As organisations look to establish a competitive position in the marketplace, more effort is being made to get the right mix of talent to drive a future-focused strategy. This may mean looking for diverse talent from different demographics and through fewer traditional channels. Research shows, if managed properly, workplace diversity can bring competitive advantage to an organisation, which would not only attract talent, but foster creativity, support higher productivity, and ultimately, prove to be a better return on investment.
In the Middle East, diversity may take different forms—nationalities, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, and age profiles. Unfortunately, throughout the hiring process, unconscious bias impacts the extent to which diversity can be achieved. The brain is triggered to make quick judgements and assessments about people and situations, which is influenced by background, cultural environment, and personal experiences. These judgments are often automatic and can occur when we are tired or under pressure. As a result, unconscious bias creates barriers to inclusion, performance, engagement, and, ultimately, innovation.
To maximise opportunities for diversity, it is the role of organisations to successfully remove biases from their talent processes. In a study, top symphony orchestras conducted auditions behind a screen to hide their gender. The results? Blind auditions increased female musicians in the top symphony orchestras in the United States from less than 5% in 1970 to 25% in the 1990s.
So how do we enhance selecting a more diverse workforce without being unconsciously biased?
1. Use data analytics
Workforce data can help you improve workplace diversity. In order to develop a strategy to promote diversity hiring, you can conduct a diversity audit on your current workforce to identify the areas of improvement. First, study the demographic breakdown of your organisation and make sure to collect feedback from your employees to gain insight on their thoughts about the organisation’s inclusion efforts. You can then evaluate the programs that are already set in place and make the necessary changes or introduce new ones
Another key metric is retention levels. For example, high turnover levels among minorities indicate that the inclusion practices at the organisation are inefficient.
You can also conduct a diversity audit for your hiring process. Make use of your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to track demographic information and extract valuable data that can be stored and reviewed for future use.
2. Train your Hiring Managers
Awareness is a core step for recognising biases. Hiring managers can benefit from learning how to manage their sub-conscious biases effectively and recognise when it might be kicking in. This will help them make fair decisions when it comes to selecting candidates, encouraging more diverse choices and recognising talent for what it is.
3. Use pre-hire tests
Tests are more objective than any other forms of assessments. They are the same for everyone, they save time, and most importantly, they avoid the drawbacks of hiring based on a first impression. Research has found that companies that use a pre-hire assessment during their recruitment process have more racially diverse workplaces. These tests are chosen based on the desired competencies, skills, and job requirements. Psychometric assessments typically fall under cognitive aptitude tests (e.g. verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, spatial reasoning), workplace preferences (e.g. personality or values), or job sample assessments (e.g. spatial reasoning). Choosing the right assessment will ensure you are bringing objectivity to the process.
4. Blind hiring
Adopting the blind hiring technique anonymises or “blinds” demographic-related information about a candidate from the recruiter or hiring manager, which can lead in order to eliminate potential biases. Some organisations go as far as to omit names, gender, age, and education from an application, while others may want to only omit information they believe their organisation has a certain bias for (e.g. the names of universities or educational institutes).
A conscious, considered review of the various processes that lead to the selection and development of talent is likely to change the dynamics for hiring a diverse workforce and managing talent objectively. The most likely pay-off is more than just increased diversity—it is also untapped performance.
- Goldin, C., & Rouse, C. (2000). Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of" Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians. The American Economic Review, 90(4), 715-741.
- Henderson, G. (2001), Cultural Diversity in the workplace: issues and strategies, Praeger Publishing.
- Konard, A. Prasad, P. and Pringle, J. (2006), Handbook of workplace diversity, SAGE Publishers.
- Milkman, K. L., Akinola, M., & Chugh, D. (2015). What happens before? A field experiment exploring how pay and representation differentially shape bias on the pathway into organisations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(6), 1678.
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