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Talent management and HR processes

While we believe we are rational and objective, a significant proportion of human resources decisions are made outside of our own awareness…

Judgment about people is a complex process. Most managers believe they are as objective as can be. They are convinced they are able to make objective decisions allowing them to fully leverage all the competencies of their teams. They believe that they do unduly take into account professional paths, academic backgrounds, nationality, gender, race, or age when making talent-related decisions. We all think we know what we think. But unbeknown to us, our brain makes different decisions. This is because we only have access to a small share of the information that it processes. The brain directs a number of actions that we execute automatically, such as driving, walking, eating, etc. While driving, we are not conscious of our movements and some of us are even able to come back home without paying attention to the road. To judge a person, we unconsciously gather and process information from his or her appearance and past behaviors which often prevent us from discovering people in front of us. According to our own experience, national or corporate culture, we will make automatic associations about his or her personality and professional skills. During our client projects, we have seen that such associations can be dramatically different from one function to another, or one country to another, even in the same corporation. For instance, at one of our multinational clients, women were associated with family and leadership in one country while associated with subordinate positions and technical skills in another. The issue is that corporate processes rarely prevent us from making sometimes misleading unconscious associations about people. For instance, one of our clients had a very complete and structured evaluation form in one country. Thanks to face-to-face interviews and analysis of a representative sample of performance evaluation sheets, we evidenced that managers were overloaded with information when filling up the form. As a consequence, they tended to use mental shortcuts by focusing either on fact-based comments, on personal data or on the first/last elements of the evaluation form. Interviews with senior management showed that the lengthy forms were due to a lack of alignment on core competencies and key value drivers. The next phase of our project therefore consisted in identifying key value drivers and revising the competency framework.

What can be done?

Diverseo HR Process Scan
Such misleading associations are tricky to address. As they are often unconscious, they “melt” in the working environment and culture. Reducing the impact of such mental shortcuts requires a structured and systematic effort, at both individual and organizational levels. Moreover, as people cannot see their own unconscious biases, an independent look along with advanced techniques integrating latest research in mind sciences with business reengineering are needed. That is why, based on the latest brain research and strategy consulting, Diverseo has developed a set of proprietary tools, the HR Process scan™, to improve the objectivity of decision-making processes.

In order to best refine and adapt decision-making processes, the following steps should be performed:

  throughout the whole project, generate buy-in from management and raise awareness for the impact of the unconscious workings of the mind on decision making

  map and analyze corporate processes to surface elements that can trigger decision-making errors

  design an updated process to best allow leveraging all talents.

Such a process needs to best integrate the impact of System 1 to foster more objective decision making. In most organizations, we have put in place a new process structure, ie with more effective flows of information, updated documents reducing the impact of unconscious bias, and a new set of decision making criteria, more objective but also better aligned with corporate strategy and value drivers. The roll out of the new system often includes a new HR IT system and is coupled with training sessions including bias awareness modules.

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