Key Steps to Developing an Inclusive Advancement Process and a Diverse Talent Pipeline

Organizations cannot build and sustain a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion without fair hiring and advancement practices that are accepted at all levels of the organization, and demonstrated and advocated by leaders at all levels.

The goal is to base employment and advancement decisions on core values and behaviors needed for a role, regardless of a person’s gender, race, age or other identifying factors. For this to occur, everyone involved in the hiring and promotion processes must be trained and supportive of making decisions based on those values and behaviors.

Our 2021 survey of professionals involved in DE&I shows that almost all organizations believe fair, consistent hiring and advancement practices are important. But the effectiveness and impact of those practices are far less universal.

Current State of Fair Hiring and Advancement Practices*

Fair advancement and promotion practices start with embedding them into the core values of the organization, getting active involvement support from top leaders and HR, and having leaders at all levels demonstrate inclusiveness in everything they do, including promotion decisions.

One factor that emerged in qualitative interviews Brandon Hall Group conducted was the perception some managers have about fair hiring and inclusive promotion practices. Here is what one senior manager for a global technology company said: “I think managers get confused by hearing that we must hire or promote specifically for the ability to do the job, but in developing a diverse pipeline, we should have targeted programs for women and minorities so they are better positioned for promotion.”

That fact is that inclusive advancement practices are aimed at reducing bias.

Women, people of color and other diverse groups traditionally lacked the same development opportunities as men. Targeted development opportunities are an effort to put them on a level playing field — not to favor those people for promotion — so they can be evaluated based on similar training and experiences as well as performance.

The majority of organizations fail to take steps to create equal opportunities for promotion, particularly beyond the midlevel manager.

Use of Advancement Strategies to Improve Diversity of the Leadership Pipeline

  • What programs/initiatives are in place for targeted development of diverse talent in the organization now?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of those programs?
  • What steps should we take to improve the inclusive advancement and promotion of diverse talent?

This is an especially important topic for all organizations. Advancement and promotion must be inclusive or all your DE&I efforts are meaningless. Even if you have a diverse and inclusive hiring process, the real work begins when diverse talent join the organization.

From onboarding to learning in the flow of work, to targeted development and team project work, all employees must have opportunities to learn and build the competencies and skills needed to succeed in your organization.

There must be multiple options on how to access training to fit people’s learning styles. Learning must be accessible anywhere and anytime on multiple devices There must be opportunities to earn certifications and advanced degrees that may be required for advancement in certain roles.

But everyone involved in evaluating employees and considering them for advancement or promotion must also have the tools they need to be inclusive and mitigate their biases in making personnel decisions. Only 30% of organizations responding to our research indicated their efforts to improve the diversity of the leadership pipeline are effective or very effective.

Mentorship has been proven to be a highly effective development tool for all people — mentors and mentees of all genders, races and demographic categories. Besides offering talent support and counsel, mentorship programs demonstrate collaboration, inclusion and teamwork, and show mentees they are valued and the organization cares about their development. These are all powerful elements, not only for diversity, equity and inclusion, but for building a sense of belonging and driving employee engagement.

Of course, developing mentor programs requires training mentors how to mentor and how it is different from coaching. Organizations also must communicate to mentees what they should expect from mentoring and their responsibilities for making it successful.

Beyond unconscious-bias awareness training, which 56% of organizations offer, most employers do not train on mentoring or other practices that enable leaders to drive an inclusive environment, including inclusive promotion practices.

It’s important that all leaders understand the concepts of fair advancement, even if they are not directly involved with them. All leaders also should be consciously inclusive in everything they do around selecting, evaluating and promoting talent.

Several organizations we interviewed indicated they have begun to require at least one qualified diverse candidate to be among the finalists for internal promotions into key roles. This would not be necessary in a truly inclusive environment. And it has the potential to perpetuate the mistaken notion that people of diversity are treated differently than others when it comes to promotions.

On the other hand, as organizations work to improve their inclusive practices, such an edict makes everyone accountable for taking the necessary steps — from onboarding, to ongoing employee development, to leadership and management training — to ensure that talent-review, promotion and succession processes are consciously and intentionally inclusive.

Whatever steps organizations take to improve the diversity of their talent pipeline, they must be accompanied by accountability and measurement to gauge progress.

Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.