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Insights for modern organisations: The evolution of inclusive language in talent management

Change your language, change your mind - Carl Albrecht
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Photo by MJH SHIKDER on Unsplash

In the dynamic landscape of talent management, a significant shift has occurred over the years – a shift towards embracing fairness and inclusion in language and practice. This evolution has been spurred by various factors, including key research, legislation, and social movements that have prompted companies to reevaluate their approaches.

One pivotal moment in this journey was the recognition of the importance of language in creating equal opportunity for jobs and promotions. The research paper written by Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Kay back in 2011, called Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, July 2011, Vol 101(1), p109-28) has inspired the first tools to be used en mase by talent professionals, ie: The Gender Decoder. So while this shift towards inclusive language has manifested in different aspects of talent management, it started with hiring practices.

In a bold move, recruitment teams have pushed to revamp their recruitment processes to eliminate biases and promote diversity starting with job ads, but moving to careers pages, employer brand videos and candidate outreach. Gender Decoder and Joblint for example, were open source, free tools that served as an unofficial crutch for years and then more commercial tools came along like or (now TalVista), or more European based successful builds such as (recently acquired by Access Group).

In performance management, the focus has shifted towards fostering a culture of continuous feedback and development. Companies are moving away from traditional performance reviews towards more frequent check-ins and goal-setting sessions. Interesting internal research has been putting to the test the way people actually write performance reviews and if the gender, race, disability, parental status influence in any way what their rating are, therefore their fair chance at development and promotions.

Learning about the faulty practices as recently MIT professor detailed in her research paper, “Potential’ and the Gender Promotion Gap,” where they found that on average, women received higher performance ratings than male employees, but received 8.3% lower ratings for potential than men. The result was that female employees on average were 14% less likely to be promoted than their male colleagues. Tools such as are being build to preempt this more and more, but ultimately education, awareness and intent will allow for a more personalised approach that takes into account individual strengths and challenges, regardless of background or identity.

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Photo by Vadim Bogulov on Unsplash

Learning and development have also undergone transformation, with a greater emphasis on DEI training programmes. These programmes aim to raise awareness of unconscious biases and promote inclusive behaviours among employees, some more successful than others. From interactive workshops to online modules, companies are investing in resources that empower their workforce to recognise and challenge discrimination in all its forms.

Advancements in technology play a crucial role in supporting these efforts.

Diversity analytics in applicant tracking systems help companies track their progress towards diversity goals and identify areas for improvement. Performance management platforms enable managers to provide unbiased feedback in real-time, fostering a more inclusive and supportive work environment. E-learning platforms offer modules focused on unconscious bias training, providing employees with the knowledge and tools to promote diversity and inclusion in their daily interactions.

However, it's important to recognise the limitations of AI and acknowledge that it cannot replace human judgment and empathy in addressing complex issues of diversity and inclusion. Change is hard, but mindset alterations is even harder.

The evolution of inclusive language in talent management reflects a broader workplace cultures shift towards embracing diversity, equity and inclusion. There's no doubt about it: companies that prioritise inclusivity in their practices not only benefit from a more diverse and engaged workforce, but also contribute to a more equitable and inclusive society.

Continuously outgrowing faulty practices, improving our processes and systems and leveraging tools and technologies, organisations can further enhance their efforts to create a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected, in any language.


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