the curriculum components across those three modules truly provides content and development for our members that focus on how they are able to represent themselves and navigate the nuances of being an emerging Black executive in their organization, how they’re able to amplify their leadership readiness, how they’re able to communicate more effectively in their organizations and externally as well, and the steps that they need to take in order to fully own their career development,” Williams said.

But Williams wanted to do more than provide training materials for the members, she wanted to provide support for every member of the BONDS program. So the other component of this is a cohort with 10 peers in each one led by a facilitator and a coach who lead the members in deeper discussions about the training materials.

“It’s a safe space to practice what they’ve learned in the on demand curriculum, but also dive as deep as they need to in order to feel fully ready to promote themselves within their organization,” she said.

The program is trying to address a real problem related to Black employees getting the opportunity to grow into management and executive positions. The company pointed out that while Black professionals make up 12% of entry-level corporate jobs, just short of their 13.4% representation in the U.S. population, their numbers fall to 7% of management roles, according to research conducted by McKinsey & Co.

The hope is that by providing a more concrete framework like BONDS, it can lead to closing this gap and helping more Black professionals climb the professional ladder in their organizations.