A solution to the lack of diversity in senior leadership roles- reducing bias in organisations

A lack of diversity, e.g. ethnicity and gender, within senior leadership roles is a massive problem for organisations. The main possible reason for a lack of diversity is because diverse talent within an organisation is not promoted. Perhaps due to inadequate practices that are in place that encourage bias and adverse impact. Adverse impact is referred to as bias in selection rates amongst groups (Zhang et al., 2019). Diversity is important because it results in; improved customer experience, diverse skills within an organisation, and strengthens an organisation’s credibility (Zhang et al., 2019). To encourage diversity, the evidence-based practices an organisation can implement are the use of e-performance and situational judgement tests (SJTs).

Firstly, the use of e-performance management can reduce bias (Johnson & Gueutal, 2011). E-performance management is where technology is implemented to generate performance information, view employees’ tasks, aid in the development and the execution of performance appraisals. Practices of this include structuring the system for data to be stored and accessible at different levels of detail, as a result, employees can view links between measured behaviours, performance targets and incentives. As well as, involving employees in the process of deciding which type of data to incorporate in the system. Incorporating useful data aids in employees to be productive in their job, and ensure the data stored is updated often to aid in improving performance. A organisation hoping to implement this strategy must consider what is rewarded and what is not, e.g. if rewards are based on computer measurements these behaviours are hard to monitor on e-performance (Johnson & Gueutal, 2011).

Benefits of this practice are it increases access to data, consequently, feedback can be provided speedily. Performance management consequently becomes more objective, and there is less bias during an appraisal. This will remedy the problem for an organisation because this practice is more objective and less bias occurs, therefore when selection decisions for senior roles are made based on performance the use of e-performance is fairer and is more likely to result in diverse promotions (Johnson & Gueutal, 2011).

Moreover, another evidence-based practice an organisation can implement is the use of SJTs in hiring at senior levels of the organisation. SJTs are defined as “personnel selection instruments that present job applicants with work-related situations and possible responses to the situation” (McDaniel, Hartman, Whetzel, & Grubb, 2007, p. 63). SJTs are low fidelity simulations, fidelity simulations assess the degree that an assessment reveals the context and behaviours that are vital to the job (Weekley, Hawkes, Guenole, & Ployhart, 2015). A high-fidelity simulation conveys work tasks in a pragmatic way like videos, but a low fidelity simulation conveys the same assessment in a written way (Weekley et al., 2015).

The practical steps an organisation can take to formulate effective SJTs include a series of steps (Guenole, Chernyshenko, & Weekly, 2017). Firstly, identify situational item stems, then forming the SJT loaded with a construct, scenario authors must ensure the scenario measures that specific construct e.g. leadership ability (emotional intelligence). Then, complete an item stem analysis and allocate stems. It is preferred to have a scenario pool with extra scenarios that measure the stem of SJTs and recruiting judges to scrutinize SJTs where they will decide which to eliminate or keep. Thirdly, form a variety of response options; job incumbents e.g. those in senior leadership roles are asked to provide a brief description of how they would answer the SJT stems. Test writers use this to create a variety of potential responses to SJT stem. Fourthly, choosing a response format and grading key. For instance, most organisation use the most effective/least action for SJTs. Leaders can adapt their reactions to suit situations. If a leader can carry out the right action this depends on factors like personality which are assessed within SJTs. However, this could make SJTs link more to personality, therefore it is important that the construct loaded on the SJT relates to leadership. Finally, SJTs are constructed and assessed for reliability and validity (Guenole et al., 2017).

Implementing SJTs will have many benefits to an organisation. Firstly, it has less adverse impact compared to other selection methods. Whetzel, McDaniel & Nguygen (2008) carried out a meta-analysis on ethnic group differences amongst SJT results. Their findings showed whites scored marginally more on SJTs compared to other ethnic groups, but this depended on the construct SJTs was loaded with. For instance, SJTs loaded with constructs measuring cognitive ability lead to higher scored for whites, but SJTs loaded with constructs measuring personality result in higher scores for females (females are associated with conscientiousness and agreeableness personality traits). This shows SJTs do not cause against adverse impact against genders (Weekley et al., 2015). This suggests the practice of SJTs in selecting members of senior levels of the organisation will increase female selected, this will result in more of a diverse board.

Moreover, SJTs can be contextualised for this reason it is useful in providing insight on work performance (Guenole et al., 2015). The contextualisation component enables SJTs to be formatted in a way where leadership situations can be designed so leaders are encouraged to demonstrate such skills. Therefore diverse talent can be promoted but most importantly suitable talent.

However, there are challenges for using SJTs such as scores have weak internal psychometric features (Guenole et al., 2017). Another challenge is accessibility for applicants with limited digital experience, this can be combated by adopting a simple to follow process and practice options. Finally, consistency in administering the test is a challenge, this can be solved by using reliable web standards to formulate simulation (Weekly, Ployhart, & Harold, 2004).

In summary, resolving a lack of diversity in senior leadership roles can be resolved by using SJTS and e-performance. These evidence-based practices reduce the adverse impact on minorities, reduce bias and are more objective. By implementing this, the organisation can be more diverse, and this comes with an array of benefits such as improving the organisation’s reputation.


Guenole, N., Chernyshenko, O. S., & Weekly, J. (2017). On Designing Construct Driven Situational Judgment Tests: Some Preliminary Recommendations. International Journal of Testing, 17(3), 234–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/15305058.2017.1297817

Guenole, N., Chernyshenko, O., Stark, S., & Drasgow, F. (2015). Are predictions based on situational judgement tests precise enough for feedback in leadership development? European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 24(3), 433–443. https://doi.org/10.1080/1359432X.2014.926890

Johnson, R. D., & Gueutal, H. G. (2011). Transforming HR Through Technology: The Use of E-HR and HRIS in Organizations. SHRM Foundation’s Effective Practice-Guidelines Series, 48.

McDANIEL, M. A., Hartman, N. S., Whetzel, D. L., & Grubb, W. L. (2007). Situational Judgment Tests, Response Instructions, and Validity: A Meta-Analysis. Personnel Psychology, 60(1), 63–91. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2007.00065.x

Weekley, J. A., Hawkes, B., Guenole, N., & Ployhart, R. E. (2015). Low-Fidelity Simulations. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 2(1), 295–322. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-032414-111304

Weekley, J. A., Ployhart, R. E., & Harold, C. M. (2004). Personality and Situational Judgment Tests Across Applicant and Incumbent Settings: An Examination of Validity, Measurement, and Subgroup Differences. Human Performance, 17(4), 433–461. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327043hup1704_5

Whetzel, D. L., McDaniel, M. A., & Nguyen, N. T. (2008). Subgroup Differences in Situational Judgment Test Performance: A Meta-Analysis. Human Performance, 21(3), 291–309. https://doi.org/10.1080/08959280802137820

Zhang, H., Feinzi, S., Raisbec, L., & McCombe, I. (2019). IBM Talent Management Solutions The role of AI in mitigating bias to enhance diversity and inclusion.

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