It is inspiring to see diversity and inclusion take the priority narrative in recent years and the positive steps that are taking place. Not just commentary but meaningful action and investment.
At Gerrard White, we believe that work has no future without equal career opportunities, pay equity, fair representation and a true sense of belonging. We understand that a company can drive better diversity but it's the sense of belonging for all groups that will make the difference.
An effective D&I programme needs clarity of purpose, ownership and resources.
One topic on this that is prevalent is unconscious bias in the recruitment and selection process. It is understood that everyone has unconscious biases. Generally, people have a bias to preserve the status quo as change can be uncomfortable. Unconscious bias occurs when individuals make judgments based on gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or other prohibited factors without even realising that they are doing it.
Sadly, as a recruitment and talent professional, I have come across open bias a number of times in the past... Ageism and racism primarily but also stereotyping and prejudice. Open bias can be tackled directly when it arises and if you are part of a Talent team I suggest that your role is critical in doing so. What is even more difficult to tackle however is unconscious bias.
'I'm not unconsciously biased' you say? Well that is the point, you won’t know that you are. That's also what I thought until I undertook some Implicit Bias Tests (IBT), sometimes also known as Implicit Association Test (IAT).
Being half French, I grew up with comments and stereotyping and so always had an ingrained passion for helping stamp out any form of discrimination. So when I completed an IBT and understood the results, I was a little surprised. It really made me examine my own experiences putting talent into companies and how we can try to overcome the hidden stereotypes our minds can make, or even whether we could overcome them at all.
Here is a link to some IAT tests for you to experience for yourself: Harvard IAT Test
Now, Unconscious bias training and IAT tests should not be seen as 'the answer' and implemented to 'educate' hiring managers as no company has the ability to try to manage someone's thought processes and with any test, there is always the chance of inaccuracy.
Current thinking is that it is very hard to 'retrain' unconscious bias and the UK Civil Service announced (Dec 2020) that they are closing down their own programme as they weren't seeing the results that they hoped for. Saying that, you can certainly increase awareness of unconscious bias which is an important first step.
Some high-level points on the benefits of diversity (there are many more!):
Companies and specifically board-level teams that aren't diverse often replicate their business decisions... Original thinking needs fresh perspectives and different experiences.
Studies show that people from diverse backgrounds can actually alter the behaviour of a group’s social majority in ways that lead to improved and more accurate group thinking.
The 2015 McKinsey report on 360 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.
In a global analysis of 2,400 companies conducted by Credit Suisse, organizations with at least one female board member yielded a higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that did not have any women on the board.
10 things to accelerate diversity and inclusion within the hiring process:
1. Diversity and Inclusion Training Programme - Devising a plan and some actions is naturally the first step. A starting point can be learning content and discussion around unconscious bias.
2. The language we use when posting jobs. As an example, if we used masculine-type words like “ambitious” and “dominate” in a job advert, data shows that it can be less appealing to female applicants and could potentially put them off applying. Technology can help us here with tools such as Textio or Talvista that use intelligent research to provide suggestions for other words you could be used to make the wording more neutral across multiple demographics. Gender Decoder is a useful free tool that can help us prevent any unintended discrimination through process.
3. Psychometric testing - Tools that measure candidates' hard skills and/or behavioural preferences and motivations in line with the role requirements. Some, such as the ERAS Profiler will even compare a candidate's results against all other previous test takers at their same professional level. The result can be used alongside a CV to help ensure hiring decisions are based on potential and skills and so can help reduce unconscious bias.
4. Blind Hiring. By removing information (e.g. date of birth, name) from the CV before submitting it to the hiring manager, we are sending a CV for consideration that lists the experience, achievements, and qualifications of an individual only. Thus, hopefully overcoming any unconscious bias.
5. Flexible workplace policies. One thing 2020 has made very clear is that people can be just as productive working from home and a good business will trust them to do so. Flexible working options hugely increase our available candidate pools to also include those who cannot easily commute because of childcare commitments, disability etc. We have been a hybrid/remote working and flexible business for some time but we will endeavour to include more Job-share or part-time opportunities where we can and to ensure our adverts and careers website are clear on this.
6. Competency framework and skills matrix - Having clarity of what is expected from employees in each role, how an individual is achieving against these expectations and giving clarity on what it takes to progress can allow for a more credible and fair promotion process. It also removes the risks of any 'gut feel' decisions, especially when incorporated with the use of psychometric tools
7. Publishing salary bands - people value transparency. Consider producing a voluntary pay gap report to ensure parity of pay across demographics.
8. Offering mentoring and coaching programmes - Consider a 'buddy' system as a starting point. By increasing internal network connections in new ways, you are allowing people from different backgrounds to share experiences
9. Be Disability Confident - inspire confidence with those who have disability's that your business is committed to being an employer of choice. We have openly stated our commitment by signing up to the UK Governments Disability Confident process. This provides valuable guidance and resources on how your company can achieve this.
10. Website and social media - If you have a diverse organisation, be proud, and show off! Potential new applicants that are genuinely interested in joining you WILL look at your website and company social media for images that show what it is actually like to work at your company.
There is still a lot of work to do before biases can start to disappear from society and our workplaces but identifying our personal biases and moving them from our unconscious to our conscious is a step in the right direction in allowing us to deepen the conversations with our stakeholders and teams.
A company can change its diversity but it must also build inclusion which means employees enjoying a real sense of belonging. Acknowledging and celebrating things like key dates, religious holidays and events that are important to all your employees is an important step here.