Posted: 07 Dec. 2021 10 min. read

How internal talent marketplaces can help overcome seven common DEI strategy pitfalls

Providing equitable access to experiences can aid in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce

By Marin Heiskell, Diana Kearns-Manolatos, and Manu Rawat

 As we look forward to 2022, there are several calls to action for CEOs to drive performance in the new world of workAccording to the 2021 Fortune/Deloitte CEO survey attracting and recruiting talent (57 percent), designing a post-pandemic workplace (53 percent), retaining talent (51 percent), and building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce (43 percent) are high on the list of CEO challenges. The future of the workforce and successful talent management strategies require getting all of these right. However, many organizations still find it challenging to lead and manage their workforces in a way that unleashes their full potential. A recent Deloitte survey of ~400 tech executives indicates that tech-enabled solutions have significant potential to achieve successful DEI strategies outcomes. Internal talent marketplaces are one such solution organizations can consider to address the seven common pitfalls of DEI strategies and to activate equity as an outcome for their organizations. We discussed how in our recent session, Driving Workforce Equity with the Internal Talent Marketplace, and in more detail below.

Seven common DEI strategy pitfalls that require action

In our work with organizations around the world, we’ve noted seven common challenges that hamper real progress on workplace DEI.

1.      Limited talent data. Simply noting how someone checked a box on an employment application isn’t enough to provide DEI insight. Organizations need to look for ways to capture data across all aspects of HR, from recruiting to offboarding.

2.      Ambition ≠ investment. Organizations may have robust DEI strategies and goals but haven’t historically backed up those ambitions with a robust budget. A recent report from World Business Research indicates optimism for the future: 89% of organizations across industries have a formal DEI strategy in place and 79% are planning to allocate more budget and/or resources in 2022. However, ambition ≠ investment, and what these numbers look like in actuality are still to be determined.    

3.      Imbalanced leadership alignment. Many times, organizations select a DEI sponsor among their leadership ranks (frequently a woman or person of color), not only adding to that person’s leadership burden but also inadvertently sending a message to other leaders that DEI is someone else’s responsibility. Instead, the whole leadership team needs to be aligned on the importance of DEI in the context of the overall business strategy.

4.      Flash vs. impact. Touting support for DEI by issuing statements or hitching onto social media campaigns may garner attention but do little to create a real impact. Addressing systemic issues takes a thoughtful short- and long-term strategy.

5.      Making DEI an HR problem. Similar to No. 2 above, assigning DEI to HR tends to make it someone else’s problem to solve rather than embedding it into the business strategy and into every function as a strategic priority.

6.      Mistaking exploration for action. Conducting DEI assessments and creating data visualizations are helpful in identifying problems but are only the first step. Once you understand the “now” you have to follow up with the “next” that’s aimed at achieving impactful change.

7.      Viewing DEI as a program. DEI can’t be considered a siloed program or initiative. It needs to be a key business function, just as finance and marketing are central to the way you do business.

Getting beyond action to impact   

In analyzing DEI, we’ve been zeroing in on its equity component as a linchpin to achieving DEI overall. Even when organizations have had success bringing diverse talent in the door, progress tends to break down in terms of engaging and ultimately retaining that talent and helping them grow and develop. There’s a lack of understanding across the organization about what’s meant by diversity, by equity, by inclusion. At Deloitte, we consider equity to be the sum of diversity and inclusion: By focusing on diversity and inclusion, we enable equitable outcomes and equal access to opportunity.

Other organizations may have different definitions. To help organizations zero in on their definition of DEI and their path to driving equity, Deloitte developed an Equity Activation Model, which is a systems-based approach to how organizations can think about driving equity. The model is structured around three primary spheres of influence—Workforce, Marketplace, and Society—where organizations can positively impact the push for equity. Each sphere includes Activators where organizations can exert their influence to activate equity, and each activator includes specific actions toward that end. 

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP


For this discussion, we’ll concentrate on the Workforce sphere as an ideal starting point. Its three activators—access, enablement, and advancement—are key areas that organizations can tangibly and tactically focus on as a first step toward achieving equity.

  • Access—Identifying and matching talent to roles and positions in a way that helps develop a talent pipeline that views equity as an outcome.
  • Enablement—Helping workers overcome internal, external, and self-imposed limitations on their careers.
  • Advancement—Orchestrating experiences, capabilities, and achievements that can position individuals to advance in their careers.

This is where internal talent marketplaces come in. Deloitte research shows that these marketplaces provide substantial opportunities to ignite each of these activators by changing workforce processes with a systems-based approach.

Building an internal talent marketplace to achieve equity impact

An internal talent marketplace is an AI-enabled platform that allows organizations to connect talent to opportunities across full-time and part-time roles, short-term assignments, projects or gigs, volunteering, and mentoring, among others. Skills are the data point that connects talent to opportunities. Because skills are objective, they help remove the barriers to opportunity and provide the transparency that enables equitable outcomes. They empower employees to own their development and growth in the organization.

There are a few ways organizations can use an internal talent marketplace in conjunction with a talent management and development strategy to steer the outcomes they want to achieve from DE&I.

  • Organizations can use an internal talent marketplace to uncover marginalized and diverse talent, enable succession planning, and enable individuals to pursue their passions with greater and more equal access to opportunity. Employees with the required skills can access the opportunities in the marketplace regardless of their current role, function, or geographical location. The marketplace provides not only a supply-side view of what skills are available but also a view of what skills are in demand, which helps drive priorities for other HR functions, such as recruitment and development. This provides transparent access to both talent and opportunities as well as enablement and advancement for the workforce aligned to organizational priorities.
  • An internal talent marketplace can address the unconscious bias that can exist even with robust DE&I programs. As organizations implement an AI-based platform for talent matching, by establishing or updating talent processes and policies, they can define an intentional inclusive approach to better match talent and achieve equity based on skills. An objective view of talent based on skills, rather than subjective criteria, such as likability or who someone knows, helps in reducing and even eliminating the unconscious bias that may exist.
  • An internal talent marketplace is also an effective tool for talent development of BIPOC communities. Through a talent marketplace, organizations can provide opportunities that help meet their employees’ diverse career aspirations, and this is the opportunity for greater equity in workforce enablement. Organizations can access relevant data for DEI assessments and analyze workforce composition and skills within various employee segments, specifically underrepresented communities. This data can facilitate orchestrating targeted programs for low-use segments to help them understand and leverage their current skills within the marketplace as well as target areas for further skill development. The data also enables organizations to create exclusive retention programs, mentorships opportunities, and development experiences tied to organization-wide DEI objectives.

The vital DEI connection

Even if an organization’s primary reason for adopting an internal talent marketplace is not driven by DEI, the fact that these marketplaces can enable more equitable outcomes across various talent strategies is a big plus. Marketplaces provide a rich source of talent data; demonstrate a significant, DEI-advancing investment; involve leaders and functions across the organization; and are a positive, deliberate action to democratize access to opportunities and achieve equity. Organizations serious about backing up their proclaimed DEI commitment with tangible actions—while simultaneously supporting business and talent strategies—should be looking closely at putting a talent marketplace to work. Especially now, with the convergence of technological acceleration and increased commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce, organizations can support advancement of the strategic objectives of DE&I at scale. If organizations get this right, creating differentiated value for both the companies and employees have never been greater.


  • Marin Heiskell, Manager, Human Capital Consulting, Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Diana Kearns-Manolatos, Senior Manager, Center for Integrated Research, Deloitte Services LP
  • Manu Rawat, Senior Manager, Human Capital, Deloitte Consulting LLP  

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