People, process, and technology are key pillars to creating a more diverse workforce.
By Irina Novoselsky
The recruitment process has always been riddled with biases. Humans find it nearly impossible to prevent their opinions and experiences from coming into play when making a decision. But technology is empowering organizations to work toward eliminating bias, which in turn allows companies to build stronger and more diverse workforces. Just imagine if interviews were structured like an episode of The Voice, where those making the hiring decisions only judged candidates based on skills and couldn’t be swayed by gender, physical appearance, or ethnicity. There would be no pre-conceived notions—only the most qualified candidate would win. Technology is turning this reality show concept into a reality for recruiters.
Removing the ability for bias to creep in creates a much more inclusive and diverse environment, which can have a profoundly positive impact on company culture and business growth. McKinsey found that companies in the top quarter for gender diversity outperform their competitors by 15 percent, and those in the top quarter for ethnic diversity outperform their competitors by 35 percent. By fostering an environment of diversity and inclusion, a company will not only create a strong culture, but also establish a competitive edge.
Building a diverse workforce is a three-pronged approach that encompasses people, process, and technology. Organizations must attract the best and most diverse candidates, use equitable processes to identify the best candidates, and have the right technology to execute. From there, HR leaders have to take meaningful steps to understand, identify, and remove bias throughout the entire candidate process, from planning, finding, screening, and hiring the right talent.
This has become a significant focus area for employers. For example, in California, two lawmakers have proposed bills that would require training for nurses, judges, and police officers to help them understand their own biases, and how to make sure those biases do not impact how they conduct their jobs and the lives of patients, defendants, or citizens they encounter in their work. If passed, this would require medical professionals, including doctors, physician assistants, and nurses, to undergo eight hours of training followed by testing within two years of receiving their licenses, and every two years thereafter as they practice. Judges, bailiffs, clerks, trial lawyers, court officers, and police officers would be required to complete similar training and testing programs to make sure actions are fair in the legal system.
While this type of testing might not work for every workplace, HR teams should be proactive about making sure they are properly trained and have the right technology to avoid unintended bias.
Overcoming Bias in Hiring
There is little doubt that technology is becoming increasingly pivotal in all aspects of recruitment. However, technology alone is not a solution to the problem of bias. It has to be built with diversity in mind because it has the potential to be inherently biased. Major tech leaders have fallen victim to situations where their resume sorting technology favored men over women for certain positions or overlooked qualified candidates because of semantics. However, new data-driven AI solutions for HR can help employers find strong talent in unexpected places. The world of work is changing dramatically, and someone’s resume or most recent role may not necessarily translate into what they can offer to other roles. If an employer is looking to recruit a prison guard, would that employer think a veterinary tech would have the right skills for the role? Probably not. However, it turns out that a vet tech is a close fit candidate with the right transferable skills to support this very different position. By looking at skills first and foremost, employers can find candidates with diverse backgrounds and skillsets who would bring new ideas to the organization.
Once the short list of qualified candidates has been identified, employers can take the next step in hiring with diversity in mind. By enlisting a diverse panel of interviewers to meet with prospective candidates, companies can further work toward eliminating bias in their hiring decisions. HR leaders should also set overarching diversity targets and hold themselves and their teams accountable. By setting goals at the outset, employers can ensure that they are building diverse teams to support innovation and growth.
To truly build a diverse workforce, companies need to build it into their everyday reality and remain cognizant of its development. As organizations expand, it is important for them to be consistent in how they foster diversity and a culture of inclusion. Following the lead of California lawmakers, companies can implement consistent bias training to make sure their HR teams and employees are approaching the recruitment and onboarding process with an open mind to find the best talent, regardless of their backgrounds. With this type of focus, organizations can attract younger workers who prioritize diversity and build strong cultural foundations as the world of work continues to evolve.
Irina Novoselsky is CEO of CareerBuilder.