July 26 , 2017

The Definitive Action Guide for Minimizing Bias and Increasing Diversity Hires (Part 1 of 2)

As seen on ERE Media June 26, 2017.

There has been a great deal of recent coverage on unconscious biases. However, almost all of the attention has been on becoming aware of these unconscious biases. This is problematic because even data-driven Google could not prove that unconscious bias training actually resulted in an increase in diversity hires. So it’s time to move on from awareness and on to actionable solutions.

If a firm really wants to meet its diversity hiring goals, than it needs to move beyond the typical BAND-AID awareness training solutions. Instead, corporate recruiting leaders and executives need to shift into “solution mode.” That’s because I estimate that all varieties of biases taken together result in the loss of up to 25 percent of your firm’s qualified potential diversity hires.

In addition, at a large corporation, this loss of diversity is likely to be costing you millions of dollars. So rather than focusing on increasing the awareness of biases, this article focuses exclusively on data-driven solutions and action steps that you can take to minimize or eliminate biases during each phase of the recruiting process.

Two Types of Biases That Hurt Diversity Hiring

Your first action step should be to understand the types of biases that you must eliminate. Hiring biases can be grouped into two categories. The first and the most common category of biases cover legally protected groups. These biases prevent you from hiring otherwise qualified candidates because of conscious or unconscious stereotypes about their gender, race, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, or religion. The second bias category covers the screening out of applicants who could do the job, but are rejected because you used screening or knockout criteria that do not predict on-the-job performance. These not validated screening criteria can include grades, a degree, academic test scores, firms that candidates have worked at, and the fact that a candidate is unemployed. Now let’s look at how each of these biases can be minimized during each of the six steps in the hiring process.

I) Minimize Any Information on Your Firm’s Website That Might Reveal Bias

If diverse prospects never apply, you lose out on your opportunity to hire them. Unfortunately, they will never apply if they sense even a hint of bias on your corporate web and social media sites. After you have eliminated any negative factors that might drive them away, you must still make sure that the information that you provide matches the attraction factors of your diverse targets. Your attraction efforts will also fail if potential candidates can’t see and feel the excitement at your firm and the importance that you place on diversity and inclusion. And that means that your brand messaging must go well beyond placing pictures of diverse employees on your corporate websites.

Action steps — eliminate any perceived biases that may drive away diverse prospects and add information that excites them. Increasing the attractiveness of your message starts with market research surveys that identify the attraction factors that are important to your diverse recruiting targets. Then you must make sure that each major attraction factor is fully covered on your websites. Include profiles of diverse employees and authentic quotes that show that inclusion actually happens at your firm.Mention any diversity awards that your firm has won. Also, consider including any data that reveals the percentage of employees in each diversity group. Short employee-created videos and blogs written by diverse employees can also be powerful. Pre-test your corporate sites to ensure that your diversity and inclusion messages are prominent, 100 percent positive, and clear.

II) Increase Your Diversity Applications by Using the Best Diversity Sources

You can’t hire diversity if they never hear about your jobs. So, it makes sense to supplement the use of job boards with other sources (i.e. print ads, diversity events, and employee referrals).

Action steps — “run the data” to identify the best and the worst sources for reaching the highest number of diverse prospects. Once you have identified the most powerful sources, hold your recruiters accountable for using the most productive sources. You can gather “best source information” from your ATS, but I recommend that you supplement that information by asking diverse new hires during onboarding to identify the sources that most influence their decision. Also, be aware that external vendors like Visier also offer software that can help you identify the most effective sources. And, finally, realize that asking your best employees to identify diversity referral candidates is often the top source for diversity hires.

III) Minimize Any Information That Might Reveal Bias in Your Job Postings

Once again you must assume that diverse prospects can “sense bias” simply by reading your job postings. So the goal should be to first eliminate any possible negative perceptions and next to ensure that the description of your open jobs covers each of the job-attraction factors of your targeted audience.

Action steps — the first step is to identify words and phrases that reveal a bias toward men, younger workers, and people without families. Then, use only gender, age, and family neutral words and phrases in your descriptions. After you have written your job postings have some of your diverse employees review your job descriptions or use software like Textio and Unitive to ensure that you have eliminated biased words and phrases (e.g. ninja, bro, energetic, free to travel). Finally, run a blind side-by-side comparison test with your competitor’s job postings in order to determine if your posts excel at attracting diverse talent.

The second part of this series will be published on ERE.net on July 3, 2017. Part 2 of this article covers action steps for reducing bias during resume screening, while selecting candidate slates, and during interviews.


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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.