Talent development programs need broad support structures to be truly successful
Diversity programming and talent development initiatives need to be wholly integrated parts of their respective organizations. While this statement may seem self-evident, organizational practice internationally makes it clear that it is not. Many talent development initiatives for diverse populations are operating only in specific segments of their firms, sacrificing overall value for the organization.
It is true that diversity means different things in different organizational settings. Whether your organization is striving for more diversity of thought or working with a population from a variety of backgrounds, partnerships and support for talent development efforts help to ensure those efforts thrive. Producing top talent for the future takes a holistic, integrative approach in today’s ever more interconnected world.
One is the Loneliest Number
When it comes to talent development, one is the loneliest number. A feeling of isolation, of striving independently, and of having to fight for gains at every turn leads to costly upticks in attrition, according to Gallup. Partnerships and alliances – even if they only extend to a connection with one other person – leads to lower staff turnover, higher employee satisfaction rates, and increased likelihood that employees feel they are being developed on the job.
From a program level standpoint, having even one additional partner or champion outside your direct sphere shores up support for the program to continue. Alliances in the organization can help talent development programs survive re-organizations, multi-site challenges, and doubts about the program’s core utility. It helps spread the word about the power and potential of the program, ensuring relevant talent pools are included, and helping workers from all parts of the organization see the program as a value-add.
Touchy-feely? Maybe. Yet siloed development programs often don’t ever get the traction they need to make an impact. Partnerships, alliances, and sponsorship from elsewhere in the firm can be the tipping point in the success of a program at an organizational level as well as on the ground with employees who wonder if anyone in their organization cares what happens to them.
Champions Beyond the Top Brass
Knowing the importance of alliances, partnerships, and sponsorships, many diverse talent development initiatives aim for the top of the house. Executive sign-off or support is viewed as the ultimate item needed, but support beyond the C-suite will be more effective in ensuring the long-term life of diversity initiatives. Executives may endorse diversity, but they might lack the time or inclination to help shift mindsets in the trenches of the organization world-wide.
To get buy-in that helps move your talent development programming from here to there, you need to be effective in building the business case for what you are doing with players outside the top levels of the firm. Yes, your executives may endorse diversity, but what about the manager who has a team that speaks three languages? How does your customer service manager deal with incoming calls about cultural clashes in your sales regions? These are the team members you need on your side to push the message of diversity as a value-add throughout the soul of your company.
Each one of these section, divisional, and regional leaders has the potential to become a diversity champion to back up whatever is coming out of the executive suites. To win them, you have to use numbers and real case studies to show how a diverse workforce, and diversity in thought and practices builds the bottom line. Be open about discussing how mirroring consumer diversity profiles helps move product and build consumer loyalties. In today’s skeptical culture, empty “diversity is good” platitudes don’t work, but backing initiatives with hard math wins supporters who can re-articulate the case for diversity to others.
Every additional champion throughout the organization helps move your diversity and talent development programs from here to where you want them to be. With clear goals and a multi-level support network, your firm can quickly transform itself from top to bottom.
Global Nuances in Diversity Championing
A broad champion base helps in overcoming global challenges and nuances in your program development. In this context, a deep and localized understanding of the reasons why diverse development of talent makes a positive impact helps smooth over site differences in diversity implementation. Programming choices that come from a US-based headquarters can be more readily and effectively translated into action by local leaders who are bought into the business case.
This local engagement in diversity development also smoothes executive diversity management. When the ground level of the organization goes for diversity work in a big way, even an executive group that may not be terribly diverse themselves can feel that the diversity movement within their ranks is thriving and natural. This helps open the door for deeper level discussions on how diversity development will continue to impact talent management at the firm over time and across multiple locations.
Revisiting and Expanding Support Structures
The last step in building a truly integrative approach to diverse talent management in your firm is continual re-evaluation of your support structure. Groups or individuals that support diversity development can and do change year-to-year in composition, goals, and strategic initiatives. To avoid growing apart from your support base or discovering that your champions are not as gung-ho as you need them to be, check in with your support system regularly.
This ongoing revisiting of your support group does more than just let you ensure your base is still strong. It also allows you to keep a continual eye on opportunities to spread the diversity message, listen for wins for team members to share, and see places where the business case for diversity in your organization is shifting. You can reinforce why diverse talent development matters to each person and update them about shifts in diversity programming. This helps keep each supporter of your diversity efforts in the loop and feeling connected to the outcomes.
At each step, you can reinforce and expand what is being communicated about diversity within your firm. Over time, your base not only grows but remains a reliable rock of support. You’ll develop a structure that sets your organization apart and helps ensure that diversity growth continues even if you yourself leave the firm.
Diversity programming and talent development initiatives require support from multiple partnerships, alliances, and champions. No matter what diversity means at your firm, having a robust support network ensures the success of your diversity mission.