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Are Your Leaders Guilty of Talent Proximity Bias?

As someone responsible for the talent and succession strategy within your organisation, you’ll be more than aware of the impact that the trend in hybrid working has had. While many benefits have been highlighted, I’m now becoming more aware of concerns in terms of the effect on talent management, and this includes the phenomenon of talent proximity bias.


Talent proximity bias refers to the tendency to favour or give preference to individuals based on their proximity to a particular geographic location. I’ve recently witnessed it manifest itself in talent acquisition, talent development and succession planning, where individuals located in close proximity to decision-makers have received seemingly unfair advantages over equally qualified individuals in different locations.


Talent proximity bias can hinder diversity and inclusion efforts within organisations by overlooking talent, perspectives and contributions that may exist outside the immediate physical or social circles of leadership.


This can manifest itself in several ways, such as:


Physical proximity bias: Leaders may develop a bias towards employees who work in close physical proximity to them. They may have more interactions with these individuals, leading to stronger relationships and a better understanding of their capabilities, while neglecting or undervaluing the contributions of employees who work remotely or in separate locations.


Availability bias: Leaders may rely on information or inputs that are readily available and easily accessible. This can result in a bias towards employees or teams who are more visible or frequently present in the workplace, leading to a disproportionate allocation of resources or recognition.


Team proximity bias: Leaders may exhibit a bias towards teams or departments that are physically closer to their own area of responsibility. This bias can influence resource allocation decisions, talent succession opportunities, and the level of attention given to different teams.


Here are some strategies to mitigate talent proximity bias:


Encourage transparency and communication: Promote open communication channels and ensure that information flows freely across teams and departments. This helps counteract the effects of talent proximity bias by ensuring that decision-makers have access to a broader range of perspectives and information.


Encourage cross functional collaboration: Facilitate cross functional projects and initiatives that involve employees from different teams, locations or levels within the organisation. This can help foster relationships and collaborations that go beyond physical proximity.


Provide training and development: Conduct workshops on unconscious biases, including talent proximity bias. Your people leaders need to understand the responsibility that they have in identifying and developing all talent in the organisation, without bias.


To find out more about our ALIGNED® talent model, please contact me at matt@twentyoneleadership.com so we can continue the conversation.




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