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Deborah Hartung

Personify Change

SPARKFluencer: Sparking Ideas Influencing Change

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Barclays discrimination claims: From lip service to lawsuits

Recent allegations of racial and gender discrimination in a hiring decision at Barclays highlights the damage caused by broken talent management approaches. Deborah Hartung explores five ways to fix this frustratingly common business problem.
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Barclays, the latest employer to be embroiled in a high-profile legal battle, faces accusations of gender and racial discrimination

A female Vice-President alleges she was passed over for promotion in favour of a less-qualified white male colleague. 

Further fueling this employee’s frustration, claims have emerged that her concerns weren’t properly investigated within the company. 

This situation, regardless of its ultimate legal outcome, highlights a frustrating reality faced by employees everywhere. 

Looking beyond the lawsuit

Too often, those seeking growth and recognition feel unheard and unsupported by the very systems meant to develop them. 

This lack of transparency and perceived unfairness fuels disillusionment – and in the worst cases, costly legal battles. 

But it’s time to look beyond the lawsuit and address the root causes of this problem: broken talent management and a deep erosion of trust.

Lack of transparency and perceived unfairness fuels disillusionment

How did we get here?

There are various factors that have contributed to this lack of trust and subsequent disengagement. Chief among those are: 

a) Empty promises: Growth talk, no action 

We speak about career development, but often fail to provide a clear roadmap. It’s the leadership equivalent of telling someone “the destination is amazing!” without a map to get there. 

This lack of guidance creates ambiguity and frustration, fueling the sense that ‘growth’ is simply a buzzword.

b) Sham hiring: The illusion of opportunity

Far too often, internal vacancies are posted to tick a compliance box when there’s already a preferred candidate in mind. 

This sham not only wastes the time of sincere applicants, but it breeds deep cynicism and distrust throughout teams. The fallout is widespread when people feel growth is either an empty promise or a hidden game they can’t win.

Far too often, internal vacancies are posted to tick a compliance box when there’s already a preferred candidate in mind

What does it all mean?

The impact isn’t felt immediately and the causal link isn’t always as blatantly obvious when lawsuits aren’t involved. 

When employees perceive empty promises and the illusion of opportunity as the norm, they feel that efforts to progress in their careers are pointless. 

They become demotivated and disengaged. This directly affects productivity, performance, absenteeism, talent retention and, ultimately, employer brand.

Even those who don’t leave are deeply affected by the experience of having their trust broken. 

Rather ironically, the solutions to these challenges already exist, but are woefully underutilised. 

Even those who don’t leave are deeply affected by the experience of having their trust broken

How do we fix it?

Regardless of the size of a business, geography or industry, there are simple things we can all start doing, to turn the tide and establish trust and transparency in talent management. 

Here are the top five things we should all be doing: 

1. Get the basics right

Ensure that there is a proper job description for every role in the organisation. Conduct comprehensive job analysis and evaluations, using a recognised global framework. 

There’s a science to establishing job levels and career paths, and identifying the value of a role, relative to other roles in the organisation and the broader industry and geography. 

This simple, basic HR activity levels the playing field and automatically removes bias and discrimination, thereby also ensuring pay equity.

Ensure that there is a proper job description for every role in the organisation

2. Regular check-ins

These conversations are the cornerstone of employee engagement. Managers should be having at least a monthly check-in with each team member, where they discuss wellness, work and goals for the future. 

This is where development plans, coaching, mentorship, career development and training needs should be originating. 

3. Transparency in talent management

Have clear career pathways and succession plans. Be candid with performance and development feedback so that all employees know where they are and exactly what they need to do to grow to the next step – whatever that may look like for them. 

Ensure that internal candidates receive comprehensive feedback after interviews and provide suitable coaching or training that supports them in their career growth aspirations.

Be candid with performance and development feedback

4. Talent management systems

Most modern HR systems have the power to create ‘talent pools’ of suitable internal candidates, based on skills, experience, qualifications, performance and stated career goals. 

Make these systems visible to line managers and empower them to see all potential internal matches for their vacancies.

This isn’t just about avoiding lawsuits – it’s about creating workplaces where talent thrives

5. Employee listening

Whether you invest in employee engagement software or run monthly pulse surveys and check exit interview data, these all provide invaluable data on employee perceptions of career growth opportunities, inclusion, psychological safety and employee engagement. 

Learn from this feedback and understand how employee experiences are likely vastly different from leadership assumptions. 

This isn’t just about avoiding lawsuits – it’s about creating workplaces where talent thrives. We have to work together to win back the trust of our people, and that starts with fixing our broken systems of talent management. 

By building workplaces where people find meaning, recognition, and genuine paths for growth, we aren’t just improving engagement and culture; we’re building resilient, competitive companies ready for the future.

If you enjoyed this article, read: Is your business clear or opaque when it comes to pay transparency?

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Deborah Hartung

SPARKFluencer: Sparking Ideas Influencing Change

Read more from Deborah Hartung
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