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How To Eliminate Hiring Bias And Increase Workplace Diversity

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Perhaps the following scenario will be familiar to you.  You understand the benefits of increasing diversity in your small business, so you've hired a diversity manager.   She or he has taken several proactive steps to achieve this goal, including things like posting job announcements in publications read by underrepresented groups, educating your workers and establishing diversity goals. 

But something isn't working.  True, the number of applications from and interviews with your targeted groups (including women and candidates of color) is substantially up, but you haven't moved the needle on new hires. 

That begs several important questions.  Is there something about your business that discourages diverse job candidates from accepting positions with your company? 

Is yours a welcoming and sufficiently inclusive recruitment process? 

Finally, could your recruiters and interviewers be exhibiting unconscious bias in their communications with job candidates?

WHAT IS BIAS IN THE HIRING PROCESS?

As Ruchika Tulshyan, author of The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality In The Workplace notes in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), bias in the recruitment and hiring process often exists because hiring managers and their direct reports don't know it exists.  Their bias, in other words, is unconsciosus:

"Often…well-intentioned hiring managers end up inadvertently weeding out qualified candidates from underestimated backgrounds because of unconscious bias…Even if you head up your organization's diversity committee, even if you are from an underrepresented community, you have biases that impact your professional decisions, especially hiring. Affinity bias — having a more favorable opinion of someone like us — is one of the most common. In hiring this often means referring or selecting a candidate who shares our same race or gender, or who went to the same school, speaks the same language, or reminds us of our younger selves."

WHY SHOULD YOUR BUSINESS CARE?

Increasing diversity in your business is the ethical and socially responsible thing to do (and necessary to ensure your business is compliant with EEOC guidelines) but that's not the only reason you need to consider carefully how diverse your company and how effective your diversity strategy are. 

The fact is, increasing diversity is good for your your business.  Consider for example these workplace diversity metrics from Medium:

  • Businesses with diverse management teams make on average 20% more money than less diverse companies
  • Diverse businesses are almost twice as likely to be "innovation leaders" in their respective industries
  • Diverse teams make better business decisions almost 90% of the time
  • Inclusive (i.e., diverse) companies outperform industry norms by on average 35%
  • Almost 70% of job candidates say the presence of a diverse workforce is "important" as they weigh job offers

HOW CAN YOUR SMALL BUSINESS ELIMINATE HIRING BIAS?

So, creating a more diverse workplace will help your profitability and your ability to attract top talent.  But achieving the goal of a more inclusive workplace means eliminating key obstacles to the objective—chief among these, unconscious bias in the hiring process.

Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to ensure a more objective, bias-free recruitment and hiring process, including the following 4:

1.  INCREASE AWARENESS

It's important that human resources and your hiring managers understand that increased diversity is high on your list of business objectives.  It's also important they know the reasons you consider increased diversity important (including key data like those noted above) and that your current strategy hasn't produced the results you want. 

That includes discussing openly, transparently and without judgment the ways in which unconscious bias operates in the hiring process.  Remember that most if not all your recruitment and hiring professionals have the best of intentions and are eager to do what's in the best interest of your business.  Said differently, the training you provide should be conducted with integrity and mutual respect.

2.  CREATE JOB DESCRIPTIONS THAT APPEAL TO A WIDE CANDIDATE BASE

Review your current job descriptions, perhaps with the help of a firm experienced in human resources best practices.  Look particularly for wording that appeals more to one gender over the other (for example, words like "competitive" tend to appeal more to men, "cooperative" more to women), or to white candidates vs. candidates of color.  The first step toward creating more diversity is pulling in a diverse group of candidates—eliminating unintentional bias in job descriptions will help achieve that goal.

3.  ESTABLISH CLEAR, REALISTIC AND MEASURABLE DIVERSITY GOALS

Your diversity initiative should be seamlessly incorporated into your larger strategic plan.  As with other elements of that plan, you'll need to establish diversity goals. 

Use both internal, historical and benchmarking data to ensure your diversity goals are both realistic and measurable.  In fact, it's helpful to create so-called "SMART" goals—an acronym for goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.  For example, a goal to "increase diversity" isn't measurable because it contains no metric (like "increase by 10%").  Similarly, a goal to "increase diversity by 50% in 6 months" probably isn't realistic. 

Be sure to share your diversity goals with all key stakeholders.  That includes recruiters, hiring managers and interviewers, but also anyone else in your organization who needs to know what you intend to achieve.  Ensuring that everyone actively participates in the process and is on the same page is critically important to the creation and enactment of diversity goals that will move your business forward.

4.  ELIMINATE BIAS DURING INTERVIEWS

An unstructured interview is an especially fertile ground for unconscious bias to impact hiring decisions.  Interviewers with the best of intentions can inadvertently have so-called "affinity bias."  This is the tendency for interviewers to favor candidates who share key demographic characteristics with themselves.

The best way to avoid unconscious interview bias is to carefully structure interview questions and instruct your interviewers not to deviate from them.  That doesn't mean of course that interviewers should have no discretion.  What you want is a standard set of bias-neutral questions and interviewers who understand the nature of affinity bias and the need to avoid it.

CONCLUSION

Taking appropriate steps to ensure a more objective recruitment process and increase workplace diversity is one way to make your business more effective, productive and profitable—but it's not the only one. 

To learn more about the ways our outsourced HR, accounting and payroll administration services will help your business achieve its key objectives, contact us today.

 

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Topics: HR Leadership Diversity and Inclusion