Human Resource Developers: Catalysts for Equity

Human Resource Developers: Catalysts for Equity

manager trainingHuman resource developers (HRD) are in the unique position of designing employee development programs. Often, we are also in the position to select or influence the selection of participants in these programs. This is important because employees who participate in development experiences are not only more productive, they are also at an advantage when it comes to career advancement. Employees who do not receive access to job training and development are more likely to have unsatisfactory performance and higher turnover. Therefore, we have a responsibility to create more Open Access Employee Development so that underrepresented employees can have an equal chance at career success. Human resource developers are the catalysts for equity in employee development.

As HRD, we have a responsibility to dismantle biases that marginalize certain groups and limit their potential for career development.

3 Ways Human Resource Developers Catalyze Equity

A catalyst is a promoter of change and speeds up the result based on its contribution. We catalyze equity employee development by determining what development exists in the workplace and who gets to participate. We are responsible for:

  1. Designing or brokering employee development content
  2. Establishing selection criteria that creates or limits access
  3. Determining when and how employees participate

These three responsibilities reflect the power HRD have in an employee’s development. We are in a position to create Open Access Employee Development.

Designers of Employee Development Content

One of the many responsibilities of human resource developers is to design and implement employee development programs. We create the learning content or we buy it from a vendor. I wonder how often human resource developers evaluate the content for inclusion. Do we stop to ask questions, such as:

  • “What stereotypes are reinforced with this content?”
  • “Does the language and examples reflect diverse people and experiences?”
  • “Who is in a position of power in this learning experience?”
  • “Is the program designed with knowledge and appreciation for diverse perspectives?”

These are just some of the questions HRD should ask ourselves when designing employee development programs. Programs that repeatedly place men in dominant positions may reinforce an unconscious gender bias in favor of men in senior leadership roles. As HRD, we have a responsibility to dismantle biases that marginalize certain groups and limit their potential for career development.

Human resource developers should invite a diverse design team to the planning table. People with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives will most certainly create richer and more inviting learning experiences for all employees.

Establishers of Selection Criteria

Human resource developers can shape more equitable employee development by establishing selection criteria that gives access to more employees. Research indicates White males are most often selected to participate in employee and leadership development experiences. Women are less likely to have a senior level sponsor in the organization. And, minorities are least likely to be selected for company mentoring programs. Unless HRD create or influence the creation of more inclusive selection criteria and processes, those who are traditionally underrepresented in employee development will remain visibly absent from these programs.

The more prestigious the program, the more you will need to create mechanisms to ensure greater access to diverse employees. Even high potential nomination programs should be scrutinized to make sure qualified diverse employees – diversity in all dimensions – are able to participate. I recommend HRD do not rely solely on manager nominations when selecting participants. Instead, use manager nominations as one data point and add to it those criteria that will ensure fairness and equity in the selection process.

Determiners of When and How Employees Participate

Human resource developers determine when and how employees participate in employee development. We make decisions regarding location, time, duration and format. Any one of these can impact an employee’s access and ability to participate. For example, if employee development programs are conducted at the headquarters only or in the United States only, then employees working away from headquarters or outside the United States are patently left out. And, timing can also narrow access to employee development. If all of the employee programs occur during first shift hours, then second and third shift employees are systematically eliminated from participating in the programs.

Human resource developers determine who, what, when, where and how employees participate in development experiences. It’s an extremely powerful role in the company. HRD are catalysts for equity in employee development.

Format also plays a role in widening or narrowing access to employee development. Does the program require physical abilities that could dissuade or make it impossible for employees with disabilities to participate? Our decisions determine who gets to participate and who doesn’t. We must be intentional to design employee development experiences and processes so that more employees have the opportunity to get the development they need.

In closing, I implore human resource developers to be mindful of our role in creating a more equitable workplace by committing to Open Access Employee Development.

When we know better, we do better.

© 2017 Tonya Harris Cornileus, Ph.D.

All Rights Reserved.


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