ATD Blog

D&I and Talent Management: Made for Each Other

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The need for a more holistic approach to talent management, through technology and organizational processes in the face of skill shortages and mismatches, is a major focal point for the HR profession. Better integration of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) with talent management makes each more effective. Too often, though, organizational silos inhibit this important union—creating significant opportunity cost in attracting, developing, and retaining talent.

The same behaviors that make D&I effective (leveraging diverse skills and perspectives, treating everyone with respect, creating equitable opportunities for growth and development) also strengthen the talent management process. Consequently, it makes perfect sense for organizations to be deliberate in their efforts to integrate them. 

As illustrated in the graphic below, talent management can be seen as an employee lifecycle process, from selection process to succession planning. Each phase in the process should promote engagement, and reflect your employer brand


To be fully effective, both talent management and D&I must align with the needs of the business. More importantly, integration efforts need to be rooted in a strategic plan that is supported at the top, involves multiple stakeholders, and tracks and measures progress. Here are a few examples of how to enhance integration at each stage of the employee lifecycle.



  • Ensure that job descriptions are based on work-related requirements, and do not reflect unintended biases.
  • Eliminate job posting criteria that are not related to the job (such as having an advanced degree or specific language proficiency) if it is not necessary
  • Develop strategies with HR to broaden the pool of applicants, both internally and externally.
  • Set expectations for a slate of diverse candidates for all openings.
  • Examine whether compensation and benefits packages may exclude particular types of candidates (such as non-traditional families).
  • Ask high performing employees for referrals to diverse candidates.
  • Build partnerships with schools and universities that can provide a talent pool for diverse talent.
  • Leverage Employee Resource Groups as a source for diverse talent.
  • Track recruitment patterns over the last few years to determine if there are gaps with particular underrepresented groups, and establish goals to close the gaps. 

For more information about unconscious bias in selection, visit my recent ATD blog, “What’s in a Name?


  • Create consistent onboarding processes (expected outcomes, introductions to key relationships, access to resources and tools needed, and so forth) so that all newly-hired employees feel supported and prepared to succeed. 
  • Focus on welcoming all new employees and provide clarity about how to succeed within the organization, with formal and informal processes.
  • Introduce new employees to the organization’s Employee Resource Groups/ Affinity Groups and encourage joining as a member/ally.
  • Refer new hires to your D&I intranet site.
  • Set up a peer coach from another function/cultural background.
  • Provide role models for encouraging diverse perspectives.

Employee Development

  • Encourage managers to mentor someone from a different background.
  • Set clear learning objectives for all employees about how to become more inclusive.
  • Encourage direct reports to seek out diverse perspectives when solving business problems.
  • Encourage all employees to learn more about their own culture/background and co-workers.
  • Embed D&I practices into all leadership, management and soft skills training.
  • Go beyond the “usual circle”—that is always tapped for task force participation and development opportunities—to create more visibility and access to growth opportunities for a wider group of employees.
  • Ensure all employees are receiving timely feedback so that they know how they are doing.

Performance Management

  • Build awareness of biases and how this may affect views of performance.
  • Create an environment where people can learn from their mistakes.
  • Communicate the connection of D&I clearly to all employees to their own contributions and to the overall strategy.
  • Set goals for all employees to create a more inclusive environment.
  • Provide recognition for improvement as well as results.
  • Provide ongoing feedback to all employees so everyone knows how to succeed.
  • Encourage managers to question assumptions about what good performance looks like to promote more innovation and risk taking.

Career Development

  • Make career paths more visible throughout the organization and clearly communicate what it takes to succeed.
  • Assess the degree to which the organization has a diverse succession plan; and address gaps where needed.
  • Analyze the degree to which diverse talent is included in the succession plan but are never deemed “ready now,” while others are promoted based on stretch.
  • Encourage managers to serve as mentors to diverse talent.
  • Establish a mentoring circle for a cohort, such as female underwriters or call center managers, to build their knowledge and networking connections.

Succession Planning

  • Examine the succession plan to ensure it is not focused only on one type of candidate.
  • Assess whether opportunities for stretch assignments are being limited to the dominant group, such as white males, and take steps to widen access.
  • Challenge unfounded assumptions about who is interested/ready to be promoted, such as marital status, young children and other factors.
  • Consider how diverse backgrounds and viewpoints may promote needed innovation in senior ranks, while a narrow group of succession candidates promotes the status quo.
  • Make sure all candidates in the pipeline have access to development opportunities that can accelerate their “ready now” status.
  • Conduct best practices research to understand how exemplary companies are building a diverse leadership pipeline.

What actions can you implement to integrate D&I with talent management processes? Share your ideas in the Comments below. 

About the Author

Marjorie Derven, a director at HUDSON Research & Consulting, has worked with many leading organizations to design change management strategies and initiatives that integrate organizational effectiveness, DEI, and learning to create solutions that drive meaningful change.

She formerly served as chair for TD Editorial Board and as a Senior Fellow at The Conference Board in the human capital practice. With 20+ years of consulting experience with top-tier companies across multiple industries, her areas of expertise include emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion, global leadership development, talent management, and organizational research. Marjorie has published dozens of articles and is a frequent presenter at global conferences. For more information, contact [email protected].

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