Vital Signs: Understanding - and Impacting - Your Talent Pipeline
Earlier this year, our ‘Diversity – it is a business issue with a clear business case’ blog issue shared some of the Global D&I activities that are keeping Dale and I busy. One such initiative is the launch of our Global D&I toolkit. A clear message delivered through this toolkit is that before creating a D&I business case it is critical our D&I SMEs across the globe first understand the demographic fitness of their member firm. In this regard internal data and benchmarking is integral.
So when I saw Catalyst release their Vital Signs series I just had to take the opportunity to enable the sharing of this message more broadly and I am very pleased to bring you a guest blog from Jennifer Kohler on the topic.
For years, we at Catalyst have catalogued the progress (or lack thereof) of companies pursuing greater gender diversity and inclusion. Our Census has shown consistent gaps between the numbers of women and men in leadership positions. Our research has explored common myths for why women lag so significantly in obtaining leadership roles. And companies often approach our consulting practice concerned about gaps, “drop-offs,” or ceilings women face as they move through the pipeline. Combining our foundational research with on-the-ground insights from this consulting, Catalyst now offers a new approach to moving the needle and building a stronger, more diversified talent pipeline: Vital Signs.
Reports and numbers alone don’t generate answers for why the needle is stuck, so we are asking companies to shift from seeing their workforce data as points of awareness, to real drivers of change. It’s also about more than the numbers—it’s about your talent and, importantly, understanding the experience of that talent within your company. This internal benchmarking is fundamental to making progress: we call it understanding your diversity and inclusion “health.” Only with an accurate picture of your health can you secure the right prescription for getting better; and in this case, more talented women advancing means stronger, more sustainable business results.
At Catalyst, we guide organizations to an elevated understanding of their workforce, and Vital Signs turns this into a self-directed exercise, with easy-to-use tools, short exercises, and key questions that focus you on what to track, and why. Once you have an understanding of where you’re losing women, we then help you think about the root causes. It’s only with these insights that you can identify actions specifically suited to your organization, department, or region – actions that have the best chance at having impact.
For those who aren’t steeped in the data, we invite you to test common assumptions that hurt women’s careers, and to replace them with facts. For example, many companies claim they can’t find senior-level women. To counter this, we offer leading-edge practices and steps to take to circumvent this “excuse” and find the talented women you need.
We also want individuals across organizations—from line leaders to talent management professionals—to ask critical talent-related questions, such as “Who received the last three high-profile assignments?” These questions yield critical information that can provoke more thinking than any pie chart, and ultimately can help change the shape of your workforce—without tons of numbers.
Globally, we know workforce data can pose a challenge, so we encourage companies to monitor policies and programs in place and their impact on talent—for example, tracking the assignments of those returning from parental leave. We also share ways all organizations can better monitor, and prevent, the loss of valuable talent—for example, looking at time in position.
These insights can support a business case, help companies set goals, and focus on the right key performance indicators to track – but the benefits go beyond this. From our experience with leading organizations, many have been “stuck” for some time – struggling to close gaps in representation from the entry-level to senior leadership ranks – and don’t know what to do. We know the exercise of challenging assumptions about women with data, asking targeted, talent-related questions, and understanding the full story behind the numbers leads to the breakthroughs necessary for getting past “stuck.” We know companies are ready to move on from talking about diversity and inclusion to doing something that has impact on their talent and their business—and Vital Signs is here to help.
Jennifer Kohler is a Director and Consultant, Global Member Services, at Catalyst, and also leads Vital Signs.