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Moving the Needle: Remove Recruiting Bias

WorldatWork has designated October as “Workplace Equity Month.” To shine the spotlight on issues of pay equity, diversity and inclusion, and social justice, Workspan Daily will be publishing various articles throughout the month on related topics. Visit our Workplace Equity page for more content on this critical area of total rewards.

The conversation around diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace continues to expand, picking up steam in 2020 after months of protesting and civil unrest across the United States and around the world. It’s an issue that employers can no longer ignore, especially as more organizations start to publish diversity statements and reports. The problem is, change happens slowly, and while many employers are eager to hit fast forward and see results, others are struggling to understand what the call for D&I even means.

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Further complicating matters is the game of buzzword bingo taking place as organizations try to work out different definitions. For some, D&I feels sufficient; for others, equity or equality factors into the mix, and then there are those looking to incorporate belonging. In almost every instance, employers are looking to achieve the same thing: an increase in diversity across the workforce, supported by an inclusive culture that promotes equity and champions a sense of belonging. At the end of the day, the abbreviation used to accomplish this isn’t as important as the tactics — and much of that work starts with recruiting.

Starting the Journey
Despite understanding the immense benefits that diversity offers, recruiting efforts too often perpetuate hiring biases. On the surface, it seems that this would be a simple problem to solve: stop hiring the same types of candidates repeatedly to prevent homogeneity in the workforce. But the reality is, many organizations don’t even realize that they’re limiting their reach. And connecting with a broader talent pool is only the first step when there is also inclusion, equity and belonging to consider.

Enacting meaningful change involves a firm commitment on the part of the entire organization, something that requires doing the work, and doing the work means assessing current practices first and foremost. Employers who want to develop more diverse and inclusive recruiting strategies must root out existing bias and promote inclusion throughout the process. “That’s how we’ve always done things” won’t help move the needle.

Doing the Work
Recruiting bias appears everywhere, usually beginning with the words used to draft the job descriptions and the qualifications set for a specific role. Without even realizing it, certain words can connote masculinity and alienate female and non-binary candidates. The use of text de-biasing tools helps analyze job descriptions and identify any gender-biased language before suggesting replacements. This approach attracts a more balanced pool of candidates and embeds de-biasing into each job description without creating additional work for the recruiting team.

Name-blind recruitment is another useful way to engage more diverse job seekers. Here, a solution removes identifying factors, such as name, school or location, from the application. Without these factors present, recruiters and hiring managers can focus their search more intently on a candidate’s suitability and less on their background, stemming the spread of unconscious bias. As a result, the organization hires the best talent based on skills and experience, building a more diverse team and making people feel included.

Creating Sustainability
D&I can and should be a priority for recruiting teams and the organizations they support. Analysis from McKinsey confirms the business case for such efforts, but these can’t be short-term initiatives — and it can’t stop with recruiting.

Retention, learning and development all play into the success of candidates once they become employees, which is why there needs to be metrics in place to understand the workforce as a whole. That means capturing the diversity breakdown of job applicants as well as the sources of these candidates, in addition to the diversity breakdown by organizational structure, from entry-level to C-Suite, employee retention rates, pay disparities and the like.

Creating sustainability requires a constant cycle of introspection and action based on the hiring needs of the organization and the culture it seeks to foster.

About the Author

Jeanette Leeds Maister is Managing Director and Head of Americas at Oleeo.


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