“Inclusive talent management is a way forward for us to think differently about what talent really looks like.”
One of the challenges we have is that we are living in an era of homogenous talent management; if we recruit people and promote people, we think we do so from an objective perspective when in fact, we're deeply biased. We recruit and promote in our own image.
We are profoundly flawed creatures and this bias affects many of our talent decisions.
If you look at American men, about 4% of the population are over six-foot two in height.
Of the American CEO population, of those who manage Fortune 500 companies, 30% of them are over six-foot two.
Does that mean that short men and tall men are of different abilities?
Despite all of our proclamations and wonderful intent, we still hire in our own image because we're deeply biased. Here’s how we typically make ‘people decisions’.
Think about your five closest friends in the world, who they are. Perhaps people you grew up with, went to school with, perhaps your godfather, mother to your kids. Think of your five best friends in the world and picture their faces.
Then picture your five closest colleagues and think about their names.
If you have had a really tough day, who are the people you turn to? Who do you trust?
Next think about your partner or the partner you would like to have, picture their name and that person, and finally think about where you live: the wisteria, the picket fence, whatever it might be.
We’ll call these people our ‘in group’.
These people are basically your frame of reference about how you think about the world. It is what ‘clean’, ‘good’ and sensible looks like. Because 90% of our decision-making is unconscious, that frame of reference is vitally important. It frames the way we approach the world, including how we recruit.
In other words, our ‘in groups’ and our bias is critically important, despite all of our wonderful intentions. The data, be it size and height of men in the United States, the names of people in the UK or the diversity of other organisations, does not reflect society because we are biased. We indulge our own pre-determined view of what ‘good’ looks like.
If we buy into the business case diversity, we highlight it in the annual report etc. then the question becomes what are we actually doing about it? It is now about the how. How have we consciously gone to our out-group and brought them into our ‘in group’ to diversify the talent available?
One answer is inclusive talent management, where we are really aware of our ‘in groups’. Who was in those groups? Who was not in those groups?
I think a lot of organisations, particularly those that are more white-collar, educated and so forth, are complacent in this area.
I was recently teaching at Harvard Business School…these people think they are pretty smart (with some justification).
But actually, just like you, they're biased as well. When I asked them about what good management looks like, it tends to be people who see the world similarly, the same points of reference, the same academic concepts, the same language, that tends to be what smart is.
If we do it by the business case, it is almost the exact opposite of that. It is about proactively filling your corporate boots with as much diversity as your leadership style can handle.
Inclusive talent management is a way forward for us to think differently about what talent looks like. About what we can do to make our organisations more diverse and inclusive.
That, for me, is not just the efficient business case thing to do, it also makes for a more socially just society and a happier organisation.
Stephen Frost @frostincluded is co-author of a new book on talent management available for pre-order now: Inclusive talent management, how business can thrive in an age of diversity https://www.koganpage.com/product/inclusive-talent-management-9780749475871
VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email email@example.com for more information.
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