I am looking forward to talking with SAP SuccessFactors customers about how they can use HR technology to enable their leaders and workforce to move their businesses beyond bias at my interactive session at this year’s SAPPHIRE event in Orlando. As I prepare for this session, I find myself reflecting on a few key truths. Solving people-strategy related challenges often creates a protective reaction. The topics are sensitive and discussions can get uncomfortable. Yet, if we want to change, if we want to truly harness all the best and available talent, we need to speak frankly and neutralize the challenges instead of internalizing. The good news is technology can help.

When it comes to underrepresented populations in the key decision and influencer roles in the workforce, let’s not mince words. The numbers suck. And the status quo mindset that continues to prevail – well, it’s no longer serving us. We have a few choices. We can get frustrated, angry, and do nothing but be bitter by the lack of change. Or we can get enabled and create our own new reality. I vote for enabled and forcing a paradigm shift.

The first step of enablement is education

Let’s take gender as an example. Throughout my years of talking with women who have achieved their desired goals, I kept hearing: ‘When men don’t know how to do something, they take the job.  When women don’t know, they take a class.’

I have interviewed hundreds of women who are CEOs of large corporations, members of public and private corporate and non-profits boards, and have secured funding for several successful start-ups.

For many women, the type of education that works comes in multiple forms:  on the job training, classroom and virtual learning, and getting coaching and advisement from others who possess the skills, experience, and background of having “been-there/done-that”.

These successful women are transformers. They have challenged and changed status quo in their industries and businesses. They have held their leaders accountable to create equitable career options for all members of the workforce, not just some. They have transformed markets, product lines, and business models. They have achieved levels of success that, according to the numbers, just don’t seem possible. Who better to model a paradigm shift about gender equity on than the women who paved their own extraordinary paths to success?

There is no “one way”

As a leader, understanding that traditional paths, be it in education or professional, didn’t appeal to successful women in my research. There is no single path, no one path to leadership. The same can be said for the modern day work experience.

Some women are Stanford or MIT or other <insert brand any name brick-and-mortar here> university alumni. Most are not. Some started off at name brands such as McKinsey or IBM or <insert super awesome brand name corporation here>. Most did not.  Some come from connected families or at least families with money. The majority did not.

Women, like millennials, have found protean career paths as a way of impacting the world through the skills they have and those they want to possess. Development programs, compensation packages, succession planning, and performance management processes must move away from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. A diverse talent pool needs, wants, and thrives when the reinforcement mechanisms around them align with more inclusive practices.

Winner is the first to figure out how to accelerate change toward a new inclusion status quo

Elisabeth Kelan from Cranfield University found that the glass ceiling is most prominent at the middle-manager level. This population of managers holds the power over the greatest number of people in an organization. If bias at the middle manager level is not a focus point for your HR department, you should be asking why. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. Delivering this mixed form of practical and traditional training and credentials requires scale, flexibility, engaging user experience while delivering on corporate needs such as the ability to analyze impact of investments. That’s where technology comes into play. With research indicating that it will take another 65 years for gender equity to be fully realized and a potential $18 trillion in global revenue on the line, change accelerators such as programs and services enabled by technology are critical. And, the leaders who can figure out how to address workforce inequity the fastest will be the first to be able to harness all the best talent.

Come join us on Thursday afternoon. We look forward to sharing how technology can help your managers recruit, hire, manage, and develop the best talent to meet your company goals.

Don’t miss more sessions and exciting news to come on this topic at SuccessConnect London! You won’t want to miss the HR event of the year.  Register here: http://sapsuccessconnect.com/en_us/london/registration-london.html

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