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  • October 10, 2012

The Talent Pipeline is Key Metric for Inclusion

by Andrés T. Tapia –

Working as a team unit


For several postings, I’ve been focusing my messages on the importance of three key metrics in measuring inclusion. Earlier, I addressed the role of engagement. This was followed by a message that focused on the need to have influential leaders who truly can hold an organization accountable for the development and advancement of diverse talent. In this posting, I’ll discuss the last metric: the strength of a diverse talent pipeline.

Note that I am not focusing on representation as the key metric. Why? While we want to continue to maximize every opportunity to hire diverse candidates into senior roles, it is not a sustainable way to achieve systemic breakthroughs. Progress by ones and twos is slow and freighted with vulnerability. Being a leader today is exceptionally challenging and, just through the law of averages, many won’t succeed. This is true whether the leader is from the majority or a traditionally underrepresented group. Placing your bets on the small handful of recently promoted leaders from one of these groups is a high risk, simply due to the probabilities of success and failure.

Representation also is a lagging indicator metric. It’s helpful, but not powerful. But with the pipeline, here we have a true leading indicator. Organizations that concentrate their efforts on strengthening the internal pipeline are embarking on a savvier and more sustainable approach that will both foster greater inclusion and provide a way of measuring the breadth and depth of that inclusion.

Here are three reasons developing and nurturing a diverse talent pipeline pays off:

  • It creates a pool of talent that knows the organization. This is essential because, as our Diversity Best Practices data consistently shows us, an external hire is almost always a greater turnover risk.
  • The broader and deeper the diverse talent pipeline, the more individuals in traditionally unrepresented groups can have a multiplicity of chances for advancement. When that mathematical certainty that not all promoted leaders are successful kicks in, all the hopes and aspirations of an organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy are not riding on the shoulders of a handful of people. Instead, your advancement risk is spread across a diversified portfolio of talent.
  • It’s easier to set specific goals the lawyers can get comfortable with. We all know that quotas are DOA. Affirmative action law clearly states that while companies need to demonstrate good faith efforts toward rectifying under-representation, they can’t determine specific targets for closing the gap. This has to do, in part, with constitutional protections against guaranteeing jobs for people based on race or gender. But many employment lawyers can get comfortable with hard targets around increasing the representation of under-represented groups when these actions are not granting or denying anyone a job due to their identity. Rather these are spaces where great, strong, and potential talent can be brought in and observed, developed, and challenged. And when the time comes to compete for the promotional opportunities, let the best talent from this diverse pool be picked. If the pool is healthfully diverse then the law of averages will do its job.

So, there you have it. As you go into your upcoming planning period, think about how you can incorporate these three truer measures of inclusion into your work: engagement, influential leaders, and the diversity of your talent pipeline. All three require getting into deeper organizational processes. But, as organizations that have had the patience and discipline to do this have found, it will pay off.

What are your thoughts on these inclusion measures? How will you work with your leadership to embed inclusion into your organizational processes? Take a moment to share what’s going on in your company.

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