Pushing Diversity through the Hiring Pipeline

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Wherever there is a push for equality, there is usually a reactionary pull that stems from concern about what exactly is about to change. Thought leaders are often at a loss to articulate the appeal of diversifying the workforce in practical terms and can resort to hazy platitudes:

“It’s part of our culture.”

“It’ll make us more productive.”

But how?

What makes diverse teams better at work? Psychological research has shown that diverse teams:

  • Focus more on facts when coming to conclusions
  • Process facts more carefully when making decisions
  • Have more innovative thinking when solving problems

Need it in more practical terms? Surveys of US companies have shown that diverse teams (both in terms of ethnicity and gender) bring in:

  • More revenue
  • More customers
  • More net profit

The bottom line? Diversity is an asset – not a liability.

Still, recruiter and HR professionals often struggle with how to effectively reach out to find the diverse folks that will make their company great.

Why is this? Because our traditional hiring methods don’t work very well.

Humans’ greatest strength is also our greatest weakness, we allow our thoughts and feelings to color our perceptions. We are not machines. This provides a human touch to hiring but it can also introduce a tremendous amount of bias.

The following is a bar chart that shows a variety of common methodologies used in hiring and how well each method predicts success in the workplace:

Hiring metholdologies

Note that even the predictive validity of a well-constructed structured interview is on average less than 10%. Other anecdotal methods like checking references are even worse. Moreover, diverse candidates are disproportionately more likely to be overlooked when companies rely on these methodologies. They can often rely on codes and norms that not everyone may have equal access to.

What can we do? Here are two main pushes your organization can make today…

 1. Learn to love the machine.

Research shows that artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automated algorithms work. Some AI relies on “big data” (trends and averages across huge data sets that generalize across workplaces) while other AI relies on customized data (smaller data sets that are anchored on individual companies or sectors). Either way, when used early in the hiring pipeline, AI can help shift your focus to great candidates in a truly colorblind, gender-blind, age-blind manner.

  1. Cast a wider net.

Think critically about the channels you use to make that next great hire. Do you use recruiters? If so, have you spoken with them about your priorities? Do they have a history of sending you not just great candidates, but diverse ones? Are there conferences or job fairs that might get you exposure to a different crowd – are there training programs that focus on getting diverse applicants up to speed that you could partner up with?

What is your organization doing to diversify its pipeline?

Liana Epstein, SVP of Analytic Services at Cangrade, will be speaking on the Overcoming Unconscious Bias panel at Revolutionizing the Employee Experience.