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Diverse hiring: here's what it takes

At Employa, we're amazed at what technology can do for recruiting. However, we see our platform not just as technology for technology's sake, but as a tool with a clear social benefit and business case. Diverse and inclusive hiring make businesses more innovative.

Increasingly, both executives and job candidates recognize the importance of diversity in the workplace. Meeting this expectation can be difficult, though, especially when it comes to hiring. Diverse and inclusive hiring has become a moving target as a broader understanding of the diversity among employees sinks in. Fortunately, the tools available to recruiters and HR staff focused on diversity within a company have also evolved.

Vijay Eswaran, Executive Chairman of QI Group, writing for the World Economic Forum in 2019, put the change in the meaning of inclusivity and diversity hiring practices in a clear context when he stated:

"In this era of globalization, diversity in the business environment is about more than gender, race and ethnicity. It now includes employees with diverse religious and political beliefs, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultures and even disabilities."

Vijay Eswaran, Executive Chairman of QI Group

"Even disabilities" may sound ableist, but hiring and employee relations practices will be facing special needs more often  than when Eswaran was writing. Do your company's diverse hiring practices make room for someone with long term COVID?

Diversity Hire

Several factors may be driving the shift toward focusing on the nuts and bolts of hiring for diversity. Eswaran's article wasn't just about the diversification of the hiring environment, it was titled, "The business case for diversity in the workplace is now overwhelming". His main theme was that from a business perspective, companies with greater diversity outperformed those with less. These companies were more innovative, better able to tap the diversity-oriented millennial segment of the workforce, and, with women in C-suite positions, 21% more likely to post above-average profitability.

Eswaran points to one major shift in diversity hire trends, that is, what diversity means nowadays, as opposed to strictly gender and race focused issues. But the conversation is increasingly centered on how  to genuinely hire for diversity. Forbes Contributor Aline Holzwarth, for example, In a February 2021 column, focused on this in an article called, "How To Actually Hire For Diversity."

Diverse Hiring Strategies

Holzwarth gives two important foci in her column. Companies examining their hiring practices for diversity need to understand that biases come in a variety of forms and effects. Systemic disadvantages, internal and external, affect how people and institutions work, as are blind spots regarding those biases. Once these biases are recognized, companies and the individuals working for them can remove as many as possible as factors and correct for the rest.

Once steps in these directions are taken, a company is in a position to create a diverse hiring statement that ties the elements of the company's position together. Afterward, implementation, further data collection, and iteration help keep the company from becoming complacent.

Recognizing Bias

"Bias is universal and ubiquitous; it can’t be avoided. And it’s not a character flaw, but simply how our brains operate," says Holzwarth. Recognizing bias takes more than a simple acceptance of our humanity, however. Collecting data on the actual recruiting process can be helped with the latest generation of Artificial Intelligence - driven recruiting software. Short surveys are often used, and platforms using AI are nimble enough to help tailor a better survey. This will be important, especially when reaching out to those who dropped out of the process, as we shall see shortly.

Removing Bias

Once the actual impediments to reaching diversity hiring goals have been uncovered, the question of what to do about them, and how, remains. In some cases, removing bias is the answer. Changing word choice in a job description, for example, can help foster a sense of inclusivity, or give potential recruits a better feel for core versus "nice-to-have" attributes or experience. In other cases, removing data or giving the option to not provide certain attributes such as gender can also help a candidate stand out on merit or potential. AI-driven recruiting software can also play a role here in creating more welcoming and personalized communication that doesn't come off as boilerplate or mass-generated.

Correcting Bias

For those biases that cannot be removed, fine tuning the process to counteract the innate pro-selection/deselection biases in individuals is in order. The benefits of diverse hiring panels should not be overlooked. Working from a team perspective and with consensus-building in mind. Soni Basi, Global Head of Talent at insurance giant AIG wrote an article for LinkedIn called "Diverse Interview Panels: A Win-Win for Candidates and Companies" as part of her "Hiring? Think Consciously Inclusive" series.

The benefits of diverse hiring panels includes letting candidates see the actual, versus marketed, picture of the company. However, there needs to be a correlation between the composition of the hiring panel and the part each individual plays in it.

Basi pointed to three characteristics of the members of the panel that need to be kept in mind.

  • The diverse interviewer has a ‘real’ role that has an equal share of voice as all other interviewers, not a ‘fit’ interview."
  • Select someone that has enough knowledge of the department/role, but that offers a new perspective as well.
  • Select someone who may be a graduate of an internal diverse top talent program.

The example above points to an important difference between the idea of diversity hires and previous 'minority' focused practices. Especially in 2021's employee centered market, the employer needs to show not only that it knows how to hire diverse candidates, but also create an environment conducive to making the most of the benefits of diverse hiring.

As Basi points out, "Diverse candidates need to see more than the glossy images or statistics on your website that promise diversity and inclusion. They want to understand, from the perspective of the colleague, what it’s really like to work at your organization as a diverse colleague."

Removing bias adopting standardized hiring processes, objective hiring criteria, neutral language, avoiding overstuffing, blind evaluations, a diverse set of evaluators, and structured interviews with score cards.

Diverse Hiring Practices

When it comes to diversity hire, the idea that the solution is not one-size-fits-all may seem obvious, but the actual implementation of hiring practices for diversity may lead in different directions. Gartner's "Measuring Equity in Candidate Experience" research published in 2021 captured some of the variety HR departments in the United States need to consider when taking into account gender, race and sexual orientation.

Gartner recommends, perhaps not surprisingly, to ask your company's hires, as well as those who stopped at some point in the process, for feedback on the company's performance. Gartner itself has found that in general:

  • men are more likely than women to end an application if the job description does not meet expectations (70% versus 61%);
  • racially diverse applicants were more likely to end a process than white applicants (70% versus 60%);
  • LGBTQ+ candidates were more likely to halt an application than heterosexual candidated (63% versus 50%). In particular, more than 33% of LGBTQ+ candidates stopped an application because of a long gap in communication, versus 23% of heterosexual candidates.

Drilling into the details of candidate responses is likely to be required for the future. Handling diversity takes more effort, but the rewards, as mentioned previously, can be greater.

Benefits of Diverse Hiring

Attracting the right people increasingly means cultivating an environment that matches the employees' vision as well as the company's business goals. Hiring for diversity is a vital component of that environment. Following good diversity hiring practices helps prospective employees see your firm's culture and aids them in deciding whether the company is a good match for them.

AI-driven recruitment platforms can help with anonymizing candidate data to let only relevant information affect the decision to move a candidate forward. Furthermore, such platforms also help in personalizing responses as well as ensuring that communication happens in a timely manner. At Employa, our AI/ML-based platform helps craft the communication that is essential for hiring for diversity.

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