Sahana Mukherjee is a transformational global HR leader with experience across industries. Views are the author's own.
As the world moves seemingly at breakneck speed, we know that innovation is a key disruptor and diversity of thought is the differentiator. Ever the pragmatist, I am passionate about new ideas on how to operationalize the best aspects of innovation and diversity, to focus on impact.
In today's work environment, a sign of progress is the positive dialogue and awareness around the value of diversity, leading with emotional intelligence, and adaptability and agility. Yet, significant challenges remain in putting these ideas into use.
Looking at the latest HR trends, it becomes clear that for core talent management processes, we still rely largely on concepts that are far from new:
- "SMART goals," a concept first introduced in 1981
- Employee engagement surveys, first introduced in the 1920s
- Annual performance reviews, with origins in the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s
These are just a few examples. Although there is no harm in holding on to good foundational ideas, there should be no doubt about the need to innovate and tailor them to changing workplaces, business models and society.
As we reconcile our minds with the fact that bias exists and that the current processes do not prevent biases from creeping into outcomes, we must boldly innovate the core processes of the talent lifecycle.
We need to be unafraid of transforming core practices to build an equitable world. If we want change and action, in my view, asking questions with four simple guiding principles should help get to the answer that's right for us — and help us prioritize the fundamental shifts we need to make for true impact.
1. The more separate we keep something, the more separate it will remain
There is a need to be focused in our efforts because there is a lot of work to do. But how we divide the work should not be how we talk about it. The work needs to happen with a view of integrating it in a way that it cannot be separated; that is how it should be communicated and implemented.
For instance, have we transformed succession management sufficiently, so that it does not contribute to lack of diversity in the leadership pipeline? Is it embedded into how teams operate ensuring pipeline diversity will become a non-issue?
2. Transform every step of the way
For each talent process, think about its evolution from the core concepts to keep up with the vision of the future.
Interview processes are known to be prone to bias due to stereotypical views of what leaders should talk and look like. How have we transformed interviews to eliminate bias against those who are not currently represented at the leadership table?
The pandemic has brought renewed focus on effective leadership behaviors and cultures of psychological safety. So why not have two-way reviews where managers get evaluated by their team — not aggregated or anonymous but one-on-one ratings and feedback on effectiveness in maximizing team potential?
3. Make it simple but thoughtful
It can be an uphill task to get to the target state, but we have to keep it simple to make it easy for everyone to engage.
What exactly are we expecting when we ask people to be inclusive? Are we communicating clarity versus certainty? Are we communicating tangible actions that can resonate and replicate across the organization?
As Einstein is famously credited with saying, "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself."
4. Drive with passion but stay detached
As change keeps disrupting industries, we need to operate with a mindset of self-disruption. Embark on a transformation journey with passion but don't get attached to the ideas. Built-in ongoing evaluations should ensure nimble modification, or allow pivots to a different direction if needed.
The need for change is far more drastic than incremental improvements can accommodate; with technology as a strong enabler, we can't afford for our process design to remain vulnerable to bias-creep standing in the way of maximizing innovation anymore. Our actions need to deliver the intended impact.
Vision can be the grand idea we aspire for, while pragmatism can be the nimble adaptations we incorporate to keep moving toward a better state.