Hello PPMA members and friends

This new blog post, was written by our good friends and supporters at Real World Group and explores how selection processes can block leaders from underrepresented groups from senior posts in recruitment or promotion. We hope that you find it a useful resource.

In recruitment or promotion, assuming that everything has been done to ensure a diverse pool of candidates exists, many significant barriers to fairness can remain in the formal stages of the recruitment or promotion process.

Unconscious Bias in Recruitment, Selection and Promotion
Improved awareness of “unconscious bias” shows that a major barrier to a level playing field can be somewhat homogenous or limited experiences and world views of those sifting CVs or who sit on interview panels. This issue needs to be addressed by having a diverse interview panel and group of assessors, and ensuring that everyone who is on the panel has undertaken unconscious bias training.

Potentially Biased Leadership Selection Criteria – A barrier for Candidates from underrepresented Groups
Alongside unconscious bias, one of the most insidious, and often least considered barriers that remains for candidates from underrepresented groups can be the criteria applied to evaluate whether an individual is likely to be successful in the role. What commonly happens here is that the success factors (or criteria) being applied in the selection or promotion process are drawn up based on profiling current, effective performers in that or a similar role. This often includes how they tend to lead and the typical career path that led them there or the qualifications they have. This might initially seem like a sensible approach.

However, the problem is that we know from decades of research that there can be significant differences in leadership style and career path between equally effective people based on demographic differences such as ethnicity and gender. Therefore, basing leadership criteria on typical factors that are common to individuals in a role – considering that leadership roles are typically held by a less than diverse group of people – introduces a major barrier in front of different but potentially as successful approaches and individuals.

It also means that the organisation is unlikely to experience fresh and new ways of achieving success in such roles – even when the organisation says that is what they want. Furthermore, on the occasions when an individual from an underrepresented group does make it past these potentially biased criteria, they can find that the mould they are expected to fit into can significantly stifle their true potential and value to the organisation – which could be much more than has been achieved in that role in the past.

How can we look to minimise unconscious bias and proactively promote diversity & inclusion from underrepresented groups of candidates?

Inclusive Leadership Model
The Real World Leader is a leadership assessment tool that enables organisations to have much greater confidence that the criteria for success being assessed are not biased towards the typical demographic of senior leaders in the UK. This is because the Engaging Transformational Leadership model which the Real World Leader is designed to assess was developed using a very diverse sample of leaders, and has been further validated in this regard. Still today, many leadership models that are popular have not been developed in an inclusive way.

Enable Diverse Candidates to shine
We also know from data analysis of genuine, in-role feedback ratings of white female leaders and both male and female Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) leaders that the types of leadership behaviours that are assessed by the Real World Leader are areas in which they are often rated higher than white males by their peers or direct reports. What all of this means is that the Real World Leader is significantly less likely than tools not developed in this way to contribute bias to the recruitment or selection process, and it is more likely to enable diverse candidates to shine.

The double-benefit of assessing more appropriate and challenging leadership skills
It is important to note that the criteria assessed by the Real World Leader are not “easier” or less challenging than the criteria that are typically applied in senior leadership assessment, nor are they less relevant. If anything, the Real World Leader assesses leadership that is much more relevant than what is typically applied today. The Engaging Transformational Leadership model is one of the world’s most proven models, and has a wide range of published evidence demonstrating that these leadership behaviours not only predict improved performance, but they are also strongly correlated with improved innovation, collaboration, readiness for change, self-confidence, motivation, reduced stress, achieving more with less, and many other positive factors in organisations. They are exactly what is needed in today’s turbulent and uncertain world.

The behaviours go beyond what is usually assessed – such as personality factors that are said to be more or less likely to make you successful, or those that could lead you to derail yourself. They enable an organisation to explore whether the individual they are considering is someone who will not only perform well, but who will maximise the potential of people around them, and thus multiply success for the organisation. And as the famous leadership guru, Warren Bennis, famously said, “The “soft” stuff is the hard stuff”.

The Business Case for Adopting the Real World Leader into your Executive and Senior Recruitment, Selection and Promotion Process
This double benefit, then, means that in using the Real World Leader as part of a senior recruitment or promotion process means that not only is the organisation able to assess all candidates effectively against the most relevant leadership criteria for today’s challenging world, but they are also increasing the chances that leaders from underrepresented groups will have a fair chance to demonstrate their unique talents and aptitude to lead.

Our wide experience and research has led us to understand what the key behaviours are of leaders who increase diversity and inclusion in their organisations. We can cross-reference the most powerful of these to the leadership model behind the Real World Leader, for example the dimensions of Motivating & Developing Others; Being Available and Approachable; Valuing Others’ Contributions & Providing Clear Expectations.

We have also been able to demonstrate that leaders who enact these types of behaviours not only increase engagement among underrepresented groups, but also among the majority group members – creating a win-win situation (alongside substantial cost savings – in one case £12.5mil). In other words, leaders who are successful in enacting the behaviours assessed by the Real World Leader are more likely to have direct reports who feel that they are treated fairly and valued for their individual strengths – thus enhancing diversity and inclusion themselves

Find out more about how you can reduce bias in selection and promotion.

If you are looking to enhance your senior leadership selection process, contact [email protected]