Diversity, equity and inclusion, or DE&I as it is widely known, is a hot topic and perhaps one of the most fundamental human resource management goals that businesses are seeking to ‘solve’ in the current age. In this blog, we’re narrowing our focus to look specifically at ways to transform how you hire, for good.

DE&I is a big topic. We’ve blogged previously about our own journey at Decipher Group given the unique position we hold in helping businesses to find, keep and grow their people. It’s a fairly broad phrase but DE&I in the workplace essentially refers to efforts to create a welcoming, equitable environment – it’s about creating meaningful change.

The business case for DE&I is strong – both at an individual and organisational level. Diversity inspires feelings of belonging; inclusive cultures foster connections, trust and acceptance which impact positively on performance and morale. Workplaces that prioritise DE&I benefit from diversity of thought and greater innovation, driving better business outcomes.

Addressing DE&I means it is a strategic imperative in an organisation. There’s a lot of groundwork that needs to be done in terms of setting goals and methods of measurement as well as embedding the principles of DE&I within your workplace culture. Recruitment or talent acquisition is an absolutely critical HR process where DE&I can be brought to life – it means you’re selecting and hiring talent with diverse backgrounds and experience, which in turn means you are creating an environment where everyone feels they belong.

A key part of this is having a fair and inclusive recruitment process and one of the big challenges in achieving this is unconscious bias – those quick judgements and assessments we make without any thought, which are influenced by our own background and experiences. Throughout a recruitment process, there are a lot of opportunities for bias to pop into the equation and this means without even realising, we could be disadvantaging some groups.

So, what to do? Simple, move from a traditional hiring approach which let’s be honest, can involve a lot of gut instinct (i.e., I feel like candidate A is a “good fit”) and reliance on competencies like education and experience, and instead focus efforts on finding and hiring the very best candidates that purposely removes (or at least reduces) bias.

Start at the beginning

Best practice recruitment starts with a well-defined role brief – what problem is this role going to solve? Don’t construct a vacancy around a role that kind of sounds like you need a ‘X’ or ‘Y’. Knowing what exactly you need means you’ll have a job description that accurately reflects the candidate who will succeed in the role. What are those key skills, capabilities and behavioural competencies that this person needs to have? Being clear on this upfront helps avoid bias further on in the process – it stops that gut feel from creeping in because you are assessing all candidates on the criteria agreed from the beginning.

Mind your language

Di-biasing your language in both job descriptions and job adverts can be challenging; chances are your words are more biased than you realise. Why does it matter? Essentially, biased language discourages diverse candidates from applying. There are a lot of effective automation, tools and platforms to help achieve this and chances are that if you are using an external recruitment provider you are likely benefiting from this technology. If that’s not the case, there are a few simple word-choice changes you can make to remove bias and create more inclusive language; gender and racial bias are two of the most common. Test your language on free online word decoder tool Gender Decoder.

Hiring for culture fit?!

We hear this all the time – companies wanting to hire someone who fits with the culture of an organisation. Yes, it is important that new hires share the values of the team and organisation. The problem is that for many businesses hiring for culture fit means hiring people they identify with – maybe a similar background, education or sporting interest – and excluding those who aren’t like them. One way to overcome this is to ignore your gut feel which often results in you preferring “like” candidates. Another approach is to forget about culture fit and instead focus on cultural attributes. As per above, this starts at the job brief stage. What are the organisation’s core values and what attributes does the right candidate need to demonstrate?

Are you looking in all the right places?

Finding the absolute best talent for a role won’t be achieved by simply listing a role vacancy on your website. You need to broaden your search to reach a diverse group of candidates. This is what an external recruitment consultancy does, they have the networks and tools to amplify the audience for your role listing. But at its most basic, where are you advertising a role and are the career sites and job boards you are using attracting candidates from diverse backgrounds? Encourage existing employees to share within their networks, engage in relevant communities/business groups where people in these roles are likely to go, re-engage with past candidates you may have come across, or build your own diverse talent pipelines.

Try blind screening

The first step in the assessment stage is screening role applicants. If this step involves multiple stakeholders, then removing identifiable information about a candidate – name, location, tertiary provider – can help avoid bias. Blind CV screening has become a popular method to lessen factors that can lead to biased decisions. It can seem a little strange when you first start applying this but overtime you will become more familiar with the approach.

Doing assessment right

So, you’ve narrowed your funnel and you have a diverse pool of suitable candidates to proceed through to assessment – interviews, cognitive and psychometric testing, reference checks, meet and greets etc. This is where things can get really tricky, particularly if your appointment panel are not regularly involved in the hiring process. There are so many pitfalls to avoid and not just the obvious. Did you know for example that the order in which you interview candidates can influence your impression of them? The first and last candidates you interview are likely to benefit the most, while those in the middle often blur together. Having a structured interview process where candidates are asked the same questions and panelists are assessing on the same attributes can help. Alternatively, applying positive discrimination like placing female candidates first or culturally diverse candidates last, can have good results.

When you are assessing candidates, the focus should be on skills not credentials, connections or educational background. Situational based interviewing can be effective like scenario based or simulation testing – presenting a real-life situation during the interview and asking candidates to talk through a solution based on past experience. Another tip, start with a diverse interview panel.

Making hiring decisions

When you are reviewing candidates and making final hiring decisions, make sure you are basing those decisions on facts. Go back to your role brief and ask yourself if the preferred candidate is the right solution. Review all the assessment results and question other people’s evaluations. It can be challenging to remain impartial and that’s why an external recruitment partner can bring value to the table to help guide you to make objective decisions free from bias or pre-conceived ideas or opinions.

Other tips and inspiration

  • Work on your employer brand and promote it externally. Share content that appeals to diverse audiences and highlight your DE&I initiatives.
  • For those regularly involved in hiring processes or decision making try unconscious bias training. It won’t instantly solve the problem but can help increase people’s awareness of their own behaviours.
  • ‘Chunk’ applications rather than reviewing an application in full – separate applications into different sections and then compare all candidates for that section simultaneously. You’re more likely to avoid the halo effect (positive associations created for example based on where a person studied) and it also gives you a better idea of what poor, average and great applications look like.
  • Really think about order and not just for the interview process. For example, if you present someone with three CVs, they are more likely to pick the middle option. Try randomisation with different panelists to average out any order effects.

Need help?

You’ve done all of this work to avoid bias in hiring decisions but how do you know it has made a difference? You need data to ensure the efficacy of your approach. Are you hiring the right candidates who will succeed in the role and does your process enable every candidate to perform at their very best? We can help with that.

The Decipher Team

To stay on top of current recruitment trends and technologies follow Decipher Group on LinkedIn.

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