5 Ways to Create an Unbiased and Inclusive Process for Promoting Workers

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The low numbers of women, people of color, and women of color who advance to leadership roles are well-documented. Globally, women remain underrepresented among senior management. Recent data shared by Catalyst shows that, in the US and Canada, women encounter hurdles in advancing to their first managerial roles—with women of color holding a drastically smaller share of managerial roles. Meanwhile, women are significantly underrepresented as managers across the EU, and the APAC region has some of the lowest representation of women managers globally. Research by McKinsey & Company finds that black workers make up just 7 percent of the managerial workforce, while Catalyst reports that Latinas and black women each hold only 4.3 percent of management positions, and Asian women only 2.7 percent.

In any workplace, promotions are a big deal. They can mean new and exciting responsibilities, higher pay, and a better title for workers. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity when it comes to getting ahead. But what does this look like in practice? How can employers create an inclusive process for promoting their workers? Here are five places to start.

Implement a Clear Promotion Policy

Setting the stage for a fair promotion process starts with establishing a transparent promotion policy. Vague promotion procedures can encourage favoritism and bias, but an effective promotion policy will focus on advancing workers based on their performance and skillset. Typically, eligibility for promotion is established based on an employee's performance in their current role and whether they demonstrate competence for a position with more complex duties. In any case, it is crucial that leaders apply these criteria consistently when selecting employees for promotion.

Organizations must regularly communicate any new opportunities for advancement and changes to the workplace promotion criteria to all employees. This way, workers will know exactly what they need to do to be considered while being given ample time to prepare and put their best foot forward.

Provide Resources and Pathways for Advancement

Employers should aim to provide workers of all backgrounds with the skills, experience, and information they need to perform well and advance their careers. This may be in the form of skills training, mentoring programs, and cross-departmental training. In addition, all employees should be given equal exposure to senior leadership and access to workplace networks.

Providing ongoing constructive feedback to workers should be part of every manager’s role in order to create open discussion about how employees are progressing and what more they can do to improve. This dialogue helps to manage expectations on both sides and can ultimately lead to promotion or advancement opportunities for the employee.

By taking an active role in developing employees’ skillsets, managers can foster a better overall working environment and help their team members reach their full potential. By ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to develop their skills and talents, organizations can introduce a more level playing field and, in turn, encourage employees from diverse backgrounds to move ahead in their professions.

Identify Patterns of Bias and Discrimination and Take Steps to Rectify Them

Organizations must continually assess their existing processes for promoting workers to weed out patterns of favoritism, bias and discrimination. To identify these patterns, they’ll need to leverage a combination of workforce data and employee feedback. Workforce data can quickly reveal disparities in the representation of minority groups at different levels of an organization, while employee feedback can provide in-depth information about the company's promotion practices and career advancement opportunities.

In addition, companies must aim to create an environment in which: (1) employees feel comfortable discussing potential disparities and (2) management will listen to and examine such concerns. It is crucial that leadership make clear to supervisors they prohibit promotion discrimination and take prompt and effective action to address any discriminatory practices.

Assemble a Promotion Committee Comprised of a Diverse Team

Companies should consider having a dedicated committee in place to review internal talent pipelines as well as the organization’s process for promoting employees. Building a diverse committee that is representative of the company’s workforce ensures all voices are heard and is built on inclusive values. When assembling the committee, leaders must also consider representation from all departments and levels within the company.

The promotion committee’s primary responsibility is to identify any potential roadblocks that may be preventing employees from being promoted. Once identified, the committee can collaborate with leadership on solutions to help get employees moving up the ladder. In addition to reviewing talent pipelines, the committee should be involved in the job description development process. They should work with human resources to ensure that positions are accurately represented and that the company’s promotion practices are in compliance with regional workplace equity and anti-discrimination laws and regulations.

Workers who feel that they are being considered fairly for promotions are likely to be productive and engaged in their work. Companies with diverse leadership teams are more innovative and better able to adapt to change. With a greater understanding of how to incorporate equitable decision-making into their promotion process, businesses are more likely to retain top talent, boost employee morale, and tap into new markets.

If your organization would like assistance in establishing your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) governance structure to create a culture of DE&I, contact us for a consultation today.

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