Current State

Organizations cannot build and sustain a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion without fair hiring and advancement practices that are accepted at all levels of the organization, and demonstrated and advocated by leaders at all levels.

The goal is to base employment and advancement decisions on core values and behaviors needed for a role, regardless of a person’s gender, race, age or other identifying factors. For this to occur, everyone involved in the hiring and promotion processes must be trained and supportive of making decisions based on those values and behaviors.

Our 2021 survey of professionals involved in DE&I shows that almost all organizations believe fair, consistent hiring and advancement practices are important. But the effectiveness and impact of those practices are far less universal.

Current State of Fair Hiring and Advancement Practices*


Fair advancement and promotion practices start with embedding them into the core values of the organization, getting active involvement support from top leaders and HR, and having leaders at all levels demonstrate inclusiveness in everything they do, including promotion decisions.

One factor that emerged in qualitative interviews Brandon Hall Group conducted was the perception some managers have about fair hiring and inclusive promotion practices. Here is what one senior manager for a global technology company said: “I think managers get confused by hearing that we must hire or promote specifically for the ability to do the job, but in developing a diverse pipeline, we should have targeted programs for women and minorities so they are better positioned for promotion.”

That fact is that inclusive advancement practices are aimed at reducing bias.

Women, people of color and other diverse groups traditionally lacked the same development opportunities as men. Targeted development opportunities are an effort to put them on a level playing field — not to favor those people for promotion — so they can be evaluated based on similar training and experiences as well as performance.


The majority of organizations fail to take steps to create equal opportunities for promotion, particularly beyond the midlevel manager.

Use of Advancement Strategies to Improve Diversity of the Leadership Pipeline

Critical Question

  • What programs/initiatives are in place for targeted development of diverse talent in the organization now?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of those programs?
  • What steps should we take to improve the inclusive advancement and promotion of diverse talent?

Brandon Hall Group POV

This is an especially important topic for all organizations. Advancement and promotion must be inclusive or all your DE&I efforts are meaningless. Even if you have a diverse and inclusive hiring process, the real work begins when diverse talent join the organization.

From onboarding to learning in the flow of work, to targeted development and team project work, all employees must have opportunities to learn and build the competencies and skills needed to succeed in your organization.

There must be multiple options on how to access training to fit people’s learning styles. Learning must be accessible anywhere and anytime on multiple devices There must be opportunities to earn certifications and advanced degrees that may be required for advancement in certain roles.

But everyone involved in evaluating employees and considering them for advancement or promotion must also have the tools they need to be inclusive and mitigate their biases in making personnel decisions. Only 30% of organizations responding to our research indicated their efforts to improve the diversity of the leadership pipeline are effective or very effective.

Mentorship has been proven to be a highly effective development tool for all people — mentors and mentees of all genders, races and demographic categories. Besides offering talent support and counsel, mentorship programs demonstrate collaboration, inclusion and teamwork, and show mentees they are valued and the organization cares about their development. These are all powerful elements, not only for diversity, equity and inclusion, but for building a sense of belonging and driving employee engagement.

Of course, developing mentor programs requires training mentors how to mentor and how it is different from coaching. Organizations also must communicate to mentees what they should expect from mentoring and their responsibilities for making it successful.

Beyond unconscious-bias awareness training, which 56% of organizations offer, most employers do not train on mentoring or other practices that enable leaders to drive an inclusive environment, including inclusive promotion practices.

It’s important that all leaders understand the concepts of fair advancement, even if they are not directly involved with them. All leaders also should be consciously inclusive in everything they do around selecting, evaluating and promoting talent.

Several organizations we interviewed indicated they have begun to require at least one qualified diverse candidate to be among the finalists for internal promotions into key roles. This would not be necessary in a truly inclusive environment. And it has the potential to perpetuate the mistaken notion that people of diversity are treated differently than others when it comes to promotions.

On the other hand, as organizations work to improve their inclusive practices, such an edict makes everyone accountable for taking the necessary steps — from onboarding, to ongoing employee development, to leadership and management training — to ensure that talent-review, promotion and succession processes are consciously and intentionally inclusive.

Whatever steps organizations take to improve the diversity of their talent pipeline, they must be accompanied by accountability and measurement to gauge progress.


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