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Claire McCartney

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Opening up talent for business success


Diversity should be threaded through all talent management activities and strategies so organisations can reap the benefits of accessing and developing talent from the widest possible pool. This is the main finding from our new CIPD research report, Opening Up Talent for Business Success: Integrating Talent Management and Diversity.

Our research draws upon focus groups with over 100 people as well as the perspectives of leading practitioners from Credit Suisse, BT, NHS Tower Hamlets, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Ltd (LOCOG Ltd), and the Guardian Media Group. However, our research with leading practitioners and broader focus groups with HR professionals, which gives an insight into real talent management practice, tells two very different stories.

On the one hand, the consensus among leaders in the field of talent management and diversity is that the two issues need to be integrated – they are seen as one and the same thing. They aim for a seamless approach to the way they attract and develop people with the skills, abilities and potential to contribute their best. This works to enhance business performance.

However, our broader focus group study shows that organisations in general are not yet up to speed on talent management and diversity and that talent management and diversity are often not joined up. Organisations are therefore not reaping the benefits of accessing and developing talent from the widest possible pool. Worse still, the current uncertain economic climate is delaying or diminishing work in this area.

Defining talent management and diversity
We think it is important to articulate a CIPD definition of the importance of interlinking approaches to talent management and diversity. This is as follows:

“Talent management and diversity need to be interlinked. Diversity should be threaded through all talent management activities and strategies to ensure that organisations make the best use of the talent and skills of all their employees in ways that are aligned to business objectives.”

This is echoed by the senior HR practitioners we interviewed for this research:

‘Talent management and diversity are integral. I think of talent like a piece of cloth through which diversity is woven like a strand.’ Carolyn Gray, Group HR Director, Guardian Media Group|

‘Although we are focused on getting local people into employment we are also focused on getting the very best people that we can – we try and do the two together.’ Deborah Clarke, Director of Human Resources and Organisation Development, NHS Tower Hamlets

‘Talent is human and therefore individual. Within the concept of talent management you have to have a really strong and individual talent management process.’ Caroline Waters, Director of People and Policy, BT

Key learning points
The research maps out six key learning areas for progressing talent and diversity issues in your organisation:

1)    Getting started
Get the buy-in and commitment of the leadership team from the start by clearly articulating how a focus on diversity can make a difference to talent and the bottom line. Aim to create a strategy that suits your unique organisational context and business drivers.

2)    Have a well-thought-out plan
The importance of planning cannot be understated. Create a clear vision of what is needed and some practical milestones and objectives for achieving it. Weave diversity considerations into performance management, recruitment and selection, training and reward.

3)    Who to involve
Involve a range of stakeholders from the start. Ensure that board members are committed and are role-modelling the types of behaviour to encourage within the rest of the organisation. Involve line managers and employees and look for the ‘natural champions’ – people who believe in diversity, inclusion and in developing talent. Consider creating a business-focused taskforce of people across the organisation to drive diversity into operational activities.

4)    Communicate the whole picture
Any intervention seen in isolation can be viewed as exclusive rather than inclusive. It is therefore important to communicate the whole picture. Explain clearly what the intervention is trying to do and why, and use simple language. Recognise natural human reactions such as cynicism and fear – how might the story be told? Work with colleagues in communications and marketing to bring the issues to life.

5)    Be challenging
Challenge behaviour that does not respect diversity and be seen to do this. Have tenacity and persistence – don’t be pushed back readily on issues. Encourage people to think about diversity in connection with how they do their jobs.

6)    Monitor your progress
Use simple metrics to demonstrate impact, but recognise that measures can act as a rear view mirror so use them alongside other forms of information to get a sense of how you are progressing.

In conclusion, organisations need to leave no stone unturned in building an inclusive approach to talent management. In today’s challenging global marketplace, everyone in an organisation needs to be a top performer – the more diverse the employee base and inclusive the culture, the more innovative the organisation.

Claire McCartney and Dianah Worman, CIPD


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