What is the Health Insurance Design Impact to Employer Paid Abortions?

Obviously, we had major news recently around abortion rights in America.

What I really want to talk about today is an amazingly quick response by organizations to immediately offer a new health benefit. Within hours of the announcement, we saw major employers come out publicly stating they would pay for the expense of their employees to obtain legal abortions if they could not get one in the state they lived and worked. Some employers also announced that they would pay for relocations for their employees to live in states with legal abortions.

All of this, just from a health benefit plan design perspective is quite remarkable!

Most employers can’t agree on offering smoking cessation programs for their employees or paying for gym memberships, but within hours, we are now paying for abortions. We have severely unhealthy obese employees, but we won’t pay for bariatric surgery. Organizations tend to move very slowly in making benefit design changes, and those changes tend to mostly be around cost/benefit.

Are we being “Inclusive” by offering an abortion benefit?

Again – I’m 100% in favor of a woman’s right to choose!

But we need to have a conversation about the hypocrisy of some of these decisions being made around this issue. This is what we do as professionals in HR. We discuss decisions we make as organizations, and how each decision tends to lead to other issues we can’t yet know what they might be.

So, we are now offering abortions as a health benefit. Why?

Let’s say we are willing to pay $5,000 dollars for our female employees to get an abortion. It definitely makes us sound like we are a very progressive employer! It’s interesting, though, that many of the employers who are willing to pay for your abortion are not willing to pay for your parental leave if you chose to keep your baby. They are unwilling to pay for childcare assistance after you have your baby.

Why is that?

Could it be, that not having children make you a more productive and less expensive to insure employee?

We must ask ourselves this question, if not only to ensure we are being inclusive in our insurance offerings to our female employees.

If you want to be “inclusive” you offer a woman a full choice. Yes, you can choose to have an abortion and we’ll support you! Yes, you can have the baby, and we will still support you! If you only choose one side, you are being exclusionary. Why?

Abortion as an employer-paid health benefit

There are benefits we pay as employers that have very little financial impact but make us look like we are an employer of choice. College Tuition reimbursement was always the biggest one. We offer you college tuition reimbursement knowing almost no one actually takes advantage of it. It’s one of the lowest-used benefits a company can offer! But, we feel great about ourselves when we market this out to candidates and employees.

Are abortion benefits the next college tuition benefit? You offer it up, knowing it makes you look like a progressive employer, but you know it really has very little financial impact. On the flip side, offering paid parental leave and childcare assistance, well, those benefits actually cost us real money, so no, we won’t offer those!

All women should be allowed to make their own choice with their bodies. Period. Employers are going to decide if they should help women with that decision. I think we, as HR leaders and professionals, should be advising our executives that having a “Choice” is about more than one option. Our benefit plans should support any choice a woman wants to make, not just one.

Abortion is health care. Having and caring for a child is health care. Organizations need to support all choices that a woman might want to make.

Is it okay to be biased toward underrepresented communities in hiring?

I’m a big podcast listener. It’s one of the reasons we started HR Famous because we loved the format! One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is The Prof G Show with Scott Galloway.

If you aren’t familiar with Scott Galloway he’s a New York University professor of marketing and hugely popular. He’s a liberal and rails openly against Trump and also his own industry, Higher Education. I’m a moderate and he’s so freaking smart, I could care less about his political leanings, I just get smarter listening to him.

Besides being a professor, he has started and exited a few technology companies, sits on boards, has school-aged kids, and talks a ton about the stock market.

On a recent pod, Elitism: Money vs. Influence, he gave his top 3 attributes to the top-performing employees of the companies that he has started. These are:

  1. Most likely Female. “First they were female. If they were male I couldn’t say this but it’s okay because as long as you are biased for underrepresented communities your okay, but we try and ignore that…” (42:03 in the pod)
  2. Graduate from a world-class university. Ivy League, Penn, Michigan, Stanford, Berkley, Vanderbilt, etc. “Better schools matter…more applicants…start with better core human capital…better screening.”
  3. Athletes are very successful. They understand teamwork and discipline, and they can endure and push themselves harder. “Someone who can finish an Ironman isn’t lazy”, says Galloway.

So, a Professor of NYU, former business owner, and thought leader says it’s okay to be biased in selection.

I’m not sure I agree we should ever be biased in our hiring selection practices, but Galloway points out a reality in our culture. As long as we aren’t biased towards the majority, we will look the other way and ignore it.

What Galloway is saying is not different than how the vast majority of hiring managers are making their final selections. They take a look at past and current performances and they make some educated inferences about what those top performers have in common. Based on this knowledge, it will shape their hiring selection. Does this, or could this, lead to bias? Yes.

Does it make it wrong?

That’s the big sticky question, isn’t it?

We want to say, no, it’s fine, continue to hire the females if those are your best performers. But, just because your current females are your best performers doesn’t mean they’ll be your best moving forward, or that maybe one of the males will be even a better performer.

Flip the scenario.

Galloway now tells us that one of the three attributes for high performance is they are “male”. Do we have a problem with this now? Most likely, you do have a problem with it based on hiring equity issues, broadly, but it’s hard to say specifically since maybe this organization doesn’t have gender equity issues.

Want to know what Inclusion is difficult when it comes to organizational dynamics? It’s because what Galloway laid out is exactly what every organization lays out. The difference is, it isn’t always friendly to the underrepresented community.

Like I said, regardless of your feelings on this one subject, Galloway’s podcast is money! It’s on my must-listen to pods each week.

Give me your thoughts on this in the comments?

Are you “Rainbow Washing” your corporate logo for Pride Month?

I know you’ve seen this going on in June, but you might not have known what it was called. “Rainbow Washing” or “Pride Washing” is when a corporation turns its logo, for the month of June, from its traditional colors to rainbow colors to show its support of Pride Month.

Here are some examples:

Is there any harm in doing this?

My initial impression was “No”. I’ve got gay people in my life and for far too long most companies were scared to even acknowledge gay people were real, let alone show their support, so for me, this is an amazing time. We have billion-dollar corporations willing to come out publicly and state they support their gay employees and customers in a very public way.

But, we also have the bad marketing side of the world.

We have organizations that will Rainbow Wash their logo for June, to act like they are Prideful of their LGBTQ workforce and customers, but then do nothing else the rest of the year. Wait, how do you pronounce “Cinco De Mayo” or isn’t February the shortest of the months for Black History? I joke, this is classic in most organizations. We say we care, but we do the least amount to show we care.

The worst of this is when the organization says one thing, like, hey, look at our rainbow logo, but then goes and gives political donations to politicians who are actively working to reduce or eliminate gay rights. Yes, this is happening. This is far worse than those acting like they care but doing the minimum to increase sales. This is actively lying to employees and the public through behaviors and dollars working to support the other side.

Do you have to rainbow wash your logo to have Pride?

Nope. In fact, I’m sure the LGBTQ community would prefer you not wash your logo and just actually give a damn through your actions and funding of policies that support their community. But, doing those things and washing your logo is also awesome!

Signs and symbols of support shouldn’t be discounted. They are important. A corporation could be the biggest donor to gay rights but hide the fact they do it, that also isn’t great. “Pride” is about having pride for the LGBTQ community and showing your support in a public way that will show those who don’t support that you do and you’re not afraid to show it. Because for way too much of our history way too many were afraid to show their support.

Can Rainbow Washing go too far?

Well, maybe if it goes down the male genital route, you go too far!

This isn’t real, but it demonstrates how a brand can go over the edge with Pride!

Now, you might love the OG and be Gay, and I’m here for it! Everyone loves those breadsticks and salad!

Rainbow washing goes too far when you are doing it for promotion and marketing and not because you want to show Pride for the LGBTQ community. I know, for 100% fact, that some CMO and Revenue officers have had the discussion, “hey, what happens to our sales if we wash the logo? Oh, it’s up 7%! Should we keep it a rainbow for July!? No! That’s the American Flag washing logo, you idiot! Sales went up 8% last year with Red, White, and Blue!”

Rainbow wash your logo. Show support. Give to Gay Rights and Politicians who support Gay RIghts. Show your Pride!

Why is Walmart Struggling to Find $200K/Year Store Managers?

6.68% of Americans make $200,000 a year or more. Of course, that almost 7% is definitely centered around certain areas. States like California, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, etc., have a much larger percentage than the average. States like Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, most of the Midwest, etc., are under the average.

The Wall Street Journal had an article this week about how Walmart is struggling to fill their store manager jobs. Specifically, their General Manager job, the number one job in a Walmart store, which pays around $200,000 per year.

You would think with so few people making $200,000 a year, Walmart would have smart, ambitious folks knocking down their doors for a chance to make $200,000 per year!

But they don’t. Why?

First, most organizations tend to promote from within. Walmart is similar to this, but reality eventually hits the ceiling. An average Walmart store probably does a revenue of $50-100 million per year. The net income of those locations probably runs around $3-5M per year. There are roughly 350 employees in a Walmart store. Running a single Walmart store is like running a mid-sized enterprise business! Most SMBs in the country have a revenue well under $1M.

This means that Walmart can most likely train an hourly store employee to become a department manager, but to become a General Manager, they are looking for some formal business education. You have to run a giant P&L. You have major risk factors. You need real leadership skills. In many towns, “the Walmart” is probably the biggest business in town!

College kids, on average, don’t want to leave State U for a $65,000 a year job as a Manager in Training at Walmart. It’s not something you go back to the homecoming football game and brag about. Your friends took that $50k per year job with the tech firm in town as an entry-level, you make more, but they look down on you.

I know some folks are reading this and thinking, “So! You make more! You will continue to make more! You run are in line to run a giant business! You f’ing cares what others think!” Young adults do. Young adults care what other people think. If I’m frank, and I usually am, we all care what others think!

What would I do if I was at Walmart?

I love this game. It was the basis of my entire book! What would Timmy do if he ran your shop!

#1 – Stop trying to hire or require any form of formal education. Yes, you need smart folks, so give cognitive assessments. Find smart people who can learn quickly, who also have some “hustle” and “grind” to them. You probably have a ton of folks already working for you that you won’t consider. You also have to look at talent pools we tend to discount, most notably, in this case, 50 years and older, retired military commanders, etc. Walmart wants to solve this by talking new college grads into these jobs, I’d be talking failed executives into these jobs! Big salary. Big team. Big job. College grads don’t want that, your Dad does, and a retired military leader who is used to leading hundreds of soldiers does. Also, your Dad will work 60 hours a week and think it’s normal. A new grad will work a solid 40 and think it’s North Korea.

#2 – Build the Manager School. If a great GM in a Walmart environment makes them $3-5M a year, there are margin dollars to build more great GMs! Part in-person instruction. Part on the job training. Part virtual instruction. All the way in on fully engaging non-stop. Send them to manager boot camp. Make it exclusive. Bring in big-time celebrity speakers around leadership and performance. Do graduation with a gold watch.

#3 – Make it so lucrative they won’t want to leave. $200K is really nice, but you need some other stuff. You need to make folks say, “F! You!” To their friends that don’t think Walmart is cool enough. What is that? I don’t stock options. Partner programs on profit sharing. Company SUV.

Here’s what I know. The profit difference between Walmart’s worse GM store and their best GM store is so big it would make you blush. It’s millions of dollars. So, making sure you hire, train, develop, and take care of the great ones is priority number one. Building the talent pipeline to successful GMs would be the job of a team of people that included great recruiting leaders, brand and marketing leaders, and technology and data leaders.

I’m not saying this is an easy job. It’s enormously difficult and complicated. But, it’s doable. The problem is, that every organization thinks the solution to their problem is new college grads. They can help, but it’s only one sliver of the full pie that is needed.

Ugh! Being an inclusive employer is a lot of work!

It seems like being an ‘inclusive’ employer would be super easy! You just accept everyone! Can’t we all just get along!?

The reality is, that being an inclusive employer is hard because being inclusive isn’t about accepting everyone. What!? Oh, great, Tim has finally lost his mind, buckle up!

I wrote a post about Jeff Bezos’s annual letter and how he lays out a great framework for how organizations and leaders should manage performance. Many people liked the post, but there was also a strong reaction from a lot of people who hate Amazon’s culture.

They hear and read media accounts of Amazon being a bad place to work. About Amazon’s hard-charging, work a ton of hours, you don’t have a great work-life balance, etc. Some people go to work for Amazon and tell themselves during the interview process that “yeah, I’ve heard the stories, but I’m different, I want this, I want to be a part of a giant brand like Amazon, I can handle it because it’s a great step in my career.”

That’s when they find out they actually lack self-insight and they should never listen to their inner voice because it lies to them!

So, what does this have to do with ‘inclusion’?

If you truly believe in inclusion, you then believe that Amazon is a great place to work, for those who desire that type of culture. It might not be a culture you would ever choose to work in. Amazon actually likes the people that self-select out! It makes their job easier because they don’t want you anyway!

If you stand up and shout Amazon is an awful employer, you don’t understand inclusion. No one forces you to go to work at Amazon, and Amazon does not hide who they are. In fact, Amazon might actually be the best company on the planet to show exactly who they are as an employer and what you’re signing up for if you decide to go to work there.

Amazon is giant and the vast majority of its employees love working for them. Those employees thrive in that environment. It’s what they were looking for. It’s how they are wired. If you put them into another what you might consider, an ’employee-friendly’ environment, they would hate it and fail.

Inclusion is hard because it forces you to think in a way that theoretically every environment is potentially a good fit for the right person. We struggle because in our minds something that is opposite of what we want must be bad. Because it’s so hard for us to even consider someone else might actually love an environment we hate.

Being an ‘inclusive’ employer is about accepting all types of people (race, gender, religion, etc.), but it’s also about only accepting all of those people who actually fit the culture you have established. That’s the hard part! Amazon accepts everyone, but you better be ready to go a thousand miles an hour and never stop.

Being an inclusive employer is hard because if it’s done right, it’s not just about being an accepting employer of all, it’s about being accepting and then only picking those candidates who actually fit your culture. The outcome can be awesome. The work to get there can be overwhelming. And if done incorrectly you go from being inclusive to exclusive.

HireVue launches the HR Industry’s First AI Explainability Statement!

AI Explainability What?!

First, this is a big deal and I’ll explain what it all means and why you as an HR pro or Recruiting Pro should care.

AI is being built into almost every part of the HR and TA tech stack. Algorithms and Machine learning are having a massive impact on how we find, offer, develop, and promote talent in our workforces, so having an understanding of how this is happening is very important to the risk side of HR.

What is an AI Explainability Statement?

Basically, it’s the behind-the-scenes stuff you don’t think you want to know. It’s how the sausage is made, and it matters a great deal. You want to know that the tech you are using is reducing bias and not putting your company at risk of a lawsuit. You also want to know how and why your tech is doing what it’s doing.

HireVue didn’t have to do this. No one else has to this point. But, it’s important they lead with this as they probably have caught more flack than anyone else in our industry over how their technology was selecting one candidate over another based on some early testing they did with facial analysis technology, that they no longer use and haven’t in years.

What is HireVue’s AI Explainability Statement?

Okay, first, let me give you the overview because the actual statement is more like a white paper that is 29 pages long! Here’s the overview:

HireVue considers the ethical development of AI, candidate transparency and, privacy to be core values of the business. HireVue’s AI Explainability statement is the latest proactive step to ensure that its technology is at the forefront of emerging best practices in the use of HR hiring technologies. The Explainability Statement, together with previously commissioned independent audits, provides customers with meaningful information about the logic involved in HireVue’s technology. Together they are the latest tools to help companies understand the processing of personal data.

You can click here to read the full statement (and Yes, it’s worth a read if you’re using AI-based tools in your HR & TA Tech Stack!)

Why does this matter?

I’ll let the chief data scientist at HireVue explain:

Lindsey Zuloaga, Chief Data Scientist at HireVue: “Being at the forefront of defining the transparent and ethical use of AI and software is at the heart of what we do. Our mission is to create a level playing field for anyone seeking employment, reducing bias and providing organizations with a more diverse pool of talent. Deploying AI correctly and ethically, powers a significantly more consistent, less biased, more engaging screening process for recruiters and candidates alike. We believe there needs to be more transparency around its use in HR, this is why we’ve published our own AI Explainability statement, to best support our customers and educate the industry.”

Here’s what we know after using AI-based hiring tools for a few years now:

  1. AI does what it’s trained to do. So, if you train it inappropriately, it will act inappropriately.
  2. AI has the ability to significantly reduce bias and increase fairness in hiring as compared to manual processes where we just leave hiring to humans and our guts.
  3. We can constantly monitor and correct AI. We are less likely to constantly monitor and correct our human hiring managers.

Big Kudos to HireVue for being the first out of the gate to do something like this. They’ve taken a lot of criticism for some things they’ve built and tried in an attempt to make hiring better that didn’t go as they planned, but they’ve corrected and taken a lead within the industry from this learning. This is exactly what you want from a vendor you rely on to help you make consistently better hiring decisions.

Is Humor in the Workplace Dead?

I have at times in my career been a part of teams where each day I laughed. The team was a joy to work with and while we still had work and stress, we found times to laugh. I had a group of folks I worked with in Omaha, NE that I specifically recall laughing so hard each week that my stomach hurt, sometimes daily!

I’m not known professionally as someone who is frequently serious. I joke a lot. I love humor and making fun of all the dumb stuff we do. It’s how Kris Dunn found me and I started my blogging career over a decade ago at Fistful of Talent. My entire job was to make people laugh on a Friday.

This past week I posted this tweet on Twitter:

Tim trying to be funny

Now, if you know me, you know this is a joke. If you don’t know me, but you spend twelve seconds looking at my feed, you know this is a joke.

Way too many people thought this tweet was serious and took offense to it!

Let’s dig into how strange it is that someone would believe this was an actual exercise I would do professionally:

  • Your on Twitter and you see this guy with 40K+ followers say he makes candidates write wedding vows and recite them back to him, and you immediately think to yourself, “Well, that’s not good! Why would he ever do that! I must comment! This offends me!”
  • At this point, you’re eihter clinically naive or flat out stupid.
  • What’s the offense you ask? “Well, if you only do this with “attractive” people, you have BIAS!” Okay, I’m listening, but understand, we all judge attractiveness in our own ways. Someone I might find attractive, you might find ugly. So, you’re fighting for a view that is nebulous at best. There was no gender attached to the tweet, so if you think that I’m talking about females, now you are showing your own bias. Maybe in this clearly hypothetical exercise I only do this with attractive men, or attractive non-bianary people!
  • The joke is really around the concept of an interview and wedding vows. That’s what makes it funny. Imagine being asked to write wedding vows to someone you’re interviewing with and then reciting them, in a sense, actually getting married in an interview? Which is in a sense what interviewing is all about, do I want to spend the rest of my life with this company.
  • Foks were beside themselves that I would actually have someone do this. They were OFFENDED! Of course, I would never actually do this, it was always a joke. And if I can pat myself on the back (which I love to do!) it was really well written! It was tight. Not overly wordy. It was, what I thought, fairly innocent, so clean fun in the workplace. It also made fun of crazy interview questions and exercises we make candiates jump through. All in 26 words.

Where are we at with Humor in the Workplace?

We are in a very strange place.

I grew up in my career where very offensive jokes were told in the workplace all the time. Stuff that would get you immediately fired and most likely canceled today. Thankfully, most of us are away from most of that today.

Today, we can basically have humor around very certain topics and can only be told by very certain people. The vehicle of humor is very important in today’s world. Here’s kind of how it’s broken down:

  1. People of the same gender, ethnicity, etc. can fun of each other, to each other.
  2. White dudes can make fun of white dudes, but nothing else. (Oh, there it is, Tim’s Fragility is showing!)
  3. Everybody else can make fun of white dudes, and their own identifiers.
  4. We can all make fun of people and things we’ve deemed culturally fair game – Putin, Kanye, Trump, old white men, Dudes getting yelled at by their spouses, the CEOs of big companies – but only the bad ones, not the ones we like, etc.
  5. You can’t make fun of anything someone would ever, at any time in histroy, find offensive in any slightest way. Like the color purple. “OMG! TIM! Purple stands for safe spaces for puppies! How could you!”
  6. You can always make fun of yourself! (hat tip: Patricia in the comments)

We right ditched, left ditched humor in the workplace, and in many cases socially as well. I hated that people in the workplace could feel attacked by what someone would consider ‘humor’ early in my career. I also hate that humor Nazis are now the norm in our lives believing they can regulate everything that can be considered humorous.

There’s a fine line with humor in the workplace and that line has gotten even thinner in recent years. The problem with humor Nazis is that many employees want to work in environments and cultures that include humor. They want to laugh each day. it helps with engagement. Of course, that humor must be appropriate.

Maybe we just have the dial turned so far up on our offensive meter we struggle to even recognize humor anymore. The best part of this is all those who found my tweet offensive would also say they love humor, just that I’m not funny, and nor was my tweet. That’s their right for sure, but I would argue they’ve lost context around what’s funny.

Want a Smarter Workforce? Hire More Gay Dudes!

Okay, before the entire LGBTQ community becomes unglued for me saying “dudes” and not every segment of the LGBTQ community, you have to understand the study we’ll dig into below! In this study, gay men stood out as extremely high academic achievers over every other part of society, gay or straight, and other genders.

From the Washington Post:

In new research made possible by questions recently added to U.S. household surveys, I found that gay men achieve stunning success across every level of higher education. This accomplishment comes even as men’s overall college completion rates have fallen further behind women’s for every generation born since the 1960s.

I found, for example, that about 52 percent of gay men, age 25 or older in the United States have a bachelor’s degree. For context, about 36 percent of U.S. adults 25 or older have a bachelor’s; this ranks the United States ninth in the world in college completion. If America’s gay men, however, formed their own country, it would be the world’s most highly educated by far.

Organizations are constantly searching for the “silver bullet” when it comes to talent. Every so often some research comes along and says, “Hey, over here, we found a silver bullet!” The ironic part of this silver bullet is I think most organizations will ignore it, even though it’s fairly straightforward and clear. Why? Normal bias, primarily, that gay people of all genders have faced when it comes to hiring.

Why are Gay men off the charts when it comes to achieving academic success?

This is where it gets interesting because the reasons can be somewhat subjective, but they actually feel accurate. If you’re a gay boy growing up in America, in public school, you are in for a tough life of bullying. You can’t control that. What can you control? You can control how well you do in school.

Who do teachers love? Kids who care about what they are teaching and do well. Gay kids who aren’t widely accepted by their straight classmates, find a higher level of acceptance from teachers, especially when they are high performers. So, I can control the asshole bullies, but I can control how much I study. It’s a unique form of resilience to be sure. “I became smart and worked super hard at school because that was my avenue of acceptance within public education.”

And, as it turns out, doing well academically in high school, leads to more opportunity in college where gay kids find even more acceptance in a predominately liberal higher education system. The flywheel keeps turning, and the gay smart kids, become even smarter gay young men, who then move into the corporate world as high achievers.

But, now these intelligent, high-performing gay men, also have a community of their own who can support and care for each other in a professional capacity. Recommendations for jobs and promotions, inside information on projects, sharing of creative ideas, etc. The “Old Boy” network, becomes the “Not So Old Gay Boy Network”. Don’t hate, you taught them the system!

Just because you’re smart and gay doesn’t stop bias.

It’s still far easier in our world to be a straight white man than a super-smart gay white man, for the most part. The interesting part of the study was that gay men of all ethnicities have shown this academic prowess. It’s not just a white male thing, it’s a brown male thing, a black male thing. Turns out, gay men of all colors, achieve higher levels of academic success, leading to higher levels of professional success.

It pains me that gay kids have to deal with bullies in school. That any kid has to deal with bullies is awful, but when you’re “different” than the majority of your peer group, it can be especially cruel. I love that on average gay boys have found an outlet in academics because that will lead to way more good outcomes than bad.

I’ll go back to this one quote that I think is very powerful: If America’s gay men formed their own country it would be the most highly educated country in the world! In. The. World. I’m also guessing that would be a pretty amazing country to live in.

Talent Hoarding is Real! And it’s getting worse…

Talent hoarding has been around since the beginning of time. If you were good at hunting and gathering, some bigger stronger caveman was going to keep you around and not let some other cavemen lure you away!

In today’s world, talent hoarding begins when a manager doesn’t identify someone who works for them as promotable when they most likely are. The organization uses its leaders to understand who is ready for that next-level position. Certain managers, tend not to openly report they have such a candidate in their group, so they can keep that talent performing for them. This makes their life easier.

But, let’s not just blame these managers of people. There’s another organizational design issue that causes talent hoarding. Manager performance, and often parts of their compensation, are based on “team performance”. That being the case, it’s to a manager’s advantage, and the team’s advantage to keep talent. Almost no organizations incentive managers to promote people off their team into other parts of the organization.

There was a study just released in 2022, appropriately titled, “Talent Hoarding in Organizations” that showed that:

“Temporary reductions of talent hoarding increase worker’s applications for promotions by 123%. Marginal applicants, who would not have applied in the presence of talent hoarding, are three times as likely as average applicants to land a promotion.”

What the study determined, was that if you did not have any barrier to letting someone apply for promotion, your way more likely to be promoted! Things like you must first have your manager sign-off on your readiness, or things like having managers put names forward, etc.

Organizationally, we know also that talent hoarding often pushes talent to leave. Basically, if you aren’t going to promote me, I’ll use the free market to get a promotion somewhere else. In a talent market, as we have right now, that is happening at a massive scale. We see organizations implementing new internal mobility strategies to help counteract this, but it’s barely making a dent still, primarily because most of these strategies still rely on some sort of manager performance metric to allow someone to move internally.

Can we eliminate or reduce talent hoarding?

Short answer, yes. The longer answer, it’s hard!

First, we are talking about centuries of institutional dynamics at play. Generation after generation of leaders were raised under this framework. Thus, we have major change management issues to conquer.

Second, we would need to eliminate the negative side, or at least counteract the negative side of team promotion, with a positive side for the manager and team. This is the “coaching tree” analogy. Great coaches hire assistants and teach them how to be great coaches and those coaches go on to peer level roles. When you talk about the greatest sports coaches of all time, one major factor is their coaching tree. How many other coaches did they create? And, how good were those coaches?

If we can find a way to reward, and not punish, managers for promoting talent within the organization, which is greater than the reward for keeping great talent, we will have a much better chance at stopping talent hoarding. That is difficult. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an organization that has figured out the value of the theoretical “coaching tree” for a manager. Meaning, if I promote someone off my team, what is that worth to me, as the manager?

It’s a hard question to answer because it’s very specific to position and organization. If I’m at Apple and I “grow” a new Engineering Manager, from a Software Engineer, that I’ve mentored, there is considerable value in that happening! If I’m managing a fast food restaurant and mentor an hourly worker into a salaried manager, that is less valuable, by dollar amount, but still very valuable to the organization.

The reality is, you have no shot if you don’t try and answer that value equation!

You can have some success, by just eliminating all barriers to promotion and allowing anyone to apply. You will still have some that won’t, as managers will still have formal and informal influence over those that work for them. So, it’s not perfect. But, you’ll get more, than by asking your managers alone.

Also, just eliminating barriers could create a gender issue as we know through many studies men or more willing to apply to jobs they aren’t qualified for than women, so barrier elimination will most likely get you more male applicants, who you will promote, leaving more women behind. We actually need our leaders to help us identify and promote our great female next-level hires.

When talent is scarce, like it is now, talent hoarding will be worse. Talent hoarding is bad for your culture and it’s bad for your talent. And it’s happening right now in your organization.