Hiring bias has become a massive problem in business. In this day and age, all organizations aspire to make their workplace more diverse in order to have high-performing teams. Studies have proven time and time again that diverse organizations perform better. Therefore, the goal of every organization should be to reduce bias in the talent acquisition process as it may jeopardize the company's retention efforts and its goal to diversify the workplace.
In this article, we're going to examine how companies can move the dial on their diversity strategies and ensure Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the hiring process.
What is DEI in Hiring Practice?
DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. In the workplace, that can mean differences in gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, and so on. Diversity can fall into two categories:
- Inherent diversity. Think of inherent diversity as being tied to age, race, gender, and any other characteristic that is natural to who someone is as a person.
- Acquired diversity. It refers to things like skills, experience, education, and skills, which are more fluid and can develop and evolve over time.
Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that every employee feels comfortable and supported by the organization when it comes to being their authentic selves.
When it comes to DEI in hiring, diversity should be the bare minimum. It's not just about hiring different races, genders, etc., it's about ensuring that everyone who applies to your open roles has an equal and fair opportunity. It's also about being critical and unbiased when it comes to your recruiting strategies, ensuring that every step of the process focuses on the quality of the candidate, not their background or how they look.
Why is a DEI Hiring Strategy Important?
Diversity hiring is the right thing to do. It's not only an ethical responsibility but also makes sound business sense. Here are some benefits of building diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace environments:
- Better Employee Performance. Workplaces that prioritize DEI are statistically proven to be more productive. A study conducted by McKinsey found that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians.
- Improved Employee Engagement. Diverse teams are rich in varying perspectives and a wide range of knowledge which is likely to engage employees. 83% of millennials report being actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive workplace culture, according to Deloitte. That percentage drops to 60% when their organization fails to foster an inclusive culture. (A Gallup study has revealed that employees who are engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity.)
- Higher Employee Retention. DEI has been proven to build a safer and happier working environment. Recent research by Great Place to Work shows that when employees trust that they will be treated fairly, they are 9.8 times more likely to look forward to work and 6.3 times more likely to take pride in their job.
- Employer of Choice. According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers view a diverse workplace as an important factor when evaluating and considering job offers. You don't want to be the employer that everyone avoids.
Strategies for Increasing DEI in the Hiring Process
It’s always important to ask the following questions as the first step to improving a part of your business:
- What's our goal?
- How do we measure success?
Sit down with your hiring team and identify what it is that you want to achieve. Do you want to hire more women into technical roles? Awesome. Gather the exact metrics around how many women you currently employed in those roles, and set a goal of how much you want that to increase. After you have your goals and metrics in mind, let's jump into how to ensure DEI in your recruitment process.
Rethink How You Craft Job Descriptions
Most employers and recruiting managers make the mistake of designing job descriptions in a way that excludes specific demographics. This often happens through the language used and the demographic targeted. For example, researchers have found that women are much less likely to apply to job descriptions that include 'masculine-coded' language such as "active", "confident", and "driven."
When crafting job descriptions, refrain from using industry or gender-specific language that could deter some of your strongest and most marginalized candidates. Additionally, consider using a 'Company Values' section—an element of a job posting that will help diversify your candidate pool by highlighting your organization's values and welcoming applicants from all backgrounds.
Reflect Inclusion and Diversity at All Stages of the Hiring Process
People tend to assume that what they see is what they'll get. For example, if the candidates go through the hiring process without meeting a diverse range of people—from recruiting all the way to their offer letter—they'll assume that the same is true of the entire workplace. As a consequence, candidates are more likely to turn down the offer, reasoning that they won't feel comfortable working in this environment.
Provide Bias Awareness Training for Teams
Few recruiters are aware that they are operating using heuristics (mental shortcuts) that accidentally benefit some candidates more than others. To combat this, offer fair hiring and bias awareness training to everyone participating in the hiring process, this can help shed light on hiring practices that may be unfair. It should also be conducted regularly with all employees to ensure they are supported and supportive of the DEI-centric work culture. For maximum impact, combine this training with blind hiring, which essentially involves stripping away identifiable characteristics from a resume unrelated to the job or experiences needed for success.
Standardize the Interview Process
Having some degree of informality during the interview process is a good way to build rapport and get to know your candidates more personally But unstructured interviews can make it harder for you to fairly benchmark candidates, making it more likely that unconscious bias will creep in. Creating a structured process that tests all applicants, in the same way, will ensure they're all assessed against the same markers.
The best way to achieve this is to stick to a standardized set of questions for every candidate—and remember not to diverge from them. This can help reduce subjectivity and allow candidates to be judged against others based on the specific answers they give.
Cultivate an Inclusive Company Culture
A DEI-centric hiring process is just the first step. To improve employee satisfaction and employee retention, companies need to create an inclusive and positive work environment that gives each employee a unique voice and encourages them to be themselves. Their individual needs are not only met but they are encouraged to take time for personal responsibilities that they believe are important.
Talking with your employees to discover ways you can make your workspace more open to diversity can go a long way. Holding seminars, events, and conferences that help educate employees on the importance of diversity can also create a more inclusive environment.
Biases to Avoid During the Hiring Process
Awareness through training will go far to eliminate prejudices and ensure a DEI-oriented hiring process. Here are the most common hiring biases:
- Halo/horns effect: Refers to when a recruiter focuses too heavily on one positive aspect of a candidate, allowing this positive aspect to overcome all other aspects of a candidate's application. The horns effect, as the opposite, is when a recruiter focuses on something negative exclusively.
- Confirmation: A drawn conclusion about a situation or a person based on personal desires, beliefs, and prejudices rather than unbiased merit.
- Social: This type of bias occurs when you make a judgment based on gender, cultural background, race, sexuality, etc. due to preconceived notions of a group.
Federal Discrimination Laws to Be Aware Of
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination against a job applicant or an employee during a variety of work situations including hiring, firing, and wages.
Here are some of the most popular laws in that regard. Note that These laws are the basics of how the EEOC tackles discrimination in the workplace. Court law interpretation and amendments to these laws are evolving.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, which protects certain job applicants and employees 40 years or older from discrimination on the basis of their age. This law covers everything from hiring to promotion to compensation.
- The Americans Disability Act (ADA) of 1990, which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities (NOTE: People of all ages could have any number of disabilities covered in the ADA, but you are not permitted to discriminate against any one of them so long as the individual is qualified to perform the job).
- The Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963, which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women who perform equal work in the same workplace.
The key to a successful diverse recruiting strategy lies in acknowledging that inherent biases exist. To overcome bias in hiring decisions, organizations must implement ongoing training on bias and encourage DEI integration in the workplace. Equally as vital is to stay abreast of the laws that prohibit discrimination in the hiring phase and beyond.
If you need help to improve DEI in your hiring process, get in touch with us today to get a comprehensive assessment and customized strategies for your unique needs.