Our Diversity Efforts Are Not Enough, Say HR Leaders

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Only 12% of HR leaders feel their organization has been effective at increasing diversity representation, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc. 

The global survey studied the opinions of 113 HR leaders in April 2020. It showed three organizational barriers to “the advancement of under-represented talent”:

●   Unclear career paths

●   Not enough exposure to senior leadership

●   Lack of mentors or poor career support

“An April survey of heads of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) found that 69% are prioritizing advancing under-represented talent especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lauren Romansky, managing vice president in the Gartner HR practice.

There is no quick fix either. “While the intent is there, there is no two-hour training remedy for this challenge. Organizations need to assess their current systems and processes to mitigate bias and address organizational factors that prohibit equal opportunity for advancement,” said Romansky.

Gartner has identified three actions HR can take:

1. Fix the Manager-Employee Relationship

“Our research and conversations with HR and DEI leaders show that managers are unable to effectively execute critical advocacy and advancement-related activities if they do not have a solid working relationship with their employees, which can be more challenging when manager and employee come from different experiences,” said Ingrid Laman, vice president, advisory, in the Gartner HR practice.

To fix the manager-employee relationship, HR should:

●   Teach managers how to build personalized support for direct reports while enabling them to be effective talent coaches

●   Build manager awareness of the employee experience of under-represented talent

●   Broker trust between under-represented talent and their managers

2. Enable growth-focused networks

Gartner sees growth-focused networks as intentional and self-sustaining, providing an array of diverse individuals in role, skills, level and experience. They also offer exposure to senior leaders who are positioned to support growth and advancement.

Gartner research reveals that organizations that create networking programs for under-represented talent, HR leaders are two times more likely to report they are effective at improving organizational inclusion and 1.3 times more likely to report they are effective at increasing diverse employee engagement.

To enable growth-focused networks, HR should:

●   Help all employees understand how networking will enable better diversity and inclusion, particularly for under-represented talent.

●   Authorize under-represented talent to actively network, and teach managers, and leaders how to build and manage networks to help under-represented talent with their performance, development, and advancement.

●   Create accountability for networking across under-represented talent, managers, and senior leaders.

3. Redesign talent processes to mitigate bias

Redesigning processes is often the least used technique in bias mitigation because DEI does not own talent processes, and it requires a significant change effort. However, it can be one of the most effective.

There are several talent processes that can be redesigned to fully embed inclusion and provide fair consideration to under-represented talent for advancement, including: 

●   Challenging hiring managers on need-to-have versus nice-to-have requirements

●   Expanding labor market opportunities to consider adjacent and nontraditional talent pools

●   Updating definitions of potential for relevance as market conditions and business needs evolve

●   Exploring job design to accommodate diverse talent with varying needs and preferences

●   Rethinking how performance is evaluated, including who provides feedback and how productivity is defined, and holding leaders accountable for balanced evaluations of candidates and successors

●   Changing internal hiring methods

“COVID-19 and the transition to remote work has created a variety of change in talent processes already. This is the opportunity to adjust talent processes to prevent non-compliance on D&I goals and ensure there are no opportunities for bias to occur,” said Laman.

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