Feb 01

3 steps to reduce bias in your recruiting process and boost workplace diversity. [For HR Leaders]

With such an intense focus on diversity from some of the smartest, most adaptable, cash-rich, and influential companies in the world, one has to take a step back and analyze why a solid D&I strategy continues to evade them.

There are plenty of credible studies and resources about why diversity and inclusion should be considered a critical business imperative for your team in 2019. We’re not here to add another dissertation about why your company should care. With this article, we assume that you’ve already bought into the idea of a D&I strategy, but are a bit underwhelmed with its impact on the company culture and productivity. So today, we’re focusing on the anti-hero of your D&I plan – bias.

Does this sound familiar?

Like many companies that launched a diversity & inclusion program in the last decade, you might have realized along the way that your quest for finding different people was built upon the wrong attributes. This issue couldn’t be more accentuated than by the borderline diversity disaster that’s unfolding in Silicon Valley.

With 82% of the industry being male, nearly 60% of the industry being white male, and 40% of the industry coming from just two academic institutions, it is no wonder that this industry feels so insular and less of meritocracy but more of a mirrortocracy.Richard Kerby, Noteworthy

Sure – progress is being made (as Kerby articulates at the top of his article), but with such an intense focus on diversity from some of the smartest, most adaptable, cash-rich, and influential companies in the world, one has to take a step back and analyze why a solid D&I strategy continues to evade them.

You’re kidding yourself if you think that an inclusive or productive workplace will just magically appear because you’ve diversified the gender, race, or age of your team.

In our humble opinion, the answer comes back to the fact that diversity and inclusion strategies were rushed through the planning stage straight to implementation. And as a result, bias litters the process, and the wrong attributes are used to ‘accomplish’ the diversity and inclusion goals set forth.

Reduce bias with professional values

You can boast that your company is diverse because you have a bunch of people that look different, approach their sexual orientation differently, vote differently, went to different schools, and were born in different decades. But you’re kidding yourself if you think that an inclusive or productive workplace will just magically appear because you’ve diversified these types of attributes. These attributes are not a proxy for success in the workplace.

Until the top of your recruiting funnel can identify people with the professional values that your team needs to succeed, your recruiters and hiring managers will continue to resort to demographic and qualifier attributes to help them make hiring decisions.

There are 3 categories of attributes (at varying depths) that can be diversified:

  1. Demographic (age, education, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc.)
  2. Qualifications (soft skills, hard skills, certifications)
  3. Motivators (professional values)

Demographic attributes have a purpose, but it’s not corporate diversity.

Demographic attributes are BY FAR the most susceptible to bias. They’re observable, they carry social stigmas, and they’re commonly used for stereotyping. At this point, it’s safe to say that using these attributes to make hiring decisions isn’t smart. In fact, we have federal laws that protect against discriminatory practices against these attributes. And yet, these are the attributes that companies use to report their ‘success’ when building a diverse corporate culture. WHAT?!

Demographic attribute bias most directly impacts the resume scan and the unstructured interview. Recruiters spend the bulk of their day sorting through resumes; looking for keywords, skill sets, degree programs, etc. (Which, by the way, forces them to spend an average of 6 seconds on a resume – THIS IS LUDICROUS!) But, what they also see is name (bias turns a name into gender and ethnicity stereotypes), school (introduces bias about how smart an applicant might be), and location (which can open a wide world of stereotypes). The applicants that are selected for an unstructured interview are then at the mercy of the interviewer. If your company is still operating this way at the top of the recruiting funnel, your D&I efforts aren’t going to improve any time soon.

…the evidence against unstructured interviews should make any hiring manager pause. These interviews should not be your evaluation tool of choice; they are fraught with bias and irrelevant information. Instead, managers should invest in tools that have been shown to predict future performance.Iris Bohnet, HBR contributor

Qualification attributes are necessary, but they alone can’t predict success.

Qualification attributes are susceptible to a less-obvious form of bias that arises from poor self-understanding. Too often, people/teams hire for skills that are familiar, rather than working to diversify the skill sets on their teams. Hard skills are a bit easier to diversify, but soft skills are tough; mostly because teams don’t take the time to measure the dominant soft skills on their team. And without measuring, you can’t accurately identify what’s necessary to diversify these attributes.

…while unstructured interviews consistently receive the highest ratings for perceived effectiveness from hiring managers, dozens of studies have found them to be among the worst predictors of actual on-the-job performance — far less reliable than general mental ability tests, aptitude tests, or personality tests.Iris Bohnet, HBR contributor

Motivation attributes cut straight to the core and significantly reduce bias.

Motivation attributes transcend the biases that exist at the demographic and qualification levels. Motivations aren’t a product of where someone grows up or what skills they’ve acquired. Motivations get straight to the core of what drives a person to show up and crush it at work every day.

Motivators are where the top of your recruiting funnel should focus. By setting your sights on the deeply held values that drive a person to contribute their best efforts at work, you can begin to build a truly diversified team, without bias, and with stronger inclusivity.

I took this role because I found my purpose. At Unilever, we’re really focused on helping our employees discover their purpose. Because we know that when you find your purpose, and that matches your capabilities, that’s when the magic happens. – Mita Mallick, Unilever, interviewed by themuse

Until the top of your recruiting funnel can identify people with the professional values that your team needs to succeed, your recruiters and hiring managers will continue to resort to demographic and qualifier attributes to help them make hiring decisions.

Simple 3-step plan to reduce bias

At The Whether, we’re building an entire movement around the idea that teams thrive when they understand the professional values (motivators) that drive success. We’ve dedicated every day to help companies recruit a vastly diverse workforce around shared professional values.

If you’re a team leader, an HR professional, or a recruiter and you’re looking for a way to reduce bias in the recruiting process, consider leveraging Clarity – a 35-minute, self-assessment for each of your team members that provides a “freakishly accurate” description of an individual’s strengths, weaknesses, motivations and professional values (attributes that transcend bias).

The process is simple:

  1. Have your team take the assessment.
  2. Analyze the data to identify the professional values that correlate with success.
  3. Use those values to find incredibly diverse and capable candidates to add to your team.

Learn more here.

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