Two-thirds of those interviewed in a recent management survey believe that women and men in Germany are afforded the same opportunities to have a career and receive promotions. In practice, however, there is still a major gap between perception and reality. Often there are no standardized criteria used to identify talent and promote them into suitable positions. Transparency is another area with room for improvement, given that many companies do not even calculate the proportion of women in their workforce. Managers tend to promote talent that are most like themselves. Unconscious bias paves the way to unfair HR decisions, thus influencing the talent cycle and hampering real equality of opportunity. This year’s Chefsache report reveals that the solutions to the challenges inherent in equal opportunity talent development are simpler than you might think. The organization, management, and the actual talent all have a role to play.
Since women are underrepresented in management, many organizations opt for initiatives that specifically focus on empowering women.
Recruiting and onboarding. Equal opportunity talent development begins with job ads that speak equally to all potential candidates. Only 41 percent of managers surveyed already employ gender-neutral language in job ads. Data-based candidate selection through tools and algorithms can also increase equality of opportunity right from the start.
Feedback culture and performance reviews. An open feedback culture helps future talent develop their strengths and recognize development needs. Technical solutions, such as apps, can be helpful here. Employee appraisals should have as broad a base as possible – comprising input from managers as well as colleagues at various hierarchy levels.
Talent programs. Programs designed to build core competencies, networking, and commitment among talent also guarantee that past performance is recognized and new prospects are identified. They bind talent to an organization. These programs need to be tailored to all talent. Options for self-nomination are particularly important since more men than women tend to be nominated to these programs.
Internal career advice and coaching. Internal career advice and coaching that helps identify strengths and define goals supports female and male talent on their journey into top management.
Special projects and job rotations. Many organizations spend an inordinate amount of time trying to attract external talent. Yet internal job markets are also a source of future leaders and often a quicker way to fill vacant positions. A portal highlighting job vacancies creates transparency for both sides: it gives easier access to projects and new tasks while also reducing managers’ fear of loss.
Staffing key positions. Recruiting for vacant positions is often a reactive process rather than being part of systematic talent development. Transparent job advertisements are a prerequisite for offering equal opportunities. Additional support can come in the form of diverse candidate lists, diverse decision making committees, and easy access to talent platforms where each talent can maintain their own profile.
Management behavior is definitive in the success of an organization’s talent development.
Mentoring and sponsoring. Managers who see themselves as mentors are able to critically and impartially assess a talent’s strengths, goals, and conflicts as well as point out prospects and development opportunities. Managers can also serve as active sponsors to talent and campaign for their advancement. Managers at the highest levels should act as role models and share their knowledge. Mentoring and sponsoring relationships between management and talent benefit the entire company. Formal matching processes can also be invaluable. These are intended to connect people in different departments and to intensify communication across hierarchies and topics.
Four key factors. There are four factors that are especially helpful in boosting management commitment to talent development: understanding and conviction, managers serving as role models, capacity for change, and supporting mechanisms that motivate managers within the process itself.
The organization and management establish the framework for delivering optimum employee development. The key success factor is that the talent actively utilize these development opportunities and offerings.
As a way to actively support talent in learning about their own strengths and how to represent them outwardly, many members of the Chefsache initiative network offer coaching sessions and internal trainings. This helps (further) develop both soft skills as well as each individual’s leadership identity, with mentoring and/or sponsoring as a tool to help mitigate any risk aversion.