A risk of social exchange theory and homophily in talent management

Blau(1964) discusses that social attraction is about reaping the benefits of the interaction.    To be engaged in a social interaction, then a person will do what they can to prove themselves to be accepted into the social grouping.

In a workforce relationship, one of two things may occur that works towards the benefits of a social interaction;

From a leaders perspective – The investment into a social interaction / exchange with an employee or subordinate, has the intended reward of the employee possibly taking on more responsibility as a ‘favour’ for the leader or may even result in the employee becoming more aligned and supportive of the workplace culture and agenda.

From the employee’s perspective – The investment into a social interaction / exchange with a leader, by taking on responsibility, or supporting direction of the leader, will result in greater investment and reward for the employee in the way of preferable treatment, promotional opportunity or investment in personal development.

The risk in this stems from the unintended bias or preferable treatment that can occur.  The principles of homophily then come into play, in which individuals will associate more with like minded individuals, or similar cultural or geographical heritage.

This poses a significant risk factor for talent management in a schooling system where values of equity and fairness for all employees is not only valued by the teaching staff, but is expected from union movements.

A further consideration of the impact of homophily is that leaders will invest in others that are similar to themselves.  As such in a system that values diversity, will talent management restrict or impeded the diversity of leaders that are available to the system?  However, in the same breath, there needs to be strategic selection and investment into school leaders to suit individual schools or needs of schooling communities.   These two contrasting ideas requires systems to be highly planned around recruitment and have specific talent programs that are targeted to the development of specific skills for certain leaders.  For existing school leaders, it means they need to be aware of the implications of social exchange and homophily, and look beyond the influences of social exchange to identify future leaders without bias.

How do systems open the eyes of principals to potential, rather than just performance in targeting individuals for talent management opportunities?



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