The age of the experience economy, a concept first coined by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, is well underway as the next step in our evolution from agrarian to industrial and most recently a service economy. The quality of the consumer experience can make an idea, or product, go big or go bust. Additionally, social media and nascent technologies have democratized unique consumer voices. Corporations are able to hear those voices and meet diverse customer needs in deeply intimate and customized ways through remarkable experiences. Diversity has also become a unique competitive advantage for businesses because they recognize that without harnessing diverse employee perspectives, companies cannot fully understand diverse customers to deliver compelling solutions or experiences to them. This has caused a rapid transformation of the business world. During this transformation, coupled with resounding calls for inclusion during the summer of 2020, diversity leaders suddenly find themselves in the driver’s seat to create conditions for lasting systemic change in the arena of diversity, inclusion and belonging (DI&B). But, for flames of belonging to ignite, talent management must first revolutionize.

A New Frontier Awaits

According to a recent study by Deloitte, people are working well into their 70s, the average job tenure has shrunk to approximately 4.5 years, and the half-life of skills has been reduced to approximately 2.5 years. Simultaneously, a slowly simmering but persistent call for inclusion hit a boiling point during the summer of 2020. These changes might appear ripe with uncertainty at first, but they have also paved a pathway to establishing inclusive workplaces. This pathway runs straight through talent management, if the function can evolve at the needed pace.

Employee Experience, not Talent Management, Must be the Focus

Corporations are not immune to the experience marketplace, particularly in their quests to win top talent. To be competitive, talent leaders must think about the entire employee experience lifecycle that spans the“5 Es” of employee experience, which are Entice, Enter, Engage, Empower, and Exit. If companies aspire to be both a magnet and incubator of top and diverse talent, then talent management of the future must ensure inclusion across employee experience lifecycle.

Entice. This phase of talent management starts prior to a candidate and a corporation even knowing one another. Employer branding, talent acquisition, and digital workforce planning are critical in this stage to attract diverse, dynamic talent.

Digital workforce planning that establishes global skills marketplaces can seamlessly automate the process of finding diverse, dynamic candidates with the right skills with ease. After finding such talent, attracting them requires eliminating potential bias from employer branding and job descriptions. Artificial intelligence has made it simple and cost effective for companies to author job descriptions that excite underrepresented job seekers through a bias-free employer brand. Coupled with inclusive employer branding and workforce planning, a robust talent acquisition strategy and supporting partnerships with organizations that serve as funnel for diverse talent create conditions to entice top talent. Such a focus also positions organizations to find dynamic, diverse talent, speak to that talent in meaningful ways, and build recruitment pipelines of them.

Enter. On-boarding can be a game-changing experience. Some diverse candidates might need support in pivoting to an unfamiliar business environment.

Talent leaders can turbo-charge a new employee’s corporate entrance by designing orientation programs that are inclusive and multi-lingual. It is key to consider traditional forms of diversity such as race, gender, sexual orientation, but also modern aspects like national origin, socio-economic status, or neurodiversity. Doing so will allow talent leaders to customize orientation experience by conducting skills and styles assessments and assign digital trainings, specific projects, or mentors to new talent to rapidly buffer identified gaps as well as to build a support infrastructure. Hiring diverse people is not enough. Talent management function has a unique responsibility to create conditions for all people to thrive, and considering diversity when on-boarding is a key step.

Engage. Corporations often organize people in hierarchical verticals, but true work is performed in networks requiring open collaboration. To ignite collaboration, networks must be carefully curated. Activating experiential career paths where people can move between experiences to rapidly learn, re-learn, or un-learn skills can activate collaboration networks. Creation of libraries of experiences tied to short- and long-term corporate strategy and measurement of peoples’ performance based on how well they have learned desired skills will open a door for diverse talent to rapidly gain wide sets of experiences, broaden learned skillsets, and expand social organizational networks. Moving from talent management to experiential career models is perhaps the most critical step in engaging and developing tomorrow’s talent.  

Empower. Empowerment starts with being seen and heard. Taking simple steps like revamping annual processes such as goal-setting, talent and organizational reviews, and performance management to include diversity considerations can be sensational. For instance, when completing succession plans, companies can identify diverse successors for all critical roles and build custom development plans for identified high potentials. Similarly, companies can tie diversity goals to corporate goals, executive compensation, and individual employee performance. Talent management leaders should own employee listening programs with an aim to democratize employee voices to bolster empowerment. Doing so will create opportunities for diverse talent to be found, seen, heard and empowered. These initiatives move inclusion from a desire to a revolution, harnessing diverse voices to spur innovation for the business.

Exit. An employee’s departure from a company should be as meaningful as their on-boarding. Exiting employees should be heard and respected, departing as ambassadors for the organization. Ensuring a white-glove exit process can also help talent management gain transformative insights for improvement, turn departing colleagues into referral advocates for other job seekers, and ensure that the exit process creates a revolving door allowing for diverse ideas to funnel in and out of the organization constantly.

Belonging is the Eventual Goal

In our quest to define diversity appropriately, it is crucial to separate diversity, inclusion, and belonging from one another and ensure that belonging is the goal. Diversity is a fact, inclusion is an act, and belonging is a pact. It is belonging, the moment when every person feels included because of their uniqueness, not despite of it, that matters the most. Belonging happens when conditions exist for diverse people to thrive equally. Talent management sits on the frontlines of creating these conditions. If the function can evolve to create an irresistible employee experience across 5Es and connect it to customer experience, then it will unlock diverse employee insights to spur radical innovation for the customers.