Career Pathing Can Improve Diversity

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Oct 28, 2019

This might come as a surprise, but the 2019 Forbes list of America’s most innovative leaders includes only one woman in the top 100. The list focused on the founders or CEOs of the largest corporations, a pool in which women are underrepresented. For all of the care Forbes put into its determination, women didn’t stand a chance.

While 75% of Americans feel that it is at least somewhat important to promote racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace, 74% feel that employers should only take into account an applicant’s qualifications when making hiring and promotion decisions — even if the result is decreased diversity.

Consciously or not, managers often consider cultural similarities — including race and gender — as merit when seeking to make a hire or evaluating candidates for promotion. This creates an uneven playing field.

However, defining roles based on specific competencies and skills shifts the focus from who is in the role to what is needed in order to be competent in that role. During the process of career pathing, if employees want to be promoted, they can do a gap analysis between their current skill set and the defined competencies required and work to acquire the requisite proficiency — independent of race, religion, gender, or age.

3 ways to use career pathing

Managers can use actionable career-pathing attributes to create an internal culture that allows employees to bring unique perspectives to various company roles. Ultimately, this path allows for an equal playing field where skills are what separate employees. Here’s how career pathing can lead to more diversity:

1. Provide access to career opportunities

A lot of companies only provide career advancement information during performance reviews. Research shows that this system tends to offer vague feedback to women and specific and insightful guidance to men.

Career pathing provides consistent guidance to all employees, regardless of demographic, without tying it to a specific manager’s feedback. It is a course of action that allows employees to view the roles within the company and select the path they want to follow. They learn the development required to breach any skill gaps and create a path forward.

2. Encourage mentoring and job rotation

Managers can further the career-pathing process by committing to a predetermined job share cycle that includes peer-to-peer mentoring and short-term assignments. Employees benefit from the connection with individuals who are either in their desired role or have progressed through a similar path.

Mentorship needs to be conducted by those willing to fill the role. A mentor serves as a role model whom the mentee wants to emulate, thus mentees must be able to see themselves in this position further along their career path — even to the top ranks of management.

An organization will not necessarily increase diversity through this method; however, career pathing allows management to focus on specific skills without unintentional discrimination.

3. Adopt tools to identify employees’ next roles

Help your company understand where it stands regarding culture and specific roles. Ask:

  • What are the characteristics of your company’s career culture?
  • What career values and norms do your organization and employees share?
  • How do these norms get communicated, measured, and rewarded?
  • How is coaching and mentoring supported internally today?

Once you have determined the culture and any roles that must be filled, you can begin to incorporate applicable technology. Technology in the workplace will have a positive social and cultural impact on employees by allowing interaction and streamlined processes. Specific career-pathing software enables employees to map multiple career scenarios, review the specific job requirements, and analyze existing gaps.

While many companies focus on diversity concerns, the key isn’t to place employees in roles where they might not succeed. Career pathing allows employees to determine their path, work with mentors who can help improve their skill set, and follow a progression that makes sense for everyone within the company.

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