Championing diversity and inclusion through technology in the hiring process

While more HR leaders are identifying the importance of D&I in hiring, progress remains slow

Andy Valenzuela, Chief Human Resource Officer at the hiring experience platform, HireVue, discusses the importance of removing biases when making hiring decisions.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace has come under the spotlight over the past years, particularly last summer when we saw the Black Lives Matter protests propel the issue to the forefront of the business agenda. Companies are increasingly reviewing their hiring process for any conscious and unconscious discriminatory practices. A recent survey from HireVue shows that nearly nine in ten HR leaders identify diversity and inclusion as a hiring priority moving forward, with companies aiming to create a successful and inclusive workplace and culture.

Human bias

Human bias is a well-documented issue in hiring, and it is no shock that even the best-intentioned people can unconsciously perpetuate biases when making hiring decisions. Many businesses are turning to technology to help create fairer hiring solutions to combat this unconscious human bias.

Historically, unconscious biases have been ubiquitous throughout the entire hiring process, from the way job descriptions are written all the way through to the actual interviews. Traditional biases are entrenched so much into structural systems of hiring that they induce a range of serious issues, including candidates with ethnic names having to apply to more jobs or female candidates more likely to fall victim to sexism when hiring in traditionally male-dominated fields such as manufacturing positions.

Recent research from Hewlett Packard highlights the potential influence that job descriptions and how they are worded could help increase the gender gap and narrow the pool of candidates applying for each role. The report found that while men were applying for roles where they were only 60% qualified, female candidates would only apply for roles where they met 100% of the requirements, suggesting that the job posts were written in a manner that was encouraging to male candidates, and perpetuated unconscious biases towards female candidates’ own abilities. Things as simple as emphasising any tasks of the role in the job description which may have stereotypical female connotations can help close the gender gap.

Biases in hiring are not only limited to gender but are also presented through disproportionate unemployment rates amongst ethnic minorities. Making specific changes, such as more inclusive language to job postings and descriptions, can increase rates of application from Black and ethnic-minority candidates by almost 300%.

As awareness of this disparity grows, many organisations have begun championing diversity and recognising inclusion as a critically important business issue and focus. While nearly nine in ten (86%) HR leaders identify diversity and inclusion as a priority in hiring, progress remains slow. In fact, as of early 2021, the Guardian reported that there were no Black executives in the top three roles at any of the FTSE 100 companies.

Using technology to level the playing field

Equipped with copious research demonstrating the issue, hiring leaders are using technology to meet their diversity objectives by redesigning hiring practices to prioritise equity and inclusion. By incorporating technologies such as on-demand interviewing, organisations are given access to hard-to-reach candidates. They are offered unprecedented levels of flexibility, with financial and location-based constraints and other traditional barriers removed.

To make hiring decisions fairer, organisations must commit to actively implementing solutions that benefit those who otherwise fall victim to unconscious biases. This includes adopting positive action provisions and carrying out special measures to support and access disadvantaged or under-represented groups of candidates who are as qualified or experienced as their white counterparts. By using technology in hiring, employers can look beyond 9-5 availability and access a far greater pool of talent, truly prioritising diversity and inclusivity as a major consideration within their hiring efforts.

Increasing efforts to level the playing field within hiring are starting to show, with 44% of hiring managers partnering with diversity-focused organisations. These small changes to hiring systems can have a powerful impact, helping to reduce human bias and improving traditional hiring methods for minority groups. HireVue’s recent research has also found that just under half (45%) of hiring managers will expand their recruitment networks to seek candidates from non-traditional places to ramp up diversity and inclusion efforts. With a third (34%) saying they will be examining their job listings and rewriting them to include inclusive language.

Using AI to diversify and expedite the hiring process

2020 saw both recruitment and the wider world of work receive the largest shake-up in more than a century, forcing organisations to adapt work processes overnight to fit a ‘new normal’. The methods organisations use to manage their hiring process and how candidates identify and interview for new jobs has swiftly followed suit. Through the responsible application of technology, like AI, businesses can implement positive change in their hiring process, including tackling unconscious biases.

Despite this transition, impacts from the global pandemic have rippled through the workforce, amplifying day-to-day struggles and creating entirely new ones. As hiring technologies continue to advance, some scepticisms around the use of AI remains. Therefore, tireless efforts need to be made to ensure that AI technology is ethical and does not replicate any biases that may already exist, such as age, gender and race.

Using AI ethically, companies are improving access to job opportunities and employment for a significantly wider talent pool, actively reducing bias and increasing diversity. When implemented correctly, AI can also improve the quality of hire through standardised competency-based assessments, helping hiring managers attract more candidates, or even preventing candidates from applying if they’ve already found the right person for the job, expediting the whole hiring process. Implementing AI creates a unique opportunity and obligation to redesign hiring practices to prioritise equity and inclusion.

Explorations into the responsible application of AI, including recent algorithmic and IO Psychology audits from HireVue, show how companies are mitigating against bias both in humans and AI, with results highlighting the need to complement structured interviewing with conversational AI and chatbot technology, creating an elegant and well-planned applicant journey. By developing hiring solutions driven by science, organisations can meet and exceed the expectations of their own ethical AI principles and legal standards across the globe.

By Andy Valenzuela, CHRO at HireVue.
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