Creating non-discriminatory career paths

Discriminatory structures in society and unconscious assumptions that have an impact on people, such as prejudices and stereotypes, prevent and slow down the career progression of some groups of people. The impact that these factors have must be understood and addressed.

It is important that the organization’s management and supervisors are trained to identify various forms of discrimination and the effects of unconscious assumptions. The creation of non-discriminatory career paths begins with the development of non-discriminatory recruitment practices.

In order for employees to progress in their careers and change tasks in an equitable and non-discriminatory manner, management of the organization must also consider the following issues as objectively and honestly as possible:

  • Do some groups (possibly unconsciously) see themselves as more capable than others? Is it expected (possible unconsciously) in the organization that members of minorities or under-represented groups will underperform?  Are assumptions made (possibly unconsciously) about the willingness/unwillingness of some groups to progress in their careers?
  • Does everyone, including members of minorities or under-represented groups in the organization, have equal opportunities to advance in their career and change tasks?
  • Is the focus always on factors that are relevant to performance?
  • Is it understood why diversity is genuinely good for various levels of the organization and the careers of minority groups are not promoted merely to meet a quota or to appear diverse?

Surveying the current situation

In order to allow employees to progress in their careers and develop their competences in a equitable and non-discriminatory manner also requires thoroughly examining the current situation. The questions below can be used as part of surveying the current situation regarding inclusion overall.  People in positions of responsibility within the organization should be aware of the situation with regard to these issues.

Representation refers to whether members of minorities are visible in the organization as much as others are and whether their voice is heard equally.

  • Representation 

    Are some groups under-represented in the most demanding positions and do all groups of people have the opportunity to progress in their careers?  The situation can be assessed by monitoring career progression according to factors such as international background, gender, age and education.
  • Employee turnover

    What is the turnover of employees in different groups? In addition to representation, it is important to monitor employee turnover per group. This can help determine whether the organization makes it possible for all of its employees to thrive and enjoy themselves at work. 
  • Competence Development

    How are the opportunities for developing competencies (e.g. participation in training, job shadowing and rotation) shared?
  • Obstacles on the career path

    What are the possible obstacles on the career paths of minority groups? For example, are issues related to language skills or attitudes an obstacle to international experts advancing in their careers or changing tasks?
  • Consultation of minority groups in order to understand these obstacles

    In order to understand these obstacles, you should listen to the experiences of personnel who belong to minority groups. Reverse mentoring is one useful tool to do this. Reverse mentoring refers to a more experienced employee, possibly in a leadership position, being assigned a less experienced employee as a mentor. The situation is reverse when compared with a typical mentoring relationship where a more experienced employee mentors a more inexperienced employee. A mentor who belongs to a minority group can share their experiences of working in the organization and issues related to the organization’s progress.
  • Competence mapping

    Competence mapping is a key factor in ensuring that the most suitable employees for different roles are found amongst a diverse workforce and that career progress is based as much as possible on competence and performance. It is not enough to know employees’ roles, but rather it is necessary to also understand what skills they have. Adequate understanding of employees’ skills will help find skilled employees who can fill skills gaps while simultaneously supporting employees’ career development.
  • Career advancement is not the only way to deepen expertise

    However, it is good to remember that employees do not always feel that vertical career progress is the most meaningful option for them. Sometimes, a change of task can bring a much-needed sense of meaning and direction to work life. It is necessary to ensure that belonging to a minority group does not create obstacles to the development of skills, even when changing tasks.
  • Reviewing language proficiency requirements for supervisory tasks

    Language proficiency requirements for supervisory tasks should be examined separately. Are they justified or is there room for flexibility? Do tasks require a better knowledge of Finnish or Swedish than is necessary to carry out the work? Would it be possible to carry out tasks in another shared language?
  • Who makes decisions related to recruitment, career development and pay?

    Who decides on recruitment or makes career development and salary decisions? It is worth examining whether decision-makers comprise only people of a certain group and if some of them belong to minority groups.
  • Whose career progress is encouraged?

    Are representatives of under-represented groups encouraged to advance in their careers and apply for the most challenging positions as much as everyone else? Members of under-represented groups may also need special encouragement to advance in their careers, especially if they lack role models in the organization with whom they can identify.

Open and transparent criteria

A transparent organization operates in a way that creates transparency between management, supervisors and employees. An open and transparent approach increases trust between the employer and employees and is important in a diverse and inclusive work community. Ensuring equity requires transparency of criteria in the following areas, among others:

  • Recruitment
  • Promotions
  • Job description changes
  • Salary

Paying attention to competence development

Providing competence development and mentoring opportunities at all levels of the organization is an important part of developing expertise. It is necessary to ensure that everyone, including representatives of minority groups, is aware of opportunities for competence development and mentoring within the organization. It may be appropriate to inform minority groups about these in a targeted fashion.

Most organizations have a wide range of competence development needs. Needs may relate to issues such as expressing one's own competence, development of work life and workplace skills or strengthening of professional skills. There are differences in the competence development needs between individuals and groups. Understanding group-specific needs will help provide targeted and meaningful competence development activities. 

The supervisor can help employees in developing their competencies by enabling them to identify their objectives and strengths. It may help the expert's own development and the way they can meet the employer's needs if they are encouraged to reflect on how to get their own expertise and passion to serve the employer's goals. Such discussions can also increase the organization's understanding of competence development needs.

  • Regular reflection on one’s own work, development and goals

    The supervisor should encourage and provide structures for experts to regularly reflect on their own work, work development and goals in the short- and long-term goals. This involves open and regular discussions between the supervisor and the expert regarding the expert's performance.
  • Personal development plans

    Personal development plans help clarify the expert's goals and monitor the achievement of them. Personal development plans are particularly important for experts early in their careers and are drawn up together with the supervisor.   
  • Ensuring the sharing of information

    Develop different means and channels to share information regarding work. Formal and informal information sharing locations and channels ensure that shared competencies continue to grow.
  • Investments in the training of existing personnel

    It is common to look for experts from outside the organization, which focuses the growth of competence potential on recruitment. The focus on recruitment may cause employees lower in the organization to have less opportunities for progress. Investments should also fill skills gaps by training existing personnel.
  • Help when career development in stuck

    If an employee’s career development is stuck, meaning that they feel they have no way to progress or deepen their competence, the supervisor should discuss ways of resolving this issue. 
  • Adequate induction training ensures the transfer of workplace skills

    In addition to professional competence, employees need workplace skills, meaning knowledge and understanding of workplace policies and practices. Adequate induction training ensures the transfer of these skills. A multilingual work community must ensure that the lack of language skills does not prevent this.

Collaborative competence development

Many of the competence development tools described above focus on the individual. They are aimed at the development of an individual employee's knowledge and skills, and are often based on offering information and bilateral discussions with the supervisor. These methods should be complemented with community-based ways of collaboratively developing employees’ skills.

Collaborative problem solving is the key to many problem areas related to work and work development. Supervisors and developers should:

  • Consciously create opportunities for shared discussions where good practices can be shared and solutions to work problems can be sought together
  • When designing the various discussion opportunities, involve people who are central to them.
  • Provide an opportunity for joint reflection on which channels of interaction could best promote the creation of social networks of minority groups
  • Encourage minority groups in particular to participate in the joint discussions 

Knowledge and competencies are accumulated in various everyday situations and encounters. This means that competencies often develop and gradually accumulate in interaction. Peer-learning is important in everyday work. Pair work and job shadowing are examples of interactive modes of competence development, which are not based on passive reception of information, but rather on active and participatory learning.

Job shadowing

Job shadowing is learning at work, where the person shadowing follows the work of someone engaged in tasks that they are interested in for a short period of time, such as one day.

The purpose of job shadowing is to

  • enable following work at close range
  • offer the opportunity to discuss with a professional
  • learn and obtain new perspectives on work.

The psychological safety of the work community promotes competence development and learning for all employees as well as the renewal of the entire organization. Psychological safety refers to the shared perception that a group is safe for taking inter-personal risks and that everyone can be themselves without the fear of being ridiculed. You should invest in the promotion of psychological safety.