Talent management is critical to ensuring there is diversity and inclusive practice across hierarchies in any organisation. The private sector has been using talent management programmes to good effect and much of the work in the public sector has reflected this. It is often the case that minority groups are less likely to be considered for talent management pathways due to institutional, structural and personal biases as highlighted by Powell et al. It is important to ensure that any talent management programme is part of a wider coherent employment and retention strategy, and that consistent methodology is used so that results and progress can be evaluated and monitored annually. Below are the main structural musts for any talent management strategy:

  • Audit of current talent pipeline and research issues that hinder the development of an ethnic minority talent pipeline or produce disparity in experience. Include nuanced data on differences within ethnic minority groups by other protected characteristics such as disability and gender, and differences by professional groups.
  • Develop executive-level understanding of the multiple, subtle, and powerful ways that bias (institutional, policy and individual) influences recruitment, appraisals, development opportunities, career progression, retention and decision making.
  • Granular attention to accountability for decision-making driven by the research evidence.
  • Once gaps in the talent pipeline have been identified, develop a suite of interventions that feed into and support each other. For example, ensure that mentoring initiatives include coaching and sponsorship offers, and that evaluation is undertaken for all interventions and triangulated when assessing.
  • Ensure all those designing, developing, and engaged in talent management programmes have training on inclusion and have an understanding of the need for the programme.
  • Put in place a robust communications strategy to ensure that the targeted groups not only sign up for programmes but stay the course. This will also be necessary to assist managers to understand the importance of releasing people to attend the necessary programmes.

Accountability and appraisals

Employers have a duty of care to employees in the widest sense. This includes ensuring there are opportunities for people to develop and grow in their roles. This is also a good way to signal employer commitment to employees and improve retention. It also helps to attract future workforce.

Employees require effective, timely, fair appraisals, and performance feedback. Appraisals often help shape expectations of employees on what opportunities they have available in their teams and wider organisation. Managing these expectations can improve retention and reduce challenges to performance management as researched by Mooney. It is essential that appraisals are used strategically to improve talent and opportunities for improving representation. This would mean developing effective appraisal and feedback policies and ensuring that accountability is embedded in management structures and processes for delivering these fairly. Managers should also be assessed on their efficacy in conducting appraisals equitably and this should be built into their accountability framework. Accountability for feedback and appraisals should be the responsibility of everyone and this should be considered in wider cultural transformation programmes across the employee life cycle.

To make improvements in accountability and appraisals, providers should consider the following:

  • IT systems for linking intelligence on recruitment and career progression with appraisals and performance data.
  • Using such data to be proactive and interventionist and removing the expectations that employees are able to navigate career opportunities themselves. For many employees from under-represented groups, it may be the first time a manager has encouraged them to apply for a more senior post as it is more likely that they would not have access to informal networks, coaches, and effective mentors.
  • Introduce snap audits to review appraisal and feedback processes and align with training for managers so that patterns of disadvantage are challenged.
  • Board leadership identifying inclusive and compassionate talent management as a top priority. Executives and/or board members should role model good behaviour by being sponsors to ethnic minority people and signing up to be mentored on race equality by those with lived experience.
  • Systematically using quantitative and qualitative data to improve offer.
  • Involve staff networks in this work.