August 10, 2018 – While diversity and inclusion initiatives have become a “must-have” for 21st century employers, actually making them work depends on having a clear plan and framework that resonates with diverse talent and aligns with overall business goals.
“Whether it is speaking at a conference, or consulting to help develop strategies that align their talent functions with their overall business objectives, I have had the honor of interacting with hundreds of HR and talent acquisition executives each year,” said Jeff Paquette, director of global sales and marketing for Avrio AI, an artificial intelligence talent platform based in Boston. “During our conversations, there are two objectives that are consistently a priority: improve diversity and reduce unconscious bias.”
But these goals, he said, are not necessarily one and the same. “This drives me absolutely crazy – diversity and unbiased hiring are competing objectives,” said Mr. Paquette. “Step back, remove the buzzwords from the latest trends and think hard about it. Diversity and unbiased hiring do not go hand in hand. If the executive team has a directive for improving diversity, you are automatically hiring based on bias. While each is important, the way we tackle each issue is different.”
As many business leaders have discovered, diversity is more than a matter of social justice. “I’m a big advocate for a diverse workplace and believe this should be the first priority for every organization, despite being the most difficult initiative to tackle,” Mr. Paquette said. According to recent studies, 35 percent of diverse companies outperform homogeneous ones and are 70 percent more likely to capture new markets; the future success of your business could very well rely on its diversity.
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Workplace diversity also goes beyond race. “Hiring more females, employees with various levels of education, or employees across different generations make the day to day more engaging and satisfying for the company as a whole,” said a recent Avrio AI report. “These eclectic environments produce more collaborative and happier employees. The majority of candidates also want a diverse workplace, with 67 percent of job seekers stating that a diverse workforce is a driving factor when considering companies and job offers.”
Mr. Paquette said he is unimpressed with the way many companies approach unconscious bias training. Typically, he said, it is just a checkbox on a list so a company can say, “We did it and have proof if we get sued.” This objective also fails to provide a true impact to how we create work cultures. “The truth is … as long as humans are involved, you will never be rid of bias,” said Mr. Paquette. “If you try to reduce unconscious bias, then the hiring process must be almost robotic, based largely on merit, and cannot focus on filling those diverse talent needs. As I said, if you are hiring based solely on diversity, you have a predetermined bias already built into your strategy.”
So how do leaders address this dilemma and marry both of strategies to build a stellar team? Avrio AI says that as you build your talent pool, your sourcing reps (or recruiters, depending on your talent acquisition team structure) should fill your ATS/CRM with a diverse pool of candidates that match your predetermined representative slate, or in other words, the criteria for diversity. “Make sure there is a good blend of candidates being nurtured in your branding campaigns for each title you typically hire in your company,” the report said.
Technology for Unbiased Hiring
Avrio AI suggested using an artificial intelligence talent platform in combination with your ATS/CRM to reduce the bias. AI can consistently analyze, match, prescreen and show a shortlist of the best candidates, based on merit. “Make sure this AI tool not only scores and provides the best candidates based on merit, but also has the ability to redact or hide any data that could cause unconscious bias when recruiters present talent to hiring managers,” said Mr. Paquette.
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The manager will then choose the top candidates to interview based on the candidate score. “As mentioned before, you will never fully remove bias as the human touch still needs to be present for the in-depth interviews,” said Mr. Paquette. “However, by using the AI tool to do the pre-screening qualification, it will reduce bias. If you let your sourcers/recruiters fill your pool with diverse candidates and allow an AI powered talent platform to rank candidates based on merit, you are effectively attacking your diversity/unbiased hiring dilemma.”
No approach is easy, and companies have been trying to solve the equation for a while, he said. With the rapid advancement of technology, specifically AI, however, businesses can finally start improving the process in both areas.
“Let machines do what they are good at and let people do what they are best at,” said Nachi Junankar, founder and CEO of Avrio AI. “The hiring process is broken and with the increasingly competitive market for talent, we decided to do something about it. At Avrio AI our mission is to use the power of AI to unlock human potential. We believe in supporting talent professionals with tools that increase the time for human connection.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media