Primary Talent Partners is committed to increasing Black talent in STEM fields in the contingent workforce. Through an intentional approach to building its own diverse staff as well as partnerships and programs to develop Black talent, Primary Talent Partners has exceeded national averages in terms of placing not only Black talent in STEM fields, but women and LGBTQ+ workers as well. Executive Partner and Director of IT Practice Tinisha Bookhart talks about hindrances Black talent face — such as the lack of a sense of belonging to financial obstacles precluding college educations — and PTP’s approach to solving them. She outlines how the company’s sourcing strategy, diverse recruiters and partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, have not just helped narrow the opportunity gap but provided clients with top and diverse talent.
Tell us about PTP’s mission. What is behind the company there?
Our mission is to be the primary source of talent for our clients. And our purpose behind that mission is to really help drive and increase Black representation in the contingent workforce. Our commitment to diversity stems from and is rooted in the reality that Blacks just simply aren’t experiencing the same level of success, promotion or pay when compared to other racial groups, and we cite three potential factors for that. One is their lower sense of belonging, and that could stem from not having others like them in a certain environment or culture or feeling represented or even heard when they are present.
The second one is the lack of funding to complete advanced degrees. Right now, a number of careers require a degree. So, if you don’t have a college education, it creates an income gap and limits you professionally as well, especially in comparison to other racial groups. And then the third one is just limited access to opportunities. Because people tend to run in our own circles, if you don’t have a certain demographic or group in a certain corporate structure or culture, it’s that much harder for those groups to enter. And that creates lack of opportunities due to the lack of representation.
So we really try to do everything that we can in terms of making sure we provide the top talent while also addressing diversity.
Can you discuss the firm’s internal recruiting strategy and the philosophy behind it?
With Black workers being underrepresented in the recruiting space, it’s that much harder to have a Black workforce or Black representation in submissions to your clients because, again, people’s networks tend to reflect themselves. The data supports that Black people tend to have more Blacks in their network, and so are able to submit more Black candidates for jobs. But the industry itself doesn’t have a lot of Black recruiters. So, we tend to hire entry-level recruiters from outside the staffing industry for our internal recruiting positions, which enables us to train them and align them with our methodology and our company values. As a result, we’ve been able to build an internal recruiting staff that is diverse — nearly 40% of our recruiters identify as Black or African American.
In addition, our onshore model helps us to find top talent for our clients at a low cost to be competitive within an MSP, which is generally what we work in. And then, last but not least, when it comes to diversity, we ensure that all our recruiters receive their AIRS certification, which is a diversity certification program that provides an educational overview of diversity, why it’s important, how to identify or attract certain talent, things to say, things to not say — just broadening the lens understanding of different cultures. It’s not just Black or white or anything; it’s very broad in terms of a diversity perspective.
When you hire entry-level recruiters, what industries do you look for? How do you go about finding those that would be a good fit for your unique organization?
Well, a part of our strategy is that we’ve been very successful in our sourcing. One of our strategies is that we have a partnership with HBCUs through which we provide Black students training and skills necessary for success upon graduation. While this program primarily is for developing Black talent we can provide to our clients, as our students graduate, it helps that we’re able to offer candidates full-time positions if they’re interested in working with us.
But we source just like everybody else as well. We utilize job boards. We leverage our internal networks. Even though Primary Talent Partners is a fairly young firm, we have 20-plus years’ experience in the business because we all came over from another staffing company. And so, we’ve learned how to perfect the art of finding talent and being able to cultivate it internally.
What are the top benefits of this strategy to your clients?
Having a diverse staff enables us to increase a diverse applicant flow. So when we talk about our purpose of increasing Black contingent worker representation, 27% of our STEM applicants identify as Black. Right now, I think the national average of STEM workforce representation is right at 6%. So we blow that out of the water at more than three times that, which we attribute to the diversity within our recruiting team. Additionally, 51% of our placements identify as female and 6.3% as LGBTQ+ — both of which also outpace their respective national averages. Also, having a diverse workforce helps us serve people of a diverse background. We’ve been able to deliver those results to our clients and all of the programs that we support. Meanwhile, our fill ratio for our MSPs averages about 11% across fair market share, and that’s actually double the fair market share across the programs we support.
In other words, we’ve really been an accelerator or a top provider in the spaces we support while at the same time not just providing top talent, but providing diverse talent to our clients, which is a very important goal for them as well.
What are the challenges that you’re facing on the journey?
Sometimes it’s hard to get in front of the right decision-makers to share about our diversity program and the diversity initiatives that have meaning to them and that they’re most interested in. Because they’re often bombarded by other calls, sometimes it’s tough to make that connection.
Another challenge we had early on — which we since have mastered — is with respect to capturing EEOC data. We started out wanting to capture EEOC data for every applicant, not just for placements, and with that comes challenges. When we first started collecting that data, candidates were a little leery to provide it. Some probably thought it was going to be used against them to sway the decision whether or not they would get the job. But once we were able to, first, demonstrate that we ourselves are diverse and we value diversity, and second, put in place some measures that allowed anonymity when submitting and providing that information, and third, share its importance, we were more easily able to start collecting it. When we first started collecting the data, we only were at 25%. Now that our applicants see how much we value diversity because we practice what we preach, plus the security and privacy practices that we put in place, we’re now able to collect up to 85% some weeks. We’ve done a much better job of being able to collect data just to see how we’re doing from a diversity perspective. I like to tell people that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. It’s really important to have that data to use for data-driven results to know where you’re being effective and where improvements are needed.
When it comes to our purpose and our mission, we’ve been really intentional. I think our successes have been because we’re intentional. Through our partnerships with HBCUs, we’re able to curate and prepare students through matriculation for professional life after college. To foster that relationship, we provide scholarships, mentorships and internships to help those students. And then from a university perspective and from our clients’ perspective, we are able to influence curriculum based on market demands or even our clients’ demands. For example, if a client has cybersecurity needs, we may be able to approach our HBCU partners and help pursue and drive some of changes in curriculum or pursuit of certain certifications to make those students more marketable to our clients upon graduation.
And it comes full circle. It’s having access to opportunities because, at the end of the day, we’re trying to remove all barriers to success. We all know that people who have experience are more apt to be offered a job, and we don’t want their first job at graduation to be their first professional experience. Because going to a professional environment from a student environment — and predominantly Black environment at an HBCU at that — is a drastic culture shift that may cause some difficulties in transition. The mentorship and the internships help with that transition, which in turn helps us to increase and retain Black talent. But when we talk about the work that we do on a day-to-day basis, providing experienced professional talent, that’s where we’re able to leverage our internal networks and HBCU partnerships. Our ability to provide Black talent and increase the diversity metrics and goals for our clients is increased even further because of the relationship we have with our HBCU partners plus the diverse recruiters that we have on staff and their networks.
What are PTP’s plans going forward?
PTP is growing. We’ve had a really successful year so far, and last year was the same — we are picking up momentum each and every day. Our staff is increasing, the number of clients that we have is increasing, and we are focused on being the best talent provider. Going back to our core mission, we want to be as diverse internally as we impress upon our clients [that they should be]. It’s who we are; it’s not just what we do. Diversity is one of our core values. We continue to balance our diversity internally. Half of our staff is female and 40% of our recruiters are Black, and we’re looking to increase that each and every day. We want to remain committed to our core values and our mission of diversity.
For more information on how Primary Talent Partners can help your recruiting efforts, please contact Mandy Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.