Before we entered into locked down last year from Covid-19, we were in the middle of a talent war. Skilled employees in many business sectors had their pick of where they wanted to work. But everything changed. Many industries were either directly or indirectly negatively impacted by 2020. Many employees found themselves suddenly laid off or furloughed.
As vaccines roll out and the world slowly gets back to operating and engaging, the employment market is shifting toward getting back to work. However, it would be a mistake to assume that hiring is back to the status quo. With the wave of social injustices that were pulled into the spotlight last year, the merging of people’s personal lives with the workplace and the adoption of virtual work, how we hire and what we hire for has to evolve.
Below are some key considerations every recruiter, leader and hiring manager should consider as they look to build their workforce.
Consider the legal implications for not removing bias from the hiring process. Facebook recently found themselves in hot water over their emphasis on culture fit. What used to be a common way to describe someone’s likelihood to mesh well with the culture of an organization is proving to be problematic and riddled with bias and prejudice.
Nandini Sane, attorney at Cozen O’Connor cautions that, “Hiring managers interested in supporting diversity efforts should educate themselves on unconscious bias, and establish a hiring process that is mindful of removing bias from the hiring decision.” Some recommendations she shared include considering using blind resumes, which removes a candidate’s personal information, and allows reviewers to evaluate a candidate without any knowledge of factors such as the candidate’s gender, race, or religion. Employers may also want to consider incorporating a more structured interview process, where all of the candidates are asked the same questions during the interview, and these questions are weighted, and scored by multiple reviewers. These types of small changes in the hiring process can minimize the risk of unconscious bias and can have a positive impact on increasing real diversity in the workforce.
To ensure that diversity hiring is a success, employers should do their best to have a hiring panel that is as diverse as possible, and that these individuals have varied backgrounds. This can help an employer avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with poorly implemented diversity hiring practices.
Leverage technology and tools to minimizing the human bias present in the hiring process. Arran Stewart, co-founder and CVO of the hiring platform, Job.com, shares that, “There are many tools on the market designed to help flatten the bias curve within hiring.” He goes on to explain that job writing software is designed to help users write a job description free from unconsciously biased language as much as possible. After importing a job description, a program usually highlights areas in need of improvement and offers alternative wording that is more inclusionary.
“Another readily available tool is pro-diversity, boolean string search queries, which are ideal for recruiters and hiring managers,” recommends Stewart. These queries help to maximize the number of diverse candidates that appear in resume database search queries. Many search query systems preference workers whose backgrounds mimic those of people who are already hired by the company. “Building in a framework that prioritizes differences in backgrounds, but not a lack of ability can help correct this issue,” emphasizes Stewart.
A third tool is recruiting platforms that allow searches of candidates based on sex and race. “However, companies should be wary of using these platforms. The goal is not to tokenize new employees or hit a specific quota for representation; it should be ingrained in the company culture,” cautions Stewart. “People want to, and should be, hired based on merit. Incorporating diverse individuals should be a holistic process in hiring that carries throughout the entire organization and is designed to ensure all employees feel comfortable and supported. The use of platforms, and all the strategies mentioned, should be part of a larger strategy towards inclusion.”
Start before the hiring process begins. Dakotah Eddy, partner and COO of HIVE Diversity, a career development and recruiting platform, advises that, “A diverse, entry-level workforce can pave the way for companies to be more diverse at the highest levels. But diversity in isolation of equity and inclusion won’t necessarily work. Before starting to build a diverse talent pool, companies should ensure employees feel included and respected, regardless of their background.” This can include physically making workplaces more inclusive, such as having gender-inclusive restrooms, and spaces accommodating differently-abled talent. Companies can also review their anti-discrimination policies and strengthen them, or otherwise make sure such policies aren’t merely lip service. Companies can also support building diverse candidate pools by ensuring their hiring and promotion processes are as equitable as possible: gender-neutral job descriptions and having metrics and goals to track progress are just a few ways to help achieve diverse, equitable and inclusive (DE&I) organizational change in advance of hiring changes.
Use training to engage a truly diverse talent pool that’s primed to work in and support an inclusive work environment. The founder and CEO of HIVE Diversity, Byron Slosar, shared that, “Companies will always have an evolving range of needs and priorities around representation, and the key is investing in and prioritizing the next generation of talent.” To support this, HIVE Diversity ensures that before applying to a position, every candidate must show a demonstrated commitment to the hiring process by completing career focused, professional and DE&I training.
Eddy explained that the training they provide for candidates includes definitions, a brief history of DE&I and introductions to topics, such as allyship and the business case for diversity. “We also address how diversity and inclusion show up in the workplace, and candidates get a taste of what they might do to prepare for and engage with DE&I after the hiring process.” Learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion also helps candidates to understand the context of their own backgrounds. Eddy emphasized that, “The DE&I training signals to every student, recent graduate, and partner that not only do we know about diversity and inclusion, but we want our community to understand these concepts as they start - or continue- to engage with each other and with employers around them.”
Examine the application process for unintended bias. In a recent report,researchers at University of Pennsylvania showed how despite stated commitments to diverse hiring and attempts to remove bias from hiring practices, companies can still fail at meeting their own diversity goalposts. The researchers developed a tool that matched on-campus recruiters with hypothetical resumes featuring randomized identifying characteristics that would denote a name and gender. The study found that firms hiring in STEM fields rated minority and female candidates significantly lower than white males. For example, to get the same rating as a white male with a 3.75 GPA a minority or female candidate needed a 4.0. The study checked for a number of unconscious biases and found that these biases algorithmically and organically, pull the wrong candidates into their recruiting funnel in a variety of ways.
Slosar explains, “Personalized and innovative technology can remove many inefficiencies and potential inequities related to the career development and recruitment process for hiring managers.” An example of how HIVE Diversity does this is through their resume build. It’s designed to not only create a perfectly formatted resume for the candidate, but also removes some of the potential implicit or hidden bias related to what a resume looks like. “We've alleviated some of the potential bias associated with relying only on university-based resources and/or personal networks by creating a virtual career development and recruitment experience that creates meaningful engagement opportunities between candidates and employers,” highlights Slosar.
A 2016 research report, ‘Whitened Resumes: Race and Self Presentation in the Labor Market,” exposed one of the most glaring issues inherent to the hiring process: the individual biases, unconscious or not, of the recruiters and hiring managers. When identical resumes were placed before hirers, those with ‘white’ names received a 150% increase in callbacks over resumes with Black or ethnic names.
“While technology can’t address all of the pervasive issues around race, bias, and systemic discrimination it can help to control some of its influence,” highlights Stewart. To support this, Job.com is introducing an anonymous application process that uses a blockchain technology stack to verify the validity of a candidate and their credentials and then anonymizes their resume for use in the job application and hiring process. The hirer won’t know the demographics of the individual they’ve selected, only that their merits fit the job in question and that blockchain has been used to validate those merits. “Job.com believes that by increasing the funnel of diverse candidates making it through to interview, you increase the likelihood that you’ll create a more diverse workforce.”
What are the biggest errors companies make in their attempts to address diversity in their hiring process?
1. Don’t overlook systemic issues within the hiring process. “The commitment to diversity must show through the full cycle of the hiring process, with a diverse team of hirers, recruiters and decision-makers on the recruiting end, and a strong internal network that ensures that all employees, especially those with diverse backgrounds, feel heard, supported and valued by the organization,” emphasizes Stewart. Ensuring that a variety of employees can see themselves represented in varied roles in the organization helps makes the workplace feel more equitable and inspires people to do their best work, which can only benefit the company and help to attract even more qualified, top-tier candidates.
2. Don’t assume a person is diverse. “A person is not diverse. The makeup of the workforce can be diverse,” calls out Eddy. “Each candidate is part of and contributes to a diverse community. In various ways, individuals contribute to what makes their workplace different, by bringing a diverse range of experiences from their identity, background, beliefs and thoughts.”
3. Don’t treat DE&I as a box that needs to be checked. Sane highlights that, “Wanting to create a more inclusive workforce and hire diverse candidates is a great goal, but when done improperly, there can be a risk of reverse discrimination.” For example, establishing strict quotas, or refusing to hire a candidate because they are white can open up an employer to a discrimination lawsuit in the same way that refusing to hire a candidate because they are Black. Anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from making hiring decisions based on race, sex or other protected characteristics. “Separate and apart from the liability issue, poorly constructed diversity initiatives can have a negative impact on employee morale.” A mistake employers make when attempting to hire a diverse workforce is treating it as a box that needs to be checked and then abandoning the goal altogether. “No diverse candidate wants to feel like they are the token hire. The commitment to diversity has to be all encompassing.”
4. Don’t assume this is solely a recruiting or C-suite responsibility. “Demand change in the process, whether you are a hiring manager or an employee,” recommends Stewart. If you are a hiring manager or recruiter, be reflective of your attitude to applicants from diverse backgrounds. We’ve all been exposed to and unconsciously absorbed many of the biases inherent in our societies. Though we’ve made great strides towards equality, that unconscious bias lives within us and does inform our decision-making. “We have to remain vigilant, raise our consciousness, be open to learning and use technology to help make up for our blindspots in the pursuit of a truly diverse workforce.”
Read the full article in Forbes