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Three Ways the Diversity Function Can Enhance Talent Development

How should Diversity and Talent Development functions together? Given i4cp’s recent release of its Talent Development Strategy Playbook and my role as chair of i4cp’s Chief Diversity Officer Board, I’ve been tasked with answering this question.

My personal definition of the function of Talent Development is that its role is to improve the job performance of individuals and groups in an organization by sharpening the skills, concepts, attitudes, and knowledge of employees selected for developmental investments. With that definition firmly in mind, I see three areas where the office of Diversity and Inclusion can partner-with Talent Development to add value to the organization:

1. Broadening and updating the criteria used to identify people who should receive development investments.

Specifically, we want to help Talent Development remove dated and often excluding elements from their “talent search criteria,” and replace those with elements that are more inclusive. This will enable them to search deeper for the most qualified people in the company and not just those that pass a dated bias-filter. I encountered the limiting impact of this type of filter many years ago. Specifically, I had a client that only deemed people who had studied abroad or had been born in another country as qualified for being placed in a high-potential development pool for work in those other countries. When I pointed out to them how many people in the company were first-generation Americans, who were children of parents from those countries and had the language and culture down pat despite never having set foot in one of these countries, it was an eye-opener and a talent pool expander.

2. Ensuring that the organization’s developmental processes are able to build on a variety of talent sources.

Some decades ago, I was the head of a business group operating in the outsourcing space that was struggling to meet increasing revenue targets due to an inability to find and develop new leaders to serve newly acquired clients. After some consternation, we realized that the crux of the problem was in our training and development programs. Essentially, these programs were designed to provide administrative and supervisory skills to male field engineers moving into management, but were woefully unprepared to provide the field savvy needed by highly qualified females who joined the team via the support desk route. A few changes to the curriculum completely removed our artificial constraints and opened the way for us to achieve our revenue targets.

3. Making sure that investments in supporting certain attitudes and behaviors are anchored to the business needs of the organization and not the biased preferences of leaders.

Another area where the  Diversity and Inclusion function can serve as an advisor is in separating attitudes and ways of thinking that are truly connected to success and those that are bias driven preferences. This calls for the D&I leader to be an effective coach of other senior business leadership, and as a result, an effective partner to the head of Talent Development.

One more way I believe the office of Diversity and Talent Development can partner is in weaving inclusion and diversity-leveraging skills into all levels of management development. Making these vital skills an integral part of Talent Development offerings is increasingly important, as our business eco-system continues to become more diverse, more global, and more complex.

In summary, the role of the office of Diversity and Inclusion is to work as an advisor to Talent Development to support the update of practices in a manner that makes optimal use and derives top performance of the ever-evolving workforce.