Over the last few years, the topic of conscious and unconscious recruitment bias in the workplace has become a well-worn issue, receiving a great deal of attention from media and news outlets, as well as from major organisations across the globe. In fact, it’s become so well-worn that many people wrongly believe that discriminatory tendencies in business processes are now officially a thing of the past. Although we have made great strides in terms of raising awareness about the issue, most experts (and employees) agree that we still have a long way to go before we actually solve it.
Recent data confirms that despite our best efforts, discrimination is still alive and well in the modern workplace. In a recent survey, 62% of respondents complained that their organisation lacked in cultural and intellectual diversity. Publishing diversity statistics, implementing company equality policies or even conducting awareness training programmes are all good first steps, but none of them actually address the issue of bias its root.
Bias in the Recruitment Process
Building a diverse, forward-thinking environment begins with recruitment. Unfortunately, the hiring process is incredibly vulnerable to the influence of unconscious bias, which can hamper objective decision making and ultimately become a roadblock to
Many recruiters will make decisions based on pre-defined attributes without even realising it, which in turn puts them at a significant disadvantage. While these techniques can certainly help speed up the hiring process, they often unintentionally weed out exceptional talent who might otherwise have been the next game changing hire.
But the initial screening stage is far from the only area in the hiring cycle that’s vulnerable. Unconscious bias can infiltrate nearly any point throughout the entire process. In fact, about one in five employers unknowingly ask unethical, and potentially illegal questions during the interview stage, referring to race, age, disability, marital status, and plans of starting a family.
Why Should You Care?
Aside from the obvious moral and ethical arguments, building a solid D&I strategy and removing bias from the recruitment process has become a legitimate business best practice.
First, there’s the question of your employer brand – today’s top recruits want to join widely-representative, open-minded teams. In fact, 83% of millennial employees are more invested and engaged in their work when they feel their organisation offers a diverse and inclusive environment, both culturally and intellectually. What’s more, 86% of millennials feel that differences of opinion are crucial for collaboration and innovation, yet less than 60% feel that leaders in their organisation share this mindset. Clearly, companies could be doing better on this front.
Diverse and inclusive organisations also experience a higher level of innovation and productivity, as well as better employee morale and engagement. There’s often a direct link between D&I and profit margins – in fact, a recent survey found that for every 1% rise in a workforce’s gender and cultural diversity, there were corresponding spikes of 3% and 9% in sales revenue, respectively.
Still need more convincing? Just ask business the business leaders themselves: 85% of CEOs whose company supports a diversity and inclusion strategy say that it’s increased performance overall. What’s more, companies with diverse leadership are 70% more likely to expand their market share within a given year.
Controlling the Influence of Bias
Today, many organisations are coming to the realisation that without a systematic, tech-centric approach, important decisions are left to human judgement alone, and human judgement, even at its best, will only ever achieve partial success.
As such, a growing number of HR professionals are looking to automation and data analytics for help. New products built around machine learning algorithms are able to sort complex data into clear patterns and trends, enabling companies to understand which data points are significant and will yield better decision making, which, in turn will yield better business outcomes.
The mindset of not just HR but all senior business leaders must shift to encompass how this continuing explosion of data can be harnessed to provide business insights that lead to competitive advantages – these advantages will fundamentally change how the organisation operates by having an immensely positive impact on company culture, innovation and ultimately, the bottom line.