To achieve and sustain diversity among leadership benches, HR organizations must adopt consequential accountability, which meaningfully impacts behaviour and outcomes for individual leaders.
Gartner says despite mounting external and internal pressures to prioritize and make demonstrable improvements on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), organizations continue to struggle to make real and rapid headway.
The Gartner 2021 Leadership Progression and Diversity Survey of 3,500 employees in February 2021 revealed that organizations that embrace consequential accountability will reach gender parity 13 years earlier and racial parity 6 years earlier in their leadership benches. Consequential accountability integrates DEI measures into leaders’ performance evaluation processes to ensure that there is a mutual understanding of, and commitment to, DEI as a strategic priority.
“Consequential accountability ensures that senior leaders make meaningful progress against their DEI goals in order to progress in their organization,” said Leah Johnson, vice president, advisory, in the Gartner HR practice.
HR leaders cite a lack of diversity in the pipeline as the top challenge to diversifying the leadership bench. While many organizations have attempted to address this by investing in recruiting diverse talent, particularly entry-level employees, Gartner analysis shows the progression of underrepresented talent stalls in mid-level and senior-level positions. Ultimately, talent progression comes down to the decisions and behaviours of senior leaders.
Implementing consequential accountability to diversify the leadership bench requires HR to work with business leaders across the organization on three key areas:
Inform leader decision-making
Many HR organizations offer unconscious bias training to their employees to reduce workplace bias and help leaders think differently about talent and diversity. However, Gartner research has found this has no significant impact on ensuring an organization’s performance management processes are unbiased.
HR must take a two-pronged approach to address how leaders make decisions:
- Organizations must redefine criteria leaders use to make talent decisions with a focus on eliminating bias to drive equitable talent decisions.
- HR leaders should integrate objective data into talent processes around leaders’ key decision-making moments, such as evaluating candidates for a promotion or analysing the health of succession pools.
Progressive organizations are both contextualizing and localizing their DEI goals, strategies and action plans. HR should partner with local and/or business unit leaders to first identify diversity gaps in their talent pools and progression tracks to uncover unique challenges or concerns that may prevent them from taking action on DEI goals. HR should then establish localized DEI teams to support business leaders as they implement their own DEI solutions.
Require outcomes for leader advancement
“When leaders are not held accountable for advancing DEI goals, yet are personally responsible for advancing talent, this creates a disconnect,” said Caitlin Duffy, research director in the Gartner HR practice. “Consequential accountability helps close these gaps in an accelerated and sustainable way by increasing personal urgency and relevance for leaders.”
HR leaders should work closely with business leaders to develop organization-wide DEI strategies that are mutually understood and elevate DEI outcomes to the same priority as other business goals. Specifically, HR should implement the following three tactics:
- Create standardized mechanisms to monitor and track leaders’ progress against individual DEI goals.
- Establish peer-to-peer leader transparency around DEI measures to motivate individuals toward action.
- Integrate DEI measures into performance evaluation processes to ensure leaders’ advancement in the organization requires them to lead inclusively.