09 Dec 2020

Increasing Leadership Diversity Through Talent Review Discussions

One of the many advantages of an internal Talent Review-Succession strategy is the opportunity to increase the diversity of your leadership team! Here are ideas that work to achieve this goal:

Increase Awareness

The first step to increase leadership diversity is to increase awareness, using current employee and leadership team diversity metrics, and meeting with senior leaders to discuss these results on a regular basis.

Just as organizations calculate, review and report the diversity of external job candidates, they also need to calculate and compare their internal talent pool diversity statistics (i.e. gender, race, etc.), such as the pool of internal successor candidates and high potential employees. The diversity metrics of these types of internal talent pools should be compared to the diversity metrics of the internal talent pool. The goal is to have a high potential / successor pool that reflects the diversity of the internal employee talent pool (or at leadership talent pool).

Increase External Hire Diversity to Increase Diversity of Successor Candidates

If the organization finds their top talent pools and successor candidates lack diversity, not only should they expand their thinking on internal successors, but they also need to increase diversity in bringing in external candidates. It’s nearly impossible to increase diversity of internal successor candidates if the internal employee talent pool already lacks diversity!

Watch for Bias Words in Talent Review Meeting Discussions

A skilled Talent Review Meeting Facilitator will be quick to recognize discussions and descriptions that could indicate a bias, such as “she’s high maintenance” or “he needs to be a stronger leader”. Neither of these descriptions is behavior-based or fact-based; we actually have no idea what either of these descriptions really means, and we can’t yet tell if a bias exists, or if there is a behavior that requires a development action. When descriptions provided in Talent Review Meetings do not describe actual behaviors, the facilitator of the meeting should ask questions such as “What does that look like?” or “Give me an example of the behavior and how it affects the business…” to determine what the factual issues are and if they represent bias, or if in fact the employee’s behavior is impacting the business.

Effectively facilitated Talent Review-Succession Meetings work to reduce bias and to increase diversity, because a group of leaders are making decisions together, rather than one manager choosing people to be promoted, because people have a tendency to pick people who are most like themselves, when left to their own devices and their own perceptions as a singular decision point.

Use Clear and Consistent Talent Identification Criteria

One of the most important ways to increase diversity and to eliminate bias is to ensure the use of talent selection criteria, tools, and processes which focus on behavioral criteria; ensure your organization is not using the “we just pick-em” approach. Every HR professional and every manager in your organization should be able to clearly articulate the criteria and processes used to identify successor candidates, high potential employees, key experts, etc.

Everyone involved in the Talent Review-Succession strategy should be able to articulate the difference between a successor candidate, a high potential employee, a high performing employee, etc. The same talent identification criteria and processes should be used across the organization and must be clearly documented.

Provide Talent Benchstrength Training for Managers and for the HR Team

Finally, I recommend providing training for managers prior to talent review-succession planning to prepare the HR team and the business leaders to participate effectively and in a non-biased way in talent review meetings. Additionally, providing training on the topics of Unconscious Bias and Cultural Awareness also raise awareness and increase leadership skills.

Doris Sims Spies, SPHR
Author of The Talent Review Meeting Facilitator’s Guide
Founder of Talent Benchstrength Solutions, LLC, an HRCI and SHRM Approved
Provider: www.TalentBenchstrength.com