Don’t mishandle assignments: Project allocation can be a strategic stimulus for top talent

As a business owner, leader or team manager, project allocation is likely integrated into your scope of responsibilities.
As I have worked with executives and business owners interested in increasing diverse talent and diverse thought at the executive levels, project allocation does not always have a systematic approach within organizations.
Many times, projects are allocated based on end dates, dependencies, availability and maybe even second-generation bias. “Second-generation bias is embedded in … organizational practices,” states an Aug. 21, 2013, Harvard Business Review article titled “Educate Everyone about Second-Generation Gender Bias.”
These unspoken practices might be directing your project allocation choice, which could be detrimental to some of your high impact employees and their professional futures.
Take a look at this eye-opening research addressing “the work” and “project assignments” in this September online Harvard Business Review article titled “Women in the Workplace: A Research Roundup”:

  • Men get more of the critical assignments that lead to advancement than women do, according to a recent Catalyst study of 1,660 business school graduates, which examined the nature of projects given to high-potential employees.
  • On average, the men’s projects had budgets twice as big and three times as many staffers as the women’s.
  • Only 22 percent of the women, but 30 percent of the men, were given budgets of more than $10 million, and just 46 percent of the women vs. 56 percent of the men received P&L responsibility.
  • Even more telling, while more than a third of the men reported that their assignments garnered them a great deal of attention from the C-suite, only about a quarter of the women could say the same.

Taking this research into account, as you reflect on the last six to 12 months:

  • How were strategic projects assigned within your organization?
  • Who manages the majority of your P&L?
  • What are the dynamics of your teams and these allocations?
  • How have you engaged and aligned your high-potential employees?
  • Is there executive insight between strategic projects and high potential employees?
  • Do your project allocations align to the Catalyst study above?

If your organization is seeking business benefits such as engaged employees, customer value and even retention, project allocation can be a strategic stimulus for your top talent. Effective project allocation can also be an executive tool to showcase talent, create sponsors and position diverse employees for advancement opportunities.

JJ DiGeronimo is president of Purposeful Woman and Tech Savvy Women, author of “The Working Woman’s GPS” and “Before You Say YES.” For more information, visit