Cultivating diverse leadership has been identified as one of the top priorities of today’s HR leaders; however, aiming for and realizing success are two very different things.
According to a new report from Gartner, Diversifying the Leadership Bench, HR has considerable work to do to bridge the gap between the goals for and realities of having diverse leadership. The report was based on interviews and surveys with HR leaders representing 3,500 employees across 24 industries. Topics explored included the gender and racial diversity of the organizations’ leadership teams and the impact of such on employee outcomes in the areas of inclusion and psychological safety.
Researchers found underrepresented talent often experience slower rates of promotion and have their progress stalled in the middle of the corporate ladder. Organizations are working to recruit diverse, early-career talent but many cite a dearth of diverse leadership talent in the pipeline.
To tackle those issues, researchers recommended a number of steps, including using data to hold leaders more individually accountable for DEI progress.
On the last front, 76% of organizations in the report track metrics to measure DEI. However, 77% of HR leaders said DEI measures have no tie whatsoever to leaders’ overall performance evaluations. About 13% incorporate the metrics into leadership expectations, 6% view them as a central category of performance and just 4% consider them as a requirement for progression to leadership.
What it means to HR leaders
The report’s writers advocate for “consequential accountability” that makes individual leaders responsible for DEI progress—as opposed to more “collective accountability.” To make this shift, they advise HR to use objective criteria and integrated data to drive equitable talent decisions, customize strategies that allow individual leaders to execute on DEI goals and require progress on DEI for individual leaders to progress.
Compared to the current track for DEI leadership, organizations that practice consequential accountability, researchers found, could reach gender parity and racial parity on the leadership bench 13 and six years earlier, respectively.
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Caitlin Duffy, research director in the Gartner HR practice, says technology can play a “significant role” in driving better accountability around DEI goals.
“Gartner research shows that integrating objective data into talent processes results in more equitable, better-informed leader decisions, and technology can power the collection, analysis and actionability of that data,” she says.
Duffy notes that one organization Gartner worked with recognized that, in order for its DEI strategy to be effective, “technology must be informed by a deep understanding of who’s using it.” Leaders and data analytics team members partnered to understand where, how and when leaders used data analytics in decision-making, applying user experience principles to advance adoption. Many companies are also leaning on tech to confront bias in hiring and performance management criteria; machine learning, in particular, she notes, can be effective in identifying problematic language at scale.
Organizations can also leverage HR tech for better decision-making by implementing built-in code to IT systems to automatically collate relevant performance on individual employees, building a talent profile.
“HR can then use this data during talent reviews,” she says, “to better shape conversations and ensure decision-makers have meaningful, objective visibility into employees’ abilities and impact.”
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