How to mitigate age and gender bias in the Talent Review?

Why are most high potentials males younger than 40?

Recent research demonstrates the risks of age and gender bias in Talent Management practices.

How to mitigate these biases in the Talent Review?

A recent study at the University of Leuven* shows that appraisals of potential are more likely to be age or gender biased than appraisals of performance.
This can be explained by the fact that ‘potential’ is a future oriented prediction of behavior while performance refers to the evaluation of behavior in the past. Predicting the future is always a more abstract exercise than evaluating the past, disposing of factual data and observations to base your evaluation on.
The results of the study show that
“appraisals of potential seem inherently biased against older employees and to a lesser extent women”
The observation that employees older than 40 to 45 years, are less identified as high potential, can have an important effect on their career. More specifically, this can impact in a rather negative way their
  • pay raise
  • promotion opportunities
  • access to development possibilities
  • visibility in the organization
And for the organization this means a risk of less diversity in age and gender of the talent pool. This talent pool being the source for future leaders.
BUT the good news is, that there are ways to lower the risk of age and gender bias.
Some suggestions:
1. Define ‘potential’ as tangible as possible by using observable behaviors – and ask leaders to give examples of these behavior the high potential already has demonstrated;
2. Ask employees input on their potential – offer them the possibility of a self-assessment, based on the behavioral definition of potential;
3. Use evidence-based questionnaires, completed by the employee on the one hand and the manager on the other hand, as input for the Talent Review discussions;

4. Present evaluators with descriptions of real challenges that people face in the role for which potential is appraised and ask them to imagine how the employee would behave in this situation.

* De Boeck G., Brosi P., Dries N.   Are Appraisals of Potential, Due to Their Prospective Nature, More Prone to Bias than Appraisals of Performance?, June 2019