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The talent life cycle, Part 2: Compensation, and development of employees

June 12, 2023
As part of their DEI practices, employers must ensure that compensation practices are equitable and satisfying, and regularly evaluate employees for growth potential.

In part one of this article, Attract and retain a diverse workforce, we explored how to apply diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to the four stages of the employee talent life cycle. The employee talent life cycle starts with sourcing and recruiting potential candidates and considering how to attract these candidates to apply. We want to ensure we cast a wide net and attract a diverse mix of well-qualified candidates. The second stage is the onboarding process, which ensures all new employees can perform the essential duties of the job, and how inclusive and welcoming the leaders, team, and practice are.

Stage three is compensation and rewards. When employees perform their job well, ensure that compensation practices are equitable and satisfying. Last is stage five, assessing and developing employees. This involves managers regularly evaluating team members' knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, and potential for internal projects and growth in the office. Once an employee is identified as a top performer or emerging leader, organizations should develop that employee to their full potential (so they’ll want to stay) for future tasks, functions, or jobs using standardized clinical and leadership training and development plans.

You might also want to read: Perspectives in dental diversity

Compensation and rewards

Once a new team member has been selected and onboarded, managers must recognize and reward employee performance appropriately. This takes a few different forms, including decisions about compensation at the time of hire, bonuses and raises for good performance, organization-wide analysis about pay equity, and nonmonetary recognition and incentives.1,2.3

Some organizations make initial compensation decisions based on a candidate's earnings at a previous job.1,2,3,4 In theory, this makes sense. The problem is that this could perpetuate an unjust compensation decision if a previous employer started the employee at a very low level. From the candidates' perspective, if they’re paid based on the last position, they may find that their lifetime income is dramatically affected.

In general, the answer to compensation challenges is establishing compensation decisions based on the job and specific criteria rather than individual candidates.1,2,3 Before considering a person, decide what to pay for a specific job, including a minimum and maximum. The minimum helps avoid the trap of underpaying candidates who don't negotiate well and shows you value the employee you’ve selected for the job.1,2,3.4

A maximum level avoids you paying more than is reasonable for a position simply because you want to fight for a candidate or are desperate to fill a position. It’s also helpful to decide in advance under what circumstances you will pay more than the minimum so that these decisions are fair and equitable regardless of who the person is.1,2,3,4 Then hold firm to those criteria so that unconscious bias doesn't sway you from what you agreed is reasonable.5

Pay equity analysis

Managers must be fair, equitable, and objective when making compensation decisions. However, organizations realize that these personal decisions sometimes add up to inequitable outcomes. In 2015, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, stated in his book, Trailblazer, that he didn't believe pay disparities were present in his company.

After undergoing a pay analysis, the data showed that throughout every division, department, and geographical region, about 6% of employees, primarily women, needed their salaries adjusted upward. The cost of these adjustments was $3 million. One of the consequences of this, Benioff believed, was growth because Salesforce was buying other companies and inheriting their technology, pay practices, and culture. To my DSO friends, does this sound familiar?

I’m not saying that all pay disparities are deliberate. Yet historically, in private practice, most dentist-owners decide salary and compensation packages based on the following: emotion, length of stay, entitlement, treating everyone the same, perceived loyalty, or believing the maxim, "we’re like family," which usually means there’s not a review process or communication channel about raises. As we’ve seen through the past few years, our industry needs to do better with transparency and equitable pay for all positions.

Nonmonetary incentives

When we’re committed to building an equitable workplace that supports inclusion, we must understand that different people need different types of recognition.1,2,3 In this sense, embrace the platinum rule over the golden rule. The golden rule encourages you to treat others how you want to be treated. This approach completely dismisses different needs, desires, styles, and motivations. It assumes people want to be treated like you.6

The platinum role offers an inclusive alternate. It encourages treating others how they would like to be treated. This shift centers on the employee's needs versus your own. When developing a rewards and recognition program, consider these questions:1,2,3,4

  • How do you welcome new employees and let them know you're glad they're on your team?
  • What are you doing to show team members that their work is valuable and essential and contributes to the organization's success?
  • How can you show your respect for employees by recognizing them in ways that are meaningful to them?
  • What can you do to ensure their voice is heard in discussions about goals, results, recognition, and reward?

Assessing talent

The leader must objectively assess performance, behavior, talent, and potential. Here are suggestions for your company to be more inclusive when considering talent:1,2,3,4

  • Educate managers about unconscious bias so they’re aware of the risk, and create a checklist with questions used as a post-mortem evaluation of the process.
  • Create standardized guides to help managers understand what knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics they should look for when assessing talent.
  • Have processes that allow multiple calibrated leaders to share their perceptions to seek consensus about employees.

Culture add vs. culture fit

There’s a phenomenon called affinity bias or out-group-in-group bias.5,7 This means we humans prefer people who are like us. We feel safe and comfortable and see more individual differences if a person is the same. This is where the culture fit comes in. We have an affinity for sameness, so affinity bias or "like" bias appears in all phases of the talent life cycle.

Without awareness, we can focus our hiring and evaluation of someone on whether we would like to hang out with them vs. the person who can best do the job. Suppose you use the term “culture fit” as the only criterion for not hiring or promoting someone. In that case, you’ve probably fallen victim to likeability and affinity bias, which is the opposite of applying diversity, equity, and inclusion.2

Daisy Auger Dominguez states in Inclusion Revolution, "As we seek to bring diverse hires into our workplace, we should be intentional about enhancing organizational culture, not just striving for optical diversity. Instead of culture fit, aim for culture add, which helps assess whether the candidate will enhance your culture through explicit performance values rather than implicitly biased cultural values." This also applies to existing employee evaluation sand development plans.

Development overview

Ideally, managers assess talent, identify top performers and emerging leaders, and develop these employees to prepare them for future career opportunities. Here are some questions when it comes to growing your employees:2,3,4

  • Do I typically go to the same person for lead projects or other assignments?
  • Do I create opportunities for others to demonstrate their capabilities and potential?
  • Who do I include in important meetings and events?
  • How do I identify and choose employees for promotion or succession?

The stages of the talent life cycle are a web of people and functions that impact and influence all departments and, if applicable, an organization's locations. This complex matrix needs standardized guides, processes, metrics, and accountability built at each phase.

Whether or not a company applies DEI to its employee talent life cycle depends on its ethos, values, and leadership behaviors. In cases where ethos and behaviors are at odds with DEI best practices, the organization may need help with its brand and finding and retaining engaged and high-performing employees, not to mention patients.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the June 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.


1. Anand R. Leading Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 2022. Berrett-Koehler.

2. Auger-Dominguez D. Inclusion Revolution. 2022. Seal Press.

3. Brown JC. Practitioner Program Level 1 and 2. 2022. https://jenniferbrownconsulting.com/the-inclusion-collective

4. Questions to ask yourself about hiring bias. Society for Human Resources Management. 2021. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/quiz/Documents/HiringBias_quiz.pdf

5. Agarwal P. SWAY: Unravelling Unconscious Bias. 2020. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

6. Economy P. How the platinum rule trumps the golden rule every time. Inc. March 17, 2016.

Accessed 12, 2022. https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/how-the-platinum-rule-trumps-the-golden-rule-every-time.html

7. Barrett LF. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. 2017. Mariner.

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